This Day in History (17-Nov-1928) – Lala Lajpat Rai died after suffering grievous injuries during a lathi-charge carried out by the police

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.

This Day in History (18-Mar-1922) – Mahatma Gandhi sentenced by British authorities to six years in prison for sedition

The Indian National Congress adopted Gandhi’s ideals and in 1920 launched a campaign of non-cooperation against the British Raj. During his first nationwide satyagraha, Gandhi urged the people to boycott British education institutions, law courts, and products (in favor of swadeshi); to resign from government employment; to refuse to pay taxes; and to forsake British titles and honors.  As thousands of people were put in prison the anti-climax came suddenly in February 1922 with an outbreak of mob violence in Chauri Chaura, in Uttar Pradesh, a shocked and pained Gandhi called off the campaign of mass civil disobedience and undertook a fast for five days by way of penance.

Gandhi was arrested near Sabarmati Ashram for writing three articles in Young India on September 29 (Tampering with Loyalty)and December 15 of 1921 (The Puzzle and its Solution), and February 23 of 1922 (Shaking the Manes). He was tried for sedition under Section 124 A before Mr. Broomfield, I.C.S., District & Sessions Judge of Ahmedabad. The charges having been read out, the Judge asked Gandhiji whether he pleaded guilty or claimed to be tried. Gandhiji said : “I plead guilty to all the charges”.

The judge sentenced him to six years’ simple imprisonment stating” ..and I propose, in passing sentence, to follow the precedent of the case, in many respects similar to this case, that was decided some twelve years ago, the case of Mr. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, under the same section. You will not consider it unreasonable, I think, that you should be classed with Mr. Tilak; and that is the sentence two years’ simple imprisonment on each count of the charge, six years in all, which I feel it my duty to pass upon you.” Judge further added that, “if the course of events in India should make it possible for the Government to reduce the period and release you, no one will be better pleased than I”.  Gandhi was not only serene but ‘festively joyful’ during the 100-minute trial. “So far as the sentence is concerned,” he told the judge “I certainly consider that it is as light as any judge would inflict on me; and so far as the whole proceedings are concerned, I must say that I could not have expected greater courtesy.”