The gruesome murder of Sidhu Moosewala has once again shone the spotlight on alleged links between Punjab’s pop music industry and notorious gangsters, starkly exposing the heightened risks to singers.
The 28-year-old singer had a massive following in the Punjabi diaspora in Canada and the United Kingdom. In his police complaint, Moosewala’s father Balkaur Singh has stated that the singer was receiving extortion threats from several gangs, including the one headed by Lawrence Bishnoi. The 31-year-old gangster, who has been lodged in Delhi’s high-security Tihar Jail since 2021, had reportedly masterminded Moosewala’s murder with the help of his gang members based abroad.
According to police, the Bishnoi gang targeted the singer to avenge the murder of Youth Akali Dal leader Vicky Middukhera, who is said to have shared a close rapport with Lawrence Bishnoi. Following Middukhera’s broad daylight murder in Mohali in August last year, the name of Shaganpreet Singh, the manager of Sidhu Mooswala, had come to light. However, Singh fled to Australia from India. Mohali Police issued a lookout circular against him eventually. According to Delhi police, Bishnoi believes that Moosewala helped Singh flee the country.
However, the influence of the Bishnoi gang —which is said to have a massive network of hardcore criminals — is not confined to just Punjab. The gang has been active in several cases of murder and extortion in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and even Mumbai. Last month, Siddhesh Kamble alias Mahakal, an alleged member of the Lawrence Bishnoi gang, reportedly told police that Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar was also on the target list for extortion.
Earlier this month, Bollywood actor Salman Khan’s lawyer in the blackbuck poaching case, Hastimal Saraswat, reported a threat letter issued against Khan at the behest of the Bishnoi gang. Allegedly, the letter threatened that the actor would meet the same fate as Sidhu Moosewala. However, Mumbai Police beefed up mega star’s security soon after Moosewala’s murder.
Amritpal Singh Dhillon, an Indian-born Canadian singer and rapper, and a close associate of Moosewala wrote in a post on Instagram soon after the singer’s murder, “Most people will never know the extent of what you have to deal with as a Punjabi artist behind the scenes on a daily basis. With constant judgment, hate-filled comments, threats and negative energy directed towards people like us, who are just doing what we love.”
Mika Singh, another Punjabi singer who is based in Mumbai, thus reacted to Moosewala’s murder, “Singers in Punjab often get such threats from gangsters. I am telling you from personal experiences, that dealing with threats is very difficult.”
Apart from the Bishnoi gang, there are several smaller gangs that have been targeting other singers and artists. In April 2018, gangster Dilpreet Singh, who headed the Dilpreet-Rinda gang, shot famous Punjabi singer Parmish Verma and then claimed the responsibility on his Facebook page. The singer, who miraculously survived, had claimed extortion was the reason behind the attack.
Gippy Grewal, a Punjabi film singer and actor, received extortion phone calls in 2018. Following his complaints, Mandeep Singh was arrested by the Mohali Police. But earlier in April this year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court granted bail to the accused.
In the same year, Navjot Singh, 22, a budding Punjabi singer, was shot dead in the Dera Bassi area of Punjab. Riddled with five gunshot wounds, all in the torso. His body was recovered from an empty plot at midnight. The police, however, had ruled out the gangsters’ angle to the murder. Later, five criminals including a member of the Monu Rana gang were arrested in this case.
Earlier this year, Punjabi singer and songwriter Karan Aujla alleged a threat from the Harry Chatha group. According to reports, the gangster had also invoked the names of Aujla’s family members while posting threats on social media. Meanwhile, gangsters fired several gunshots at his friend’s house in Surrey, Canada. Friends turned foes, Karan Aujala and Sidhu Moosewala, are known to have gone head-to-head on several occasions, creating the biggest beef in the history of Punjabi rap. Aujla is said to have given a moving tribute to Moosewala at a live show recently.
In April this year, Mankirat Aulakh, another noted singer, was threatened by the Bambiha gang. But after Moosewala’s murder, the Gangland singer received a renewed threat soon after his pictures with Lawrence Bishnoi, who took the responsibility for killing Sidhu Moosewala, went viral on social media.
Naitram, popularly known as R Nait, was attacked by about 20 persons at his home in Punjab’s Mansa district in 2020. The singer was allegedly attacked by video producers over financial issues involving his song.