‘Inter-Gang Rivalry is a Tricky Challenge for Police’

Rajbir Deswal, a retired IPS officer, discusses the various aspects related to the recent killing of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Wala

The recent killing of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Wala was a real shocker. The police have pointed at an inter-gang rivalry and suspect Lawrence Bishnoi gang to be behind the killing. This is the initial phase of the investigation and more facts will emerge out later. The Punjab police is very professional and able in handling such situations and I am sure it will crack the case soon.

However, if it is a case of inter-gang rivalry, it is not a good sign for the state. The people of Punjab have previously suffered from mindless bloodshed in the 1990s and cannot bear to witness another round of murders and mayhem.

Inter-gang conflict is a tricky law and order situation. In north India, the gang rivalry phenomenon has been largely limited to cities like Gurgaon or Ghaziabad, and some parts of Uttar Pradesh. Punjab rarely witnessed a full-blown gang war. There have been some organised criminal outfits active in the state but they were never involved in such brazen killings as was witnessed in the case of Moose Wala.

People often blame police for allowing such gangs to grow but this is not entirely true. Common people, out of lack of their trust in police, hesitate to report the extortion threats issued by gangsters or become witnesses in many cases against dreaded criminals. Emboldened, gangsters involved in extortion always look for an opportunity to create sensation to gain notoriety.

Deswal wears many hats. He is a practising lawyer at the Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh, an author, commentator and columnist

Thus the first such instance of threat extended to a target should get the utmost attention and become a priority for the police. I am afraid Punjab Police now have an unenviable task at hand.

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Many gangsters also enjoy political patronage which encourages them to work in an unholy network against the law. In such tricky situations, the police have their own ways to deal with it.

I have no hesitation to admit that police also release tip-offs to gangsters against their rivals and intentionally allow the confrontation between them. This way, the gangs finish off each other. Though, constitutionally, this is not the right way to tackle crimes or criminals, the police have to resort to extraordinary measures in extraordinary situations.

Court procedures are lengthy and conviction rates low. Many dreaded criminals related to different gangs are often released on bail. They get involved in the same criminal cycle again. Most of them get killed in gang rivalries or police encounters. The instances of a gang member becoming a reformed citizen are rare.

There has been some disturbance in Punjab of late like the Mohali bomb blast and the killing of Moose Wala. Both these incidents became national headlines. There has been a shift of political power in the state and it seems that criminals and other anti-state forces are trying to assess how the government reacts. It usually happens when the power shifts from one party to another. The people of Punjab have laid trust in this new government and we believe that they will dispense their duty well.

As told to Tausif Alam

‘Punjabi Pop Glorifying Gangster Cult is a Worrisome Sign’

Vishav Bharti, a Chandigarh-based journalist, says the rise in popularity and killing of Sidhu Moose Wala are linked to the evolution of a violent cult in Punjab

Punjab is the birthplace of many a valiant fighter and folklore. Home to Sikh religion, the Punjab also has a history of cultural synthesis, confederacy and progressive politics, from the rule of Ranjit Singh to Ghadar and communist movements. Hence, this new cult of violence, which was manifest in the recent killing of Punjabi rapper Sidhu Moose Wala, appears incongruous to this holy land. But one must dig deeper to unravel the evolution of Punjab in recent times to know the truth.

After the end of violent militancy and extremism around the demand for Khalistan, which also saw high-profile assassinations, there was a momentary lull here. I was in a school in the mid-1990s, when a new cult of incipient violence appeared on the horizon. This time it was indigenous, but rose from the bowels of Punjab’s small towns and hinterland. Its language was different: gangster politics with a pronounced local flavour.

Musical lyrics, so essential to the land of Punjab, also talked about this machoism and recklessness, albeit in glorifying terms. These songs talked about SUVs, gun-toting musclemen and fearlessness. Subhdeep Singh Sidhu Moose Wala, originally from the caste-ridden, oppressive and feudal social fabric of Mansa, too sang about the ‘gangsta appeal’, thok-thok (shoot), jaanleva shonk (life-threatening pursuit) and much more.

Moose Wala celebrated a cult of violence through his pop-rap which were huge hits, unprecedented in the history of modern music in Punjab. His peppy music struck a chord. He surpassed Gurdas Maan and Daler Mehndi in terms of popularity at a young age.

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There are alleged stories of Moose Wala being involved in gangster rivalries which has stretched its tentacles across the towns and districts of Punjab, moving from the periphery to centre-stage. Some estimate his monthly earnings in crores of rupees.

Several popular singers in Punjab have been raking in a lot of money, attracting calls of extortion. One particular singer was kidnapped and shot on his thigh after he refused to pay; later, it was alleged, that his family paid up and he was released on the sly. There have been other cases of violence involving local politics, including the murder of a student leader close to the Akalis.

This rise of a violent cult did cause worry among the sensitive artistes of the state. In 2017, when Navjot Singh Sidhu was a Union Minister for Local Bodies and Cultural Affairs, a group of Punjabi artists, writers and poets requested him to set up a Punjab Culture Commission which would protect and promote the authentic folk and oral traditions of Punjab, seeking to counter the new cult of violence. I remember Moose Wala’s named figured in the discussion at that time.

At the time of his death, just 27 years of age, Moose Wala had around 100 million followers across Punjab, India and rest of the world in his social media presence. He was fielded as a Congress candidate from Mansa. However, in spite of his popularity on music charts, he lost badly. This may be a case in point that the polity of Punjab disapproves of meaningless violence and SUV-gun culture.

On the day of his killing, he travelled without his bodyguards, left his modified bullet proof vehicle at home, and went literally unprotected to meet his aunt in Mansa, living up to his own professed lifestyle. The unfortunate, violent death of a young artist is a reminder that all is not well with Punjab, despite the overwhelming victory in the recent assembly polls of the Aam Aadmi Party. The new government must wake up to this warning signal.