Dhan Singh was born in a Gurjar family in the Panchli or Panchali village. The Gurjars in Meerut were traditionally a powerful semi-nomadic pastoral 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, and described them as "cattle stealers by profession".
On 18 May 1857, a rebellion against the Company rule broke out in Meerut. 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 chaukidars 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 the official records, the rebels released 839 prisoners from the jail. These prisoners were among the rebels who participated in the Siege of Delhi.
- Henderson, Carol E. (2013). "Spatial Memorialising of War in 1857: Memories, Traces and Silences in Ethnography". In Bates, Crispin. Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857 I. SAGE Publications India,. p. 236. ISBN 9788132113362.
- Kim A. Wagner (2010). The great fear of 1857: rumours, conspiracies and the making of the Indian Mutiny. Peter Lang. pp. 162–165. ISBN 9781906165277.
- Uday Rana (2015-05-09). "Farmers, cops and sadhus who aided sepoys in 1857". The Times of India.
- "Meerut University".