Palwinder Kaur represented every-day tragedy of thousands of Punjabi mothers as she faced the media soon after her elder son Jagroop Singh alias Roopa, 30, was gunned down at Bhakna village in Amritsar district on Wednesday. With her distress writ large on her stoic face, her replies inadvertently revealed how drug menace has torn Punjabi families apart.
“Our son was already dead for us,” she told the media, as her husband, Baljinder Singh, said they had no sympathy for their slain son.
While their younger son, Ranjot Singh, serves in the Indian Army, they had disowned Roopa in 2017 due to his drug addiction. To substantiate their assertion, the aggrieved parents even showed a newspaper that carried the public notice.
Their village Jaura in Taran Taran district was a hotbed of militancy in late 1980s and early 1990s. Now it is in the grip of drug abuse. According to Kaur, Roopa dropped out from school and then briefly worked with a motorcycle agency before he took to drug trade and robbery. A lone wolf, Roopa would allegedly thrash his mother on being denied money. He would even steal money and household items for drugs, she said.
“Thousands of mothers whose sons are drug addicts have been left devastated. I am not alone,” Kaur had told media after Roopa’s name surfaced in the murder of Punjabi singer-turned-politician Sidhu Moosewala. Maintaining that drug addiction pushed her son into crimes, Kaur added, “Will the government pay heed to all of us? No mother would like her son to become a gangster or sink in the morass of drugs. Had my son been employed, he wouldn’t have committed any crimes. If the government is serious about crimes, it must first check drug menace.”
“If my son is involved in Moosewala’s murder, I stand in solidarity with Moosewala’s mother. My son should be given severe punishment,” she had replied when asked if she would request police to forgive her son instead of killing him in an encounter.
Roopa was eliminated along with another gangster Manpreet Singh alias Mannu Kusa. Allegedly, they were members of the Jaggu Bhagwanpuria gang that worked for the Lawrence Bishnoi gang in Moosewala’s murder. It is believed that the two were planning to cross over to Pakistan on the directions of Canada-based wanted gangster Satinder Singh alias Goldy Brar, who had claimed the responsibility for Moosewala’s murder. But the recent arrest of Parmdalip Singh, the aide of the slain gangsters, in a robbery case spilled the beans, helping police to locate them.
During a five-hour fierce encounter, at least three policemen were injured. A journalist, who was standing at least 200 metres away from the house in which both the gangsters were holed up, also got injured. Police claimed to have recovered an AK-47 assault rifle, a pistol and huge cache of ammunition besides two mobile phones from the encounter site.
According to the Anti-Gangster Task Force (ATGF), the two were in the Toyota Corolla car that was trailing Moosewala’s Thar before the singer was shot dead at Jawaharke village in Mansa on May 29.
The CCTV footage that surfaced on June 21 had shown Roopa and Kusa riding a bike at Samalsar in Moga district. Both Roopa and Kusa were part of a module comprising six sharpshooters allegedly involved in the murder of Moosewala. While the remaining three have already been arrested by the Delhi police, the sixth shooter, Deepak Mundi, is still at large. Punjab Police has been trying to extradite Goldy Brar. A native of Faridkot district, Brar is wanted in the murder of a Youth Congress leader Gurlal Pehalwan and runs an extortion racket in the state.
“We had been tracing their footprints and based on the latest information, their movement was noticed in the area,” said Pramod Ban, Additional Director General of Police who also heads the AGTF. Punjab Police teams had been following the two gangsters. “We were chasing them when they holed up in a house. They were asked to surrender but they opened fire and the police had to retaliate.”
Earlier in April, police had seized weapons and alleged drug proceeds from Roopa’s residence. However, Roopa along with his accomplice Gursharanjit Singh had escaped just minutes before the police team raided his residence at Rumana Chak village. Police claimed to have confiscated a pistol with eight bullets and a revolver with 23 live rounds besides cash amounting to Rs 4.92 lakh and an SUV (Scorpio) from the house. He had 17 criminal cases registered against him at several police stations in Punjab.
Meanwhile, residents of Kusa village in Moga have regretted the encounter killing of Mannu Kusa. While the family left the village around four months ago, the villagers described the family as kind-hearted people. Remembered as a fine carpenter, Mannu Kusa used to run a shop in his village. The villagers maintained that Mannu Kusa was a “soft-hearted” person who shared a cordial relationship with the villagers. According to them, the family was regularly being harassed by some unidentified rivals and circumstances turned Mannu Kusa into a gangster.
Almost seven-eight years ago, according to them, the family was targeted by a group of local people and one of the attackers got killed in the incident. Thereafter, they said, Kusa was arrested and eventually thrashed by the members of Bambiha gang inside the jail. The incident was filmed on a cell phone and then the clip was posted online. This is believed to be a possible reason that brought him closer to the rival Bishnoi gang that has claimed to have killed Moosewala.
Earlier in April, Kusa along with some other gangsters had shot dead his rival gangster Harjit Singh alias Penta, who was a part of Bambiha gang, in broad daylight at Mari Mustafa village in Moga district.
Mannu Kusa, according to police, was the first to fire bullets at Sidhu Moosewala with an AK-47 rifle. Answering media queries if the AK-47 recovered from the encounter site was the same that was used in the singer's killing, ADG Ban of AGTF said it would become clear only after the forensic investigation.
“I didn’t give birth to a gangster. My son was turned into one by the government. After he came out on bail, police started filing false cases against him,” said Harpal Kaur, mother of Mannu Kusa, stressing that the police shouldn’t have killed her son. “We had no enmity with Sidhu Moosewala. My son has been used as a stooge by the police.” She requested the government to allow her other two sons to take part in the final rites of her slain son. They have been arrested in alleged drug peddling cases.
Though the Special Cell of the Delhi police have arrested three of the six sharp-shooters involved in Moosewala’s murder — Priyavrat Fauji, Kashish, and Ankit Sirsa, Punjab police had only arrested secondary characters thus far. Punjab Director General of Police Gaurav Yadav had recently said that eliminating gangster culture and controlling drug menace were the top priority of the state police.