Inspiring Thoughts, Powerful Words|Feb 14, 2009 10:52 AM| by:

Towards Freedom

(Lala Lajpat Rai had left India in 1913 and gave the following reason for his departure: ‘I began to suspect that I was being spied on by my own servant who lived with me in the same compound. Life became intolerable and I lost my sleep and appetite, so I decided to leave India.’ Earlier, in 1907, he was deported, along with Ajit Singh, to Mandalay, for leading an agitation against the Punjab Colonisation Bill and enhanced water rates, and was kept there for six months.

He had gone to England via Japan and when World War I broke out in July 1914, he left for America where he lived for six years. In America he did a good deal of propaganda on India’s behalf and founded the Indian Home Rule League in 1917.

After six years of self-imposed exile when Lala Lajpat Rai reached Bombay on 20 February 1920, he was given a hero’s welcome. The following extempore speech was delivered by him during the very first reception on his arrival at Shandarama Chawl.)

This is not the time for me nor the occasion for me to give you my opinion of the present political situation in this country. I shall beg leave of you to give me time before I express myself on the subject. However, there are some fundamental truths which I have learnt, to my pleasure, during my travels abroad which I am going to place before you as my message to ‘Young India’. My friends, I must tell you that henceforth we should recognize it as a fundamental doctrine that the unity of the Hindus and Mohammedans will be a great asset to our political future. In this unity we shall not be guided by the temporary benefit of this community. We shall not adopt it as a measure of political expediency, but adopt it as a fundamental doctrine of our faith, which we have to stand by till our death and until we win our freedom. Not only till then, but thereafter too, we shall live in this country as brothers determined to work together, determined to resist together, and determined to win. That is one of the fundamental doctrines which we must adopt as a first article of our political faith.

Coming to the second article, I must tell you, that do not place any faith in anybody but yourself. You can rise only by your own efforts. Remember ‘Nations are by themselves made.’ We shall welcome cooperation. We shall welcome advice. We shall welcome guidance also, in certain matters. But we shall resent patronage and dictation. We are not little children. We have behind us the wisdom of six thousand years at least, not to say more.

I may add that I have travelled practically all over the world and I have seen three of the great self-ruling nations of the world at least, the Japanese, the Americans and the Englishmen. Take it from me, that except perhaps in areas of modern knowledge, we are inferior to none on this earth. What are we inferior in? We have been inferior in the capacity to unite, we have been inferior to a certain extent in adapting to modern times, we have been inferior in learning the lesson of modern diplomacy. Therein lies our inferiority. If we had learnt the art of telling lies on a broad scale, if we had swept away our past and had entered into the great arena of violence, if we had done all these things, which at the present moment represent power in the world, we might have been considered by the great nations of the world as worthy of self-government. We, however, lack these qualities. There is one of these qualities I want you to learn. We have been a righteous nation in all our history and we shall continue to be righteous and to win on the basis of righteousness. I want you to be true to your civilization. Seek truth, speak truth and act truth and I promise you shall win. The modern world is being managed, modern politics are being based upon the rights of the superior and the inferior. We recognise none as inferior or superior. We don’t want for our country anything that we are not prepared to concede to other people on the globe. What we want is equality and nothing else.

There are some friends who are often tempted by the term imperialism. They want to be partners in the great imperial system. I do not want it. Ladies and gentlemen, there is no word coined by man more vicious, more sinful, more criminal than imperialism. I for one do not want to be a partner in any imperial system. All that I want for my country is a position of equality first in the British Commonwealth and then in the nations of the world. With our connection with Great Britain, we want to cooperate with those British statesmen and politicians, thinkers and workers, who want to convert the British Empire into a British Commonwealth. I may add that world movements foreshadow coming events and unless the British Empire is soon converted into a British Commonwealth it will go to the dogs as other empires have gone. Its safety lies in converting to a British Commonwealth and we as Indians, as constitutional workers, as Indians believing in the destiny of the entire world, are prepared to cooperate constitutionally with our entire thinking force, to convert that Empire into a commonwealth of equal and free nations. My dear friends, there are some people who tell us that the opinion of others does not count for much. They tell us that the opinion of the British people who are the present rulers of this country naturally matters for our progress. I do not accept that dictum.