Lala Har Dayal Singh Mathur was an Indian nationalist revolutionary and freedom fighter. He was a polymath who turned down a career in the Indian Civil Service. His simple living and intellectual acumen inspired many expatriate Indians living in Canada and the U.S. to fight against British Imperialism during the First World War.
He was born in a Hindu Mathur Kayastha family on 14 October 1884 at Delhi. Lala is honorific title for writers such as the word Pandit which is used for knowledgeable persons in other Hindu communities.
He received his bachelor’s degree from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi master’s degree from Punjab in Sanskrit. In 1905, he received two scholarships of Oxford University for his higher studies in Sanskrit.
At an early age, he was influenced by Arya Samaj. He was associated with Shyam Krishnavarma, Vinayak Savarkar and Bhikaji Cama.
In a letter to The Indian Sociologist, published in 1907, he started to explore anarchist ideas, arguing that “our object is not to reform government, but to reform it’s away, leaving, if necessary only nominal traces of it’s existence.”
Inspired by this, he gave up the Oxford scholarships saying to “hell with ICS” and returned to India in 1908 to live a simple life.
He moved to Paris in 1909 and became editor of the Vande Mataram. Bhai paramanand convinced him to go to United states so that the ancient culture of Aryan Race could be propagated.
While he was in United States he also got involved in industrial unionism. He also founded ‘Bakunin Institute of California’. He regarded the institute as the “the first monastery of anarchism”.
When Basanta Kumar Biswas attempted the assassination of Indian Viceroy ‘Lord Hardinge’ in 1912, it had a major impact on him. He was very inspired and immediately brought out a pamphlet in which he talked very positively about the bombing. He delivered a rousing lecture, which ended with the following line;
“Pagari apani sambhaliyega ‘Mir'(britishers)! Aur basti nahin, ye Dilli hai!!
He was a guiding spirit in formation of The Gadar Party on November 1, 1913.
The movement spread like wildfire in the United States with large number of immigrant Indians joining – these included the students as well as the workers.
In April 1914, he was arrested by the United States government for spreading anarchist literature and fled to Berlin, Germany. In Berlin he became instrumental to the formation of the Berlin Committee.
He died in Philadelphia on 4 March 1939. In the evening of his death, he delivered a lecture as usual where he had said: “I am in peace with all”.