Shiromani Akali Dal is the most prominent political organisation of
the Sikhs. Akali Dal was formed on December 14, 1920 at Akal Takht
Sahib. On that day it was named as 'Gurdwara Sewak Dal'. On January
23, 1921 it was named 'Akali Dal' and Bhai Sarmukh Singh Jhabal was
selected its first Jathedar (President). The manifesto of the Akali
Dal (in 1921-22) was "to help Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committe
(SGPC) in taking control of the Gurdwaras from the corrupt managers".
On March 29,1922, Akali Dal was renamed "Shiromani Akali Dal".
From 1921 to 1925 the main function of the Akali Dal was to organise
volunteers for participation in the movement for reform in Gurdwaras.
Besides, the Dal helped the SGPC in collecting funds for its activities.
It also helped the families of the Sikhs martyrs as well as those
arrested during the Gurdwara reform movement.
Although the Central Sikh League had been formed in 1919 and had been
functioning as an organised group but its effective role was almost
nil. In 1925 Gurdwara Act was passed and the imprisoned Akali leaders
were were released in 1926. After their release the Akali leaders
organised themselves into a cohesive force. Soon Akali Dal became
a political organisation. Within a very short period the Dal replaced
the Central Sikh League as prominent political organisation. Though
the Central Sikh League continued its formal identity but by 1930
it had become just a paper organisation and Shiromani Akali Dal had
become the most prominent political-cum-religious organisation of
Master Tara Singh became the chief of Shiromani Akali Dal in early
1930s. He remained its godfather till 1962. During this period several
Akali leaders (e.g. Baba Kharak Singh, Giani Sher Singh, S.B.Mehtab
Singh etc) rebelled against the leadership of Master Tara Singh and
formed separate organisations but the Sikh masses ignored them. It
was only in 1962 that Fateh Singh of Ganganagar wrested leadership
from Master Tara Singh with the help of the Congress, the Communists
and the Hindu communal parties and by spread caste-harted against
Master Tara Singh. Master Tara Singh breathed his last on November
22, 1967 and Fateh Singh died in 1972 but anti-Sikh slogan of caste-hatred
(Jat and non-Jat) adversly affected the Sikh nation and is still a
menace to the Panth.
Between 1930 and 1940 Akali dal struggled for special rights of the
Sikhs. After 1940 it oganised anti-Pakistan movement. In 1946 it launched
agitation for soveregin Sikh State but could not achieve its goal
because of lack of sincerity, commitment and intelligence.
After 1947, a very large number of workers of the Akali Dal switched
their loyalties over to the Congress Party simply to share power.
The Dal had to launch a struggle for preservance of the identity and
entity of the Sikh nation. To achieve a part of its goal the Dal launched
two agitations for the formation of a Punjabi-speaking province. During
these agitation (1955 and 1960) about 70,000 Sikhs courted arrests,
dozens were killed and about a millon Sikhs suffered in one or another
manner. Punjabi speaking province was formed on November 1, 1966.
But, this was not what Akali Dal had struggled for; it was like a
still-born child. Hence, the Sikhs decided to launch a struggle for
a sovereign Sikh State. From 1980 to 1992 the supporters of Khalistan
(soverein Sikh State) movement launched an armed struggle but the
infiltration of spies, Mafia-mentality of some of the leaders of the
movement and mass killing of the Sikh youth by the Indian forces brought
and end to the armed struggle. By this time the Akali has been split
into several groups. One faction of Akali Dal (Mann group) supports
an independent sovereign Sikh State; another group (Tohra group) supports
autonomy for the Sikhs and the third group (Badal faction) believes
just in getting political power by any means. Badal group has nothing
to do with any one of the Sikhs issues.
The Akali Dal has ruled the Punjab province several times (1967 to
1971, 1977 to 1980, 1985-86, 1997 to 1999). Whenever the Akalis capture
power they renounce their political agenda. Hence, the Akali workers
isolate themselves away from the leaders. All this has made an adverse
affect on the organisation in particular and the Sikhs in general.
The situation of 1997-99 is the most strange. This time, the Sikhs
gave a thumping majority to the Akali Dal, but the Akali government,
under the leadership of Mr. Badal, harmed the Sikhs and the Sikhs
instituations and demoralised the workers in particular and the Sikhs
in general. This phenomenon is likely to revive struggle for a sovereign
Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer
For detailed study, read:
Shiromani Akali Dal (1920-2000)
Khalistan Di Twarikh
Akal Takht Sahib (Falsfa te Twarikh)
All three by the author and in