Shortly after the death of Punjabi singer and politician Sidhu Moosewala was confirmed, the Punjab Police said it could be a fallout of inter-gang rivalry.
The police were quick to clarify that Moosewala was himself not a gangster, but that gangsters of rival factions had taken a position around him. His former manager was also named in a murder case related to a gang.
Within days, Canada-based gangster Goldy Brar claimed responsibility for Moosewala's killing. The name of jailed gangster Lawrence Bishnoi also surfaced in the plot. Later, it was reported that Moosewala could have been targeted over his perceived glorification of a rival gang in one of his songs.
Since Moosewala's death, names of gangs earlier limited to their turfs or law enforcement circles have become mainstream and a series of police-gangster confrontations and inter-gang killings have taken place that drive home the prevalence of gang culture in India.
Here we explore the Sidhu Moosewala murder case, the suspected inter-gang rivlarly in the case, and the gangster culture it brought to public attention.
What we know of Sidhu Moosewala's killing?
Punjabi singer and politician Sidhu Moosewala was killed on May 29, 2022. His real name was Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu.
Moosewala was shot in Jawahar Ke village in Punjab's Mansa district. He was travelling in a car along with a friend and a cousin.
Shortly after Moosewala's death, Punjab's Director General of Police VK Bhawra said at least three weapons were used and 30 rounds fired in the attack.
Moosewala's father Balkaur Singh said in his police complaint that when he was following his son in his car, he saw a Corrola car with four occupants trailing Moosewala's car. A second car —a Bolero— stopped in front of Moosewala's car when he took a turn towards village Barnala, as per the FIR the police registered based on Singh's complaint. The occupants of Corolla and Bolero started indiscriminate firing at Moosewala and later fled, according to Singh.
The gangster connection to Moosewala's murder
Canada-based gangster Goldy Brar claimed responsibility for Moosewala's killing. In a social media post attributed to Brar, he said he and the Bishnoi gang got him killed. He cited Vikramjit Singh Middukhera's murder as the reason for the killing.
Middukhera was a Akali leader who was killed. The name of Moosewala's manager Shaganpreet had come up in the case. Shaganpreet fled India after Middukhera's murder.
The Brar-Bishnoi side had taken Moosewala on their radar after Middukhera's killing, for which they believe Moosewala via his manager hired Kaushal Chaudhary's gang members, according to The Tribune.
Earlier, Moosewala's father Balkaur Singh also said his son had received death threats from Bishnoi and other gangsters.
Earlier, Outlook also reported that a song could have helped cultivate the inter-gang rivalry that could have been a factor in the killing. The song is 'Bambiha Bole' (2020) that was understood by rivals to be glorifying the Bambiha gang in Punjab.
"According to investigative agencies, the gangsters who killed the 28-year-old singer did so as a matter of prestige. They say the slain singer, through his song Bambiha Bole (2020), not just challenged their gang members, but also glorified their rival Bambiha gang," reported Outlook earlier.
The report further said that around 60 gang leaders and members were understood to be involved in the world across the world. Brar was recently placed at the 15th position in Canada's Most Wanted list.
Gangsters and public spillover of rivalries
The murder of Sidhu Moosewala and the publicised hunt for killers and planners brought North India's gangsters to the fore.
The episode also served as a reckoning to the fact that gun and gangs have a strong cultural element in Punjab, ranging from songs to youth's minds.
M Rajivlochan noted in an article that Punjab underwent through "self-radicalisation" as gangsters' posts on social were taken up by youth fascinated by the world of guns and gangs.
"Till just a few years ago, these gangsters would publicise their violent actions and thoughts on Facebook to thousands of adoring followers. Pictures with many guns and pistols were rife. Not a single one of the weapons was legal. Yet the police remained unconcerned about such displays. 'Brother you are great' was one of the most widely-used phrases from male admirers on such Facebook posts. 'O brave one, I adore you' would be the gist of comments from female followers. This is the gangster version of ‘self-radicalisation’," said Rajivlochan in the article for Outlook.
Following Moosewala's killing, said to be a fallout of inter-gang rivalry, several arrests were made. Accused were also killed in an encounter and multiple rounds of killings have taken place inside jails too that spilled their rivalry into the public domain.
In July 2022, two men named Jagroop Singh alias Roopa and Manpreet Singh alias Mannu Kusa were gunned down in a police encounter in Bhakna village in Punjab's Amritsar. Roopa’s name had surfaced in Moosewala's murder. At the time, the two were said to be members of the Jaggu Bhagwanpuria gang that worked for the Lawrence Bishnoi gang in Moosewala’s murder.
In February, two gangsters accused in the Moosewala murder case were killed in a clash at Goindwal Sahib Central Jail in Punjab's Tarn Taran district. They were identified as Mandeep Singh alias Tufan of Batala and Manmohan Singh alias Mohna of Budhlana.
Police had identified six shooters who were part of the two modules allegedly involved in the killing Moosewala.
Later, videos of the prison killing surfaced on social media. In a video, an inmate identifying himself as Sachin Bhiwani said the slain gangsters were henchmen of Jaggu Bhagwanpuria. Bhiwani and others in the video allegedly belong to the Lawrence Bishnoi gang, which came under spotlight after Moosewala's murder.
Earlier this month, gangster Till Tajpuriya was killed in Tihar Jail, Delhi. While the main reason in the killing is understood to be Tillu's hand in the killing of another gangster Jitender Gogi in the Rohini court complex in 2021, his name had also come up in the Moosewala episode. A post attributed to gangster Neeraj Bawana had tagged Tillu and others in a post vowing to take revenge for Moosewala's killing.
"Gang wars in Punjab is likely to escalate after the brutal killing of singer Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, alias Sidhu Moose Wala, as four different criminal gangs have vowed to take revenge for the murder in two days. They are Delhi-based gangs of Neeraj Bawana, Tillu Tajpuriya, Kaushal Choudhury, and Davinder Bambih," reported The Pioneer in June 2022.
Notably, Moosewala was reported to have glorified Bambiha gang earlier and Kaushal Choudhury gang had been linked to Moosewala's manager who is accused to be behind the murder of an Akali leader. This murder of Akali leader Middukhera could have been a driver of the murder, as per a report.
Earlier, The Tribune reported that Brar-Bishnoi side had taken Moosewala on their radar after Middukhera's killing, for which they believe Moosewala via his manager hired Kaushal Chaudhary's gang members.