THE IMMORTAL MARTYR MAHASHAY RAJPAL
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT. The United Nations Organisation has enshrined it in its august list of varied rights. Geneva based International Publishers Federation made a decision a few years ago that individual publishers who contributed substantially to upholding the right of expression be recognized and honoured in their respective countries.
Mahashay Rajpal of Lahore who had laid down his life on 06 April 1929 was chosen by the United Nations Organisation to be so honoured posthumously in New Delhi defending the right of freedom of expression. The UN award was presented by Shri Lal Krishna Advani to Shri Vishwanath, a son of the Martyr Mahashay Rajpal and presently a publisher of repute himself. The life and times of Mahashay Rajpal were written on and published extensively. His qualities of head and heart were eulogized and the strength of character was highlighted.
UNFOLDING OF EVENTS
Mahashay Rajpal was born in a not so well to do family in the cultural city of Amritsar in the Punjab that was founded by the Fifth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Besides imbibing the ethos of Amritsar, Rajpal Ji came in contact with the Vedic Renaissance of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati, a socio-religious reformer who had taken a vow to cleanse the Hindu society of social ills, religious superstitions that had stunted the growth of personality of both the individuals and also the Hindu Samaj. As a young and forward-looking young man, Rajpal Ji too came in contact with the Arya Samaj movement and remained a devoted worker until his last breath.
Lahore, as the capital city of the undivided Punjab was the hub of socio-religious and political activities and the Arya Samaj was no exception to it. The Gurudutt Bhawan housed the Punjab Arya Pratinidhi Sabha and the Vidyalaya for training of Ved Pracharaks. It is said that at any given time, more than one hundred Vedic missionaries would leave Lahore and fan out in the interior Punjab. No wonder the Arya Samaj was growing strong day by day until August 1947 when the partition of India and, of course, Punjab gave a massive blow to it.
Mahashay Rajpal used to attend and participate in various activities of the Arya Samaj in Lahore, Amritsar and other major centres in the Punjab. As a publisher, he had to remain in touch with the latest goings on in the relm of religion. HE WOULD PUBLISH THE MATERIAL SO COLLECTED FROM ALL OVER THE PLACE FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL ARYAS.
Arya Books, Rajpal Ji’s book shop was the rendezvous of Arya Samajists who happen to be in Lahore at any given time. Not only activities of the Arya world were discussed and debated but the future course of action would be decided too. The inter-religious discourses were encouraged and commented upon, of course, with the permission of the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha. By and large, the inter-religious discourses or the SHASTRARTH USED TO BE IN AN ENVIRONMENT OF PERFECT PEACE AND TRANQUILITY. But that would not last long, thanks to the bigoted elements among the Sunni Muslims. I am leaving out the Shiites and the Qadiyanis or the Ahmedias for the time being because they were, generally speaking, under attack of Sunni Muslims and had little time for religious discourses with the Arya Samajists.
The mischievous and garrulous elements among the Sunni sect of the Punjabi Mussalmans were ever ready to provoke the Hindus in general and the Arya Samajists in particular. Of course, more often than not, the provocationists were paid back in the same coins. Presently we shall see an incident of that nature taking place; the setting indeed is early 20th century British India and the dramatis personae are from the good old undivided Punjab.
RANGEELA RASOOL PUBLISHED
Provocation to the Hindus, read Arya Samajists, came from the Punjabi Musalman, mainly from Lahore. The Muslims published two books that could be called offensive to the religious susceptibilities of the Aryas. One was titled:
KRISHNA TERI GEETA JALANI PADEGI; AND THE OTHER WAS TITLED
Unnisvin sadi ka maharishi – very obnoxious references to Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of the Arya Samaj and interpreter of the VEDAS in Hindi for the common man.
There was, of course, furore in that part of the Punjab from where the young lady was kidnapped in broad day light. A man of erudition, Pundit Chamupati, M.A. and strong willed vowed to revenge the wrong done. He informed Mahashay Rajpal that he would write a tract-like simple literature answering back to the Sunnis answering their offensive without diverting into any blood letting. Mahashay Rajpal Ji was supporting this scheme wholeheartedly and was itching for a headlong confrontation without costing any lives.
RANGEELA RASOOL MADE ITS IMPACT FELT IN BOTH THE LITERARY AND THE INTELLECTUAL WORLD. No one knew who gave the Mss and who did the proof reading; who is the Publisher and which Press finally published it. The book did not enrage even a tiny Hindu girl or an aggressive Muslim Mulla who are ever ready to defend the prophet’s name and fame. Nights came but caused no arson or a loot and faded into te glow of a rising sun. Days were as uneventful as nights and Rangeela Rasool gave no chance to the goonda element to loot and burn the property of an average citizen.
Lo and behold! Riots broke out in parts of Punjab. Who was Agent Provocateur?
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi wrote in his weekly paper, Young India, that local leaders must ensure that Rangeela Rasool is withdrawn from circulation and both the writer and the publisher be punished as per law. Gandhi Ji, in furtherance of his policy of appeasement of Muslims, had assumed the role of a Defender of Islam, ready to ride at the gallup at the head of a Crusade since the number of Muslims was dwindling.
Under the pressure of diehard Sunni Muslims, the government of Punjab chose to file a case against Mahashay Rajpal. The legal proceedings went on for over four years in all types of courts, first the District Court, then the Sessions Court and finally the High Court of Punjab. Mahashay Rajpal ji who had been sentenced to one and a half years imprisonment, a fine of Rs 1,000.00 was finally acquitted by Mr Justice Duleep Singh of the Punjab High Court. His Lordship agreed with the plea of Mahashay Rajpal Ji that his book, Rangeela Rasool contained nothing new and the entire material was borrowed from writings of Islamic scholars. Moreover, TRUTH was the hallmark of Rangeela Rasool.
The bigoted Muslims of undivided Punjab took upon themselves to punish the one who had insulted the Prophet of Islam. The Mullas in mosques dwelt on the theme of Islam in Danger day after day, week after week and prepared a man named Ilmdeen, who has not read even a primer of the Urdu language, what to talk of reading and understanding Qura’an, to kill Mahashay Rajpal. Of course, he would do it for a fee. One April afternoon while Mahashay ji was resting in bed in his book shop, entered Ilmdeen and thrust a sharp double edged long knife into the abdomen of Mahashay Rajpal ji . The three wounds were so deep and the cuts rapacious that the good soul parted company with the body. Ilmdeen was caught, prosecuted and hanged till death.
Thus ends the life story of a 44-year old noble soul who lived and died for his DESH AND DHARMA.
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