Shiromani Akali Dal

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 the Sikhs.
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 Sikh State.

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 Punjabi language

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