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Dhan Singh Gurjar

(1814 – 1857) – (Uttar Pradesh)

Dhan Singh Gurjar (Aged 43), also known as Dhunna Singh, was the police chief (kotwal) of Meerut who participated in the 1857 rebellion and led initial actions against the British East India Company in Meerut. He is known as the originator of the Revolution of 1857. Dhan Singh was born in Panchli or Panchali village in Meerut district. The Gurjars in Meerut were traditionally a powerful community who controlled land and cattle trade in the area. However, during the Company rule, much of the land they relied upon for grazing their cattle had been auctioned off to other groups such as the Jats. The British officials branded the Gurjars as habitual criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act.

On 10 May 1857, a rebellion against the East India Company rule broke out in Meerut during the 1857 uprising. As the kotwal of the city, Dhan Singh’s job was to protect the city. However, many of his officers deserted his force on that day, either to join the rebellion or to escape the rebels’ fury. The city saw large-scale rioting, plunder, and murder. When two of his chowkidars (guards) apprehended two Gurjar men for stealing horses, he asked them not to make arrests, fearing reprisals from the rebels. Around midnight, he was called to the house of a Bengali man, which was being plundered by a huge group of armed Gurjars.

Dhan Singh’s chowkidars arrested two of the plunderers, but Singh restrained them from using force against the Gurjars. He then released the two men with the loot, after the group agreed to go away. Dhan Singh and several other policemen later deserted the police force (kotwali). He is believed to have led thousands of villagers from all across the Meerut district to the city’s jail. According to official records, the rebels released 839 prisoners from the jail, and these prisoners were among the rebels who participated in the siege of Delhi.