Sidhu Moose Wala: Indian singer shot dead one day after government cuts his security

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The 28-year-old was a popular singer who had joined the Congress party in December (Twitter/@iSidhuMooseWala)
The 28-year-old was a popular singer who had joined the Congress party in December (Twitter/@iSidhuMooseWala)

Indian singer and politician Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, popularly known as “Sidhu Moose Wala”, was shot dead in Punjab on Sunday.

The shooting came just a day after his security was scaled down by the state’s two-month-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government as part of a crackdown on “VIP culture”.

Sidhu was a popular singer with many hit songs to his credit, though he had previous run-ins with the police for allegedly gorifying guns and violence in his music. In February 2020, Sidhu and fellow singer Mankirt Aulakh were booked under charges of provoking breach of the peace for the song “302 da parcha” (FIR for murder).

The same year he was booked under the Arms Act for promoting guns in his song “Panj Goliyan” (Five bullets).

The 28-year-old had joined the Congress party in December. He contested the recently conducted state elections from Mansa, but was defeated by the AAP’s Dr Vijay Singla.

In a press conference on Sunday, Punjab director general of police Viresh Kumar Bhawra said Sidhu’s SUV was shot at while he was driving in Jhawahar Ke village in Mansa district with two others.

“Moose Wala left his house in Moosa village at 4.30pm. Around 5.30pm, he was driving his jeep, accompanied by two persons, when two vehicles that had been following him intercepted his vehicle and fired at him,” Mr Bhawra said.

His car was sprayed with bullets, and Sidhu was found slumped on his seat. He was immediately taken to Mansa Civil Hospital but doctors declared him dead on arrival.

Police believe that the murder was a result of inter-gang rivalry.

Mr Bhawra said that Sidhu’s manager Shagunpreet Singh’s name had surfaced in the murder case of Shiromani Akali Dal leader Vicky Middukhera last year. Middukhera was shot dead at a market in Mohali on 7 August 2021.

This April, police arrested three people in connection with the case, one of whom named Singh. The manager has since been absconding, according to the police.

Shortly after Sidhu’s death, a person based in Canada identified as Goldy Brar, allegedly a member of the Bishnoi gang, claimed responsibility for the killing in a Facebook post. Mr Brar criticised the police for not taking action against the singer for Middukhera’s murder.

“Lawrence Bishnoi gang is involved in this murder,” Mr Bhawra said. “Lucky, [a] member of the gang has taken responsibility from Canada.”

The incident has led to a backlash against the AAP state government, which on Saturday withdrew security cover for a total of 424 people, including politicians, religious leaders, socio-religious heads and retired police officers, as a part of its efforts to end “VIP culture” – which privileges VIPs above ordinary citizens.

Critics have said the government should not have released the names of those whose security was revoked or scaled down.

Meanwhile, Punjab police said on Sunday that Sidhu’s security had not been withdrawn but rather scaled down. “He had four commandos from Punjab Police, out of which two were taken back but he had two commandos which Moose Wala didn’t take along with him,” Mr Bhawra said.

The state opposition has accused the AAP of not conducting proper threat assessments before implementing the move.

The opposition Congress party’s leader in Punjab state, Amarinder Singh Warring, said the AAP government has lost its “moral authority” to govern the state and must be dismissed.

“The Punjab DGP should be ashamed as it is his responsibility to control law and order... but he is running away from his responsibility by saying it was a gang rivalry. We will go to the high court and will meet governor. If we didn’t get justice then we’ll also meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah (sic),” he said, according to news agency ANI.

Sunil Jakhar, a former senior Congress figure in Punjab who recently joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also hit out at the AAP and alleged that the government’s “cheap publicity” had cost the young singer his life.

“The Aam Aadmi Party government has turned Punjab’s law and order into Jungle Raj and has handed over the security system to political likes and dislikes,” said Congress’ Priyanka Gandhi in a statement on Twitter.

Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal also asked whether “the cheaply populist decision to withdraw Moosewala’s security” was responsible for the tragedy.

Chief minister Bhagwant Mann had offered his condolences to Sidhu’s family and assured that “nobody will be spared” as he appealed for peace and calm.

A special investigation team (SIT) has been set up to probe Sidhu’s killing.

On Monday, Sidhu’s family members refused to allow state authorities to conduct a postmortem examination on the singer’s body and demanded a probe by the National Investigation Agency, reported The Hindustan Times.

The family has also demanded action against officials who leaked the list of individuals who were stripped of security cover.

In his police complaint, Sidhu’s father Balkaur Singh said his son had been receiving threats from the Lawrence Bishnoi gang.

"On Sunday, my son left with his friends Gurwinder Singh and Gurpreet Singh in a Thar car. He did not take the bulletproof Fortuner and the two guards with him. I followed him in another car with the two armed personnel,” Mr Singh said, according to NDTV.

“Within minutes, the cars sped away. I started shouting and people gathered. I rushed my son and his friends to the hospital where he died,” the complaint said.

On Monday, Mr Mann said that the state government will request a judicial inquiry by a judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court.

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