Dal Khalsa formed on August 6, 1978 is a pro-Khalistani separatist organisation, modelled on the Palestine Militant Group PLO. In 1981, during a conference in Chandigarh, where the key note speaker was Ganga Singh Dhillon (considered to be a Khalistan propagator) Dal Khalsa members had distributed ‘’Khalistan’’ passports, currency and stamps.
In the 1980’s it had a membership of about 600 and had three units in Chandigarh, Gurdaspur and Mohali. The formation of Dal Khalsa was because of the fall out of the infamous April 13, 1978 clash. Dal Khalsa’s main agenda was to be the political front for Bhindranwale. They supported every demand made by Bhindranwale and to take overt political positions where he could not.
In April 1982 when the Nehar Roko (stop canal digging, to prevent work on SYL canal in Patiala) agitation started, the Dal Khalsa engineered a series of incidents to instigate communal clashes between Sikhs and Hindus. Cow heads were put in front of temples and few idols of Hindu deities were broken. Moreover, tobacco and cigarettes were thrown at Gurudwaras. However, the attempt failed as no communal flare ups were reported during this period. With the history of hijacking and attempt to cause communal clashes, Dal Khalsa was banned in 1982, which was lifted in May 1992.
Dal Khalsa is a pro-Khalistani organisation with the objective to attain an ‘Independent sovereign Sikh nation”.
Initially formed in India, it started a UK branch on January 4, 1983 and a West Germany branch was opened in June 1983. A prominent leader of Dal Khalsa was Giani Bakshish Singh, a Birmingham-based pro-Naxalite Sikh leader. Currently Dal Khalsa operates openly, based from Amritsar in Punjab, India.
Dal Khalsa received its funding from Sikh separatist leaders based in UK, US and Canada. According to Harsimran Singh, they charged INR 15,000 to anyone who needed a certificate which said that they were part of the organisation and using such certificate over 200 people had secured political asylum in Canada, West Germany and US.
In 2018, Dal Khalsa based in Amritsar had stated that they were against the SFJ run “Referendum 2020” campaign by stating that the referendum was farfetched and unworkable. Meanwhile, Dal Khalsa UK, ostensibly the UK branch of Dal Khalsa stated that they were removing the India based Dal Khalsa president and spokesperson. However, the India based leadership stated that “There exists no Dal Khalsa UK as such as of now”. Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwarpal stated that “After its UK chapter head Manmohan Singh’s death last year (2017), Dal Khalsa has no officially nominated member in UK. As we have alliance with Sikh Federation (UK), we decided not to constitute our own organisational structure in UK after demise of Manmohan Singh.”
Currently Dal Khalsa in one of the two Khalistan propagatory groups, besides Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar). However, unlike SAD, Dal Khalsa does not partake in electoral process. They also pledge no allegiance to the Indian constitution. Fringe Khalistani leaders share Dal Khalsa’s ideological position. On May 20, 2016, Shiromani Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani) (an erstwhile pro-khalistan group) merged with Dal Khalsa. The Dal Khalsa has given up any violent form of secessionist movement and has claimed that they are adhering to democratic and political means of achieving its separatist goal.
In 2012, leader of separatist Hurriyat Conference of Jammu and Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Gillani had sent message to Dal Khalsa in which he had claimed that “suffering had brought Sikhs and Kashmiris together”.
At the time of its ban in 1982, it had a membership of 560 members. About 80 percent of its activists were from the age group of 20-30, mostly from rural areas and 60 percent of them were non graduates and unmarried, living in Gurudwaras across the state.
In its initial days, Dal Khalsa had a five-member Supreme Council in which Harsimran Singh was the chief organiser (Mukh Panch). The other members were Jaswant Singh of Gurdaspur and Satnam Singh of Paonta Sahib, Harbhajan Singh Narengwal and Gajinder Singh (a former Government employee) who was involved in the 1981 Indian Airlines hijacking. Currently, Dal Khalsa’s general secretary is Paramjit Singh Tanda, while Harpal Singh Cheema is president, Baba Hardeep Singh Mehraj is vice president and Kanwar Pal Singh is the spokesperson.