AKĀLĪ DAL, CENTRAL, a political organization of the Sikhs set up in March 1934 as a parallel body to the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal. The latter was formed on 14 December 1920 to assist the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee in its campaign for the reformation of the management of the Sikh places of worship and, under pressure of the agitation it had launched, the Punjab Legislative Council passed on 7 July 1925 the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, providing for a Central Board elected by the Sikhs to take over control of the shrines. On 9 July 1925, the Governor of the Punjab announced that such of the Akālī prisoners as accepted the provisions of the Act and were willing to work by them would be freed. Some of the agitation leaders gave the required assurance and were released, but 15 of them, including Master Tārā Siṅgh and Tejā Siṅgh Samundarī refused and preferred to stay back in jail. This split the Akālīs. Those released tried to capture the Central Board through the first elections under the Sikh Gurdwaras Act held in June 1926, but could win only 26 out of a total of 120 seats, 85 going to the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal represented by those still under detention. Government withdrew the ban on the Akālīs on 27 September 1926 and the remaining batch of leaders was released from custody. At the first meeting of the Central Board held on 2 October 1926, Sardār Khaṛak Siṅgh (still in jail convicted in connection with the Gurū kā Bāgh agitation) and Master Tārā Siṅgh were unanimously elected president and vice-president, respectively. The Bord, renamed at that first meeting Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, assumed charge of Gurdwārā management on 27 November 1926.
The Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal functioned as a well-knit party for the next three years under the leadership of Bābā Khaṛak Siṅgh, but fissures began to appear in the wake of elections to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee in 1930. Bābā Khaṛak Siṅgh not only resigned the presidentship of the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal, but also left the party along with Sardār Bahādur Mehtāb Siṅgh, Jathedār Kartār Siṅgh Jhabbar and Harbaṅs Siṅgh Sistānī. Master Tārā Siṅgh took over as president of the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal and remained at the helm of Sikh affairs for the next three decades. The question of constitutional reforms in the country under discussion at the time prompted the two groups to sink their differences for a while. But the next Gurdwārā elections coming off in February 1933 brought the differences to the surface again. At the Sikh National Conference convened at Lahore on 24-25 March 1934, Bābā Khaṛak Siṅgh presiding, the formation of a separate party-at first called Sikh National League and then renamed Central Akālī Dal was announced. The Conference, while rejecting the Communal Award as injurious to the Sikhs and to the cause of inter - communal harmony in the country, demanded 30 per cent representation for the Sikhs in the Punjab legislature. It exhorted the Sikhs to be ready to make all possible sacrifices for the achievement of their political objective and declared that the party would enlist one lakh volunteers for this purpose. Bābā Khaṛak Siṅgh became president of the Central Akālī Dal, with Amar Siṅgh, editor of the Sher-i- Punjab, as working president and Giānī Sher Siṅgh and Harbaṅs Siṅgh Sīstānī as vice-presidents. Among the members of the executive committee were Jaswant Siṅgh Jhabāl, Master Motā Siṅgh Anandpurī, Gopāl Siṅgh Sāgarī and Jaṅg Bahādur Siṅgh.
The Central Akālī Dal's major concerns were safeguarding the religious entity of the Sikhs and ensuring a political status for them in the national setup. With the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal it remained in constant conflict, especially because of the latter's alignment with the Indian National Congress. In the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, it formed a strong opposition block led by men of the stature of Giānī Sher Siṅgh and Amar Siṅgh of the Sher Punjab. It controlled under the provisions of the Gurdwaras Act some of the important Sikh shrines such as those at Amritsar (the Golden Temple), Nankāṇā Sāhib and Muktsar. In the 1936-37 general elections under the Government of India Act of 1935, Central Akālī Dal supported the newly formed Khālsā National Party which had the upper hand as against the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal. But gradually the influence of the Central Akālī Dal waned. It convened All-India Akhaṇḍ Hindustān Conference at Lahore on 6 June 1943 to protest against the Muslim League's demand for Pakistan and the Āzād Punjab scheme sponsored by the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal. It held an Anti-Āzād Punjab Conference at Paňjā Sāhib on 16 August 1943 and another Akhaṇḍ Hindustān Conference at Chakvāl on 15 September 1943. One of its last political acts was the submission of a memorandum to the British Cabinet Mission in 1946. The demands set forth in the Memorandum included grant of complete independence to a united India with a strong Centre and without the right for the provinces to secede; the establishment of a special court to guarantee and safeguard the rights of the minorities; special representation for the Sikhs in the Constituent Assembly and in the Central legislature; representation for the Sikhs in the Punjab legislature on an equal footing with the Hindus and Muslims; joint electorates, with reservation of seats for the minorities; guarantee for the protection of the religious and cultural interests of the Sikhs and of their share in the armed forces of the country.
The All-India Sikh League, controlled by the Central Akālī Dal, passed a resolution in its Lahore session on 4 June 1946 asking the British Government "to fix a date for the immediate withdrawal of British forces of occupation; to wipe out the undemocratic feudal and semi-feudal system of Indian states and the privileged position of the Princes; to limit the over-riding powers of the Viceroy only to foreign policy during the period of the Interim National Government; to purge the Cabinet Mission's proposal of the communal virus being injected through the system of provincial grouping and representation on communal basis; and to take immediate steps for the liquidation of the Indian debt through the transfer of British vested interests in finance and industry. . . " It further demanded that the Interim National Government be composed of elected members of the Central legislature and that complete sovereignty be granted to the Constituent Assembly without reservation and limitations.
No efforts were made to revive the Central Akālī Dal in Independent India. One of its principal architects, Sardār Amar Siṅgh of the Sher-i-Punjab, died on 9 July 1948. Bābā Khaṛak Siṅgh spent last sixteen years of his life in political retirement in Delhi.
Jaṅg Bahādur Siṅgh