With no Indian member on the Simon commission body, formed for political reforms, angry Indian nationalist leaders across the ideological spectrum boycotted the commission. In Lahore, Lala Rajpat Rai, the most popular leader of Punjab, was hit during a lathi charge while leading an agitation against the commission, and succumbed to his injuries. ‘The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army’ was considering the plan of avenging the death of Lalaji by killing the Police Officers, who were responsible for Lalaji’s beating that led ultimately to his death. They had two-fold object in this: first to give the popular movement a turn towards violence, and second, to show to the world that Lalaji’s beating was not taken lying by India. The action was incidentally to advertise the existence of a revolutionary party in India. For this purpose it was decided that Bhagat Singh and Shivaram Rajguru should attempt on the life of Mr. Scott, the S. S. P. Meanwhile Chandra Shekhar Azad the absconder in the Kakori Conspiracy Case of 1926, was to direct the whole action and to work as a rear guard.
The whole plot was carefully thought out and complete arrangements were made for the same. Originally, it was the intention of these three youths to fight out a pitched battle with the police and if possible, to lay down their lives fighting. They believed that in this way they would be able to rouse up the imagination of the youth and bring them into the ranks of the revolutionaries. But the plan failed in two respects. Instead of Mr. Scott they murdered Mr. Saunders. Then, as the police did not follow them up, their desire for a pitched fight; could not be fulfilled. Only one Police Officer, namely Mr. Fern, came out of the Police Office after the shots had been fired that killed Mr. Saunders. But two bullets whirling by his head proved too strong an argument for returning back. Only Chanan Singh, a constable dared to follow them up. He was entreated to give up the chase; but on his refusing to do so, he was also killed by bullet shots.
Next morning the police discovered several posters pasted on walls, with the bold printed heading in red : “The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army,” below which was written out in thick letters: “Saunders is dead, Lalaji is avenged,” and some other matter in justification of the action.
While in college Lala Lajpat Rai joined the Arya Samaj founded by Swami Daya Nand Saraswati. Soon he became one of the three most prominent Hindu Nationalist members of the Indian National Congress, the Lal-Bal-Pal trio. They formed the extremist faction of the Indian National Congress, as opposed to the moderate one led first by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and then Gandhiji. Lalaji actively participated in the struggle against partition of Bengal. Along with Surendra Nath Banerjee, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurorbindo Ghosh, he galvanized Bengal and the nation in a vigorous campaign of Swadeshi. Lalaji was arrested on May 3, 1907 for creating “turmoil” in Rawalpindi. He was put in Mandalay jail for six months.
He left for Britain in April 1914 to organize propaganda in foreign countries about freedom struggle. At this time First World War broke out and he was unable to return to India. He went to USA to galvanize support for India. He founded the Indian Home League Society of America and wrote a book called “Young India”. He was able to return to India in 1920 after the end of World War. After his return, Lala Lajpat Rai, led the Punjab protests against the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre and the Non-Cooperation Movement. He was arrested several times. He disagreed with Gandhiji’s suspension of Non-Cooperation movement due to the Chauri-Chaura incident, and formed the Congress Independence Party, which had a pro-Hindu slant.
In 1928, British Government decided to send Simon Commission to India to discuss constitutional reforms. The Commission had no Indian member. This greatly angered Indians. In 1929, when the Commisssion came to India there were protests all over India. Lala Lajpat Rai himself led one such procession against Simon Commission on October 30, 1928 in Lahore. While the procession was peaceful, James Scott, superintendent of Police brutally lathicharged the procession. Lala Lajpat Rai received severe head injuries and died on November17, 1928. Subsequently to avenge Lalaji’s death, Bhagat Singh and others planned to kill James Scott, however ended up killing John P. Saunders, Assistant Superintendent of Police, in case of a mistaken identity.