ḌURLĪ JATHĀ was an impromptu band of Sikh volunteers active during the Jaito agitation, 1923-24, to force their way through in contrast to the Akālī jathās vowed to a non-violent and passive course. Ḍurlī is a meaningless word : whatever sense it possesses is communicated onomatopoetically. At Jaito, on 14 September 1923, an akhaṇḍ pāth (non-stop end-to-end recital of the Gurū Granth Sāhib) being said for the Sikh princely ruler of Nābhā state, Mahārājā Ripudaman Siṅgh, who had been deposed by the British, was interrupted which, according to the Sikh tradition, amounted to sacrilege, and the saṅgat had been held captive, no-one being allowed to go out or come in, not even to fetch food or rations for those inside. Jathedār Dullā Siṅgh and Suchchā Siṅgh of Roḍe village, in Mogā tahsīl, then in Fīrozpur district, organized a small band of desperadoes, naming it Ḍurlī Jathā, who collected the required rations and managed to smuggle these in through feint or force. When large-sized shahīdī jathās began to be sent to Jaito by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee from Amritsar, the Ḍurlī Jathā also mobilized support and sustenance for them en route. When the first Shahīdī Jathā, sworn to non-violence, was fired at by government troops on 21 February 1924 resulting in 19 dead and 30 injured, the government in order to justify its action held fake enquiries by two magistrates, first by Lālā Amar Nāth and then by Balvant Siṅgh Nalvā, who gave the verdict that Ḍurli Jathā personnel who had accompanied the Shahīdī Jathā were armed and it was they who fired the first shot forcing the troops to open fire. Twenty-two members of Ḍurlī Jathā including Jathedār Dullā Siṅgh, Suchchā Siṅgh and Māī Kishan Kaur were tried in the court of Lālā Amar Nāth, who had meanwhile been elevated to sessions judge, on 17 May 1924. They were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for seven years each. The Ḍurlī Jathā, however, remained active until the Jaito morchā ended successfully for the Akālīs in August 1925.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)