Lala Ram Prakash Gupta
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Lala Ram Prakash Gupta(1909–2002), popularly known as Lalajee, was an eminent freedom fighter and social worker of Punjab, India. A lifelong member of the Indian National Congress, he was a dedicated follower of Mahatma Gandhi (popularly known as Gandhiji), Jawaharlal Nehru, and Vinoba Bhave.
Ram Prakash was born in 1909 to Lala Acchru Mal Gupta, a food grain merchant and Smt. Jamna Devi Gupta in Basti Danishmanda, Jalandhar in the state of Punjab in India. Ram Prakash grew up in a small, spiritually-oriented, middle-class family (with two brothers Budhu Mal and Gopi Chand). Since his early years he was deeply affected by the social, economical, and political conditions in colonial India which was then under British occupation. Ram Prakash was a good student and completed a Bachelors in Arts degree from Jalandhar (Punjab). In those days, it was rare for children from rural families to study beyond matriculation, let alone get an undergraduate degree. His advanced education and desire for learning helped him gain a sound understanding of national and global affairs, a passion that he sustained till his last days.
As was typical in India in the early 1900s, at the age of 16 Ram Prakash married Chanan Devi. All accounts indicate that it was a happy relationship from the beginning. The two had ten children, of which two died in infancy: Sat Pal Gupta, Sudarshan Gupta, Savitri Gupta, Surinder Kumar Gupta, Yash Pal Gupta, Usha Gupta, Mahinder Pal Gupta, and Asha Gupta.
Ram Prakash started his professional career early when he started working part-time at his father's food grain business. He was a quick learner and was quite successful in the business. After completing his graduation he became an apprentice with an older relative in a business that sold books and other educational material. After about a year, he started his own business selling books and educational material in his village, and soon moved into a much larger facility where he remained for the rest of his professional life. Though hard working and professionally successful, Ram Prakash was not interested in a business career. His true calling, like so many other young Indians at that time, was in the political and social sphere.
Early political lifeEdit
After completing his undergraduate studies in 1935 at the age of 26, Ram Prakash joined the Indian National Congress. This was a time of intense political and social activity in India. Jawaharlal Nehru who later become the first prime minister of India had become a prominent leader of the Indian National Congress which was demanding and fighting for complete political independence from the British occupation. This was also a time when Mahatma Gandhi briefly resigned from the Indian National Congress, Subhash Bose (popularly referred to as 'Netaji') had strong philosophical clashes with Mahatma Gandhi, and the struggle for independence became much stronger than in the past. From 1935 to 1947 when India finally got independence, Ram Prakash was one of the most active political and social leaders in the Punjab chapter of the Indian National Congress. During this time, he participated in and led many protests and demonstrations against the British occupation. Following the footsteps of many other political leaders of the time, he always wore traditional Indian clothing (kurta pajama) with a Nehru-style hat. His simplicity and activism made him a popular leader with the local populace and the regional British administration continuously sought to arrest him.
Later political lifeEdit
Ram Prakash continued to serve the Punjab chapter of the Indian National Congress under Nehru's leadership after independence. He served as the treasurer for a Widowed Women Rehabilitation Center for many years when Nehru was the President of the Center. In the late 1940s and early 1950s he came under the influence of Vinobha Bhave, a popular social activist who became popular for his Bhoodan ('land donation') movement. When Vinoba Bhave launched the Bhoodan movement in 1951, Ram Prakash joined him on his famous 1000 mile walk across Bihar, a state in central India. His experiences during this time left his deeply dissatisfied with the political and social milieu of the country. Though he remained active in local social projects for many years, it was evident that he did not believe the dreams of many young freedom fighters like him were going to come true.
Ram Prakash spent the last few years of his life in Chandigarh, India. He died there in 2002.