Reaction to Reading: Militant Nationalism in the Punjab (1919-1935) by Kamlesh Mohan

In 1928, the Colonial British government in India set up an all-White commission, headed by Sir John Simon. The task of the commission was to prepare the future constitution of India and yet not even a single Indian was part of this body. This insult was unacceptable to the Indians and all the major parties of the time decided to boycott the commission. The Indian public too joined hands with their leaders and massive demonstrations were held across the length and breadth of the subcontinent to protest against this high-handedness of the British. On 30th October, when the commission reached Lahore, it was greeted with black flags and lusty cries of “Simon Go Back”.

The police acted with brutality and the non-violent, peaceful crowd was lathi-charged near a barricade at the Lahore railway station. Lala Lajpat Rai, a venerated leader, became the special target of the ire of the Police force. And, in fact, had his supporters not shielded him, the aged Rai would have been even more grievously hurt. Such treatment meted out to one of the most respected of all Indian leaders shocked the people. Subsequent British attitude did not help matters: The enquiry committee reports exonerated the Police officials; the Indians’ appeal for an independent enquiry was not accepted; and the sarcastic remarks of British officials (including the then Viceroy, Lord Irwin) added fuel to fire. Lalaji’s death a few days later on 17th November was attributed to the mental humiliation and physical injuries he had received.

Any one with even a little interest in Indian history is familiar with this tale. One knows what happened to Lalaji and how subsequently his death was avenged by the Indian revolutionaries. I too am very familiar with these events. Yet reading the account in Professor Kamlesh Mohan’s meticulously researched Militant Nationalism in the Punjab was another experience altogether. I strongly felt the pain and humiliation of belonging to a slave nation. You go on crying for justice and your colonial masters spit in your face…the extent of how insulted and stripped I felt surprised me and I wondered that if almost 90 years after the event, I could feel so victimised, how it must have been for those who lived through those times. What did they not endure? What kind of discrimination did they not face? In fact, after reading that account I had to stop reading for a while, walk aimlessly across the room to collect myself and then and only then could I go on.

For all those interested in Indian history and especially in the revolutionary stream of our freedom struggle, I whole-heartily recommend this book. With an easy narrative style, an abundance of notes, and a lengthy bibliography this is a book worth treasuring.


First Line: Growth of the national movement in India was a complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon.

Publication Details: Delhi: Manohar, 1985
First Published: 1985
Pages: 447
Source: CL [320.15805455 K129M]
Other books read of the same author: None

7 thoughts on “Reaction to Reading: Militant Nationalism in the Punjab (1919-1935) by Kamlesh Mohan

  1. This does sound like a very compelling read, Neeru! I'm not surprised you found yourself deeply enmeshed in it and affected by it.


  2. Neer, I love history and especially reading areas of interest to me, such as this one. I mostly read historical works and essays on the internet. There are some good India-related books in the public domain. \”Simon, go back!\” will forever be etched in the memory of our school generation.


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