ARYA PATHIK FROM PESHAWAR COURTED MARTYRDOM
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
The Vedic world knows him as Pundit Lekh Ram, Arya Musafir. Once he made up his mind that the Vedic Dharm was the first and the last word to guide human behaviour from A to Z, there was no going back on it. He was a man of determination and possessed perseverance. Once the goal was set, he left no stone unturned to reach there. He was a clear headed man who knew how to determine what the aim was and once the aim was set, maintenance of aim was no problem to him. There was no deviation from the aim and it had to be achieved, come what may. Of course, he had to tread on the toes of others but he did not mind it. If others did, he would say – I don’t care. Pt Lekh Ram had a many-faceted personality but the overriding element was principles, precepts and preaching of the Vedas based Dharma as propounded by Maharishi Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the great religious and social reformer of the 19th century India.
DEVELOPMENT OF LEKH RAM : MAN AND MISSION
Born in 1858 in Saidpur in district Jhelum, now in Pakistan, he inherited knowledge of languages and the unparalleled spirit of “Giving” and not Grabbing from the soil and tradition of the village. Just to quote one example, Lala Dewan Chand, the great Arya philanthropist and martyred freedom fighter, Khushiram Ji were also born and brought up in Saidpur. Pt Lekh ram was initially named as Lekh Raj but later in his writings he preferred the name Lekh Ram.
Pt Lekh Ram had had a taste of various sects of Hinduism and teachings of Guru Nanak Dev until he found his moorings in the teachings of the Vedic Dharm after he have had a number of meetings with Swami Dayanand Saraswati at Ajmer on 17 May 1881. Under a false notion, Lekh Ram Ji used to consider himself as Brahm but after a meaningful exchange of views with Swami Dayanand Saraswati, he became a votary of the Vedic Trinity. Now he knew that he was a Jeevatma and Parmatma as well as prakriti were separate and different entities.
This meeting between Rishivar and Punditji was of great significance to the Arya Samaj. The Arya Samaj got a committed writer of Life of Dayanand Saraswati, his life and thought based on interviews with people who had met the great reformer. Pundit Lekh Ram had started his mission of collection of authentic material to write the biography of Rishivar on 11 December 1888, five years after the Rishi’s untimely and sad demise. Pt Lekh Ram took great care that fact and fiction did not intermingle and finally gave the Arya Samaj a biography of its founder that is par excellence. It was a biography based on interviews recorded at the spot where events had taken place. Obviously, Pt Lekh Ram travelled a lot all over the place where Swami Dayanand had gone, lectured, written his memorable treatises and faced worldly problems generated by jealousy, superstitions and miscalculations.
In the scheme of collection of facts and holding interviews, Pt Lekh Ram did not ignore his mission of teaching and preaching tenets of the Vedic Dharm. He did a fine balancing act between writing of biography and delivering of Vedic sermons. The latter was done at his own cost lest the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Lahore took it as an infringement of its financial guidelines. Pandit Ji chose to forego the Dakshina for the period he was not collecting facts for the biography and delivering sermons instead.
Another facet of Pandit Ji’s personality emerged during these extensive travels. He became a consummate writer of Travelogues in the Urdu language, possibly the first one. The essays on travel were published under the caption “Safarnama”. Sadly, not much has survived of that unique piece of literature. Here I am reminded of Lord Francis Bacon, the famous essayist of the English language, who wrote a line “Travel makes a man perfect”, and this perfection could be discerned in the travels and writings of Pt Lekh Ram.
Pt Lekh Ram had a close relationship with Peshawar, the capital city of the North-Western Frontier Province NWFP). He was posted there as a sergeant in the Police Dept but did not let his profession interfere with his Vedic Dharm. When things came to a pass, he preferred to resign from the government service rather than let the profession have better of him. As an Arya Samajist he did not let low cast men be looked down upon. Once when he was posted in a police station where the Station House Officer was a Muslim Pathan and an orderly was a Mazahabi Sikh (of low caste), he made it a point to shake hands with him to obliterate casteism. This used to happen much to the chagrin of the Thanedar Saheb who was a great believer in his high caste. Pandit Ji used to do Namaste to others as he believed in the Aryan way of greetings. However, soon the dept and the Vedic missionary parted ways when he hung up his police uniform for good. It may, however, be mentioned that while in the police service he published and edited a weekly named, Dharmopadesh. Later he was the editor of Arya Gazette that carved a niche in the world of journalism. While collecting material for Swami Ji’s biography, he published a timely weekly called Arya Vijay.
Pt Lekh Ram was always available to the new generation for advice and guidance. ‘TEHRIR AND TAQREER’, THAT IS WRITING AND DELIVERING SERMONS MUST NEVER CEASE – that was his counselling to all Arya Samajists. Indeed writing new articles or books meant an intensive study of the subject and thus the preachers who deliver the sermon will be knowledgeable. It should be an ongoing process in this Arya Samaj movement so that the mission of Swami Dayanand Saraswati touches new heights day after day.
Pt Lekh Ram Ji used to do self study and also some writing whenever he got time off the work as a Vedic missionary. One late evening as he was busy writing, oil in the lamp was exhausted. Shops were closed. So he walked along the railway line to the Kothi of Mahatma Munshi Ram as enough light was available in his Dewankhana. Thus he achieved the intended target of writing for that evening. Man with a mission knew how to achieve the aim surmounting problems, both major and minor.
Pt Lekh Ram was the moving spirit behind the Arya Samaj, Peshawar, now in Pakistan. He collected funds to have an impressive building erected as the epicentre of the Ved prachar activities. The impressive Arya Samaj bhawan had a pride of place among religious institutions of Peshawar.
The city of Pathans, both Hindus and Muslims, had influenced the dress code of Pundit Lekh Ram. He would wear a tight pyjama, a shirt, a waist coat and a turban tied in the typical frontier style. While talking of dress code, I must make a mention of an incident in Jullundur. Pt Lekh Ram was staying with Mahatma Munshi Ram and the latter had started wearing a Dhoti by then as a pracharak. One day Pt Lekh Ram told him “Lalaji, you are an energetic man and a tireless worker of the Arya Samaj. It is a loose-fitting wear of the slovenly easterners and does not befit us”. Mahatma Munshi Ram just laughed it away. The writer of these lines is fond of tying a Dhoti as a pracharak, be it a visit to the Rashtrapati Bhawan, a travel to Tibet or addressing a gathering of cadets. My Indian dress earned me a new name, “Dhoti Wale Brigadier Saheb”. I am with Mahatma Munshi Ram on this point and not with Pundit lekh Ram. No disrespect meant to him; I revere him.
Pt Lekh Ram was always there where he was needed most. Whenever he heard that a Hindu or a group of Hindus were about to convert to Islam or Christianity, he would rush to that spot to convince them not to cross over. More often than not he was successful in his mission. It is said that once he was going on a similar mission to a mofussil town but entrained in an express train that did not stop there, so Punditji just leaped out of the train as it slowed a little at the platform. Although he was hurt but he reached his destination on time and his mission of retaining a group of Hindus in the family fold was a great success. The veracity of this story stands confirmed by independent sources of the time.
CLASH WITH QADIANIS
A major part of Pt Lekh Ram’s time and energy was spent in countering the Ahmedias and their Head, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadiani, who were always out to attack the Hindus in general and the Arya Samajists in particular. In retrospect one may say that the Ahmedias who clashed with the Hindus on behalf of the Muslims, were not considered to be true Muslims. In Pakistan the Ahmediyas are listed as non-Muslims. What a shame for the Mirza, who deputed a man to assassinate Pt lekh Ram, to be called a non-Muslim. The Ahmedias are hounded out by Sunnis all over the place. And it was one of them who lived with Pt Lekh Ram and dined with him expressing a wish to be converted a Vedic Dharmi. The drama was staged by that wretched fellow for a few days and one night he surreptitiously plunged his long knife into his abdomen. Pt Lekh Ram became a martyr in the cause of the Vedic Dharm on 6 March1897 at a young age of 39 years. The Mirza unashamedly owned having plotted this heinous crime of murder in cold blood.
Lahore was shocked. The Hindus and Sikha mourned Pt Lekh Ram’s assassination in thousands. The Arya Samajists of all shades displayed a rare sense of unity at the cremation ground in Lahore. Lakshmi Devi Ji, the widow of Pt lekh Ram who had the bliss of marital life for just four years, took a pledge to continue working for the cause that her husband had died for. She donated the entire money of his life insurance to the cause of the Vedic Dharm. She made this sacrifice notwithstanding the advice of many well wishers like Mahatma Munshi Ram to save some money for a rainy day. She was so inspired by the martyrdom and Vedic ideals of her late husband that she wished to donate every paisa that she had and did so. Later, at one of the convocation ceremonies of the Gurukul Kangri, Haridwar , venerable Lakshmi Devi Ji donated all her gold and jewellery for the flagship of the Vedic Shiksha. Her sacrifice and the martyrdom of her husband bore fruits in various activities of the Arya Samaj and the Gurukul. Of the money donated by her, a Foundation for education of brilliant but poor students was established. We are proud to narrate that the first beneficiary of this munificence was a young boy from Saharanpur who was transformed into an illustrious Vedic scholar. The world knows him as Pt Budh Dev Ji Vedalankar, later known as Swami Samarpananand Ji.
Swami Shraddhanand Ji, among others, had paid glowing tribute to the martyred Pt Lekh Ram thus: He was a DHARMVIR AND A KARMVIR. Indeed a fearless fighter for the cause of the Vedic Dharm. He was a true believer in Param Pita Parmatma and the Lord loved him.
Pundit Lekh Ram is a torch bearer removing darkness for others. His martyrdom inspired other Aryas to follow into his footsteps. Swami Shraddhanand, Mahashay Rajpal and many others of the Hyderabad satyagrah attained martyrdom for the cause of the Vedic Dharm. Indeed they walked fearlessly on the path of martyrdom for the Vedic Dharm paved by Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati himself.
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