New Delhi: The recent killing of popular Punjabi pop singer Sidhu Moosewala due to a gang rivalry has brought to the fore Punjab’s deep-rooted gang culture and the nexus between gangs, drug mafia and the recently revived Khalistani movement in the state.
The rise of gun culture in Punjab is often attributed to the popular music industry in the state that glorifies brandishing guns as a popular trend among the youth, thus making them take up arms to look “cool”. Punjab’s intelligence agencies also attribute the rise of gangs in the state to rising unemployment, drug addiction and the need to climb up the economic ladder quickly.
Former IG of Punjab Police, C. Pal Singh told The Sunday Guardian that poverty, rising aspirations, drug addiction have resulted in a cultural change in the youth of Punjab and this, coupled with the influence of gun-toting pop singers and their frequent interactions with the youth in colleges, are luring the vulnerable youths to join these gangs.
“Post militancy, a strange type of mental change has occurred in the youth of Punjab who want to live an affluent life without any major income from their small land holdings. Lack of employment opportunities and slow industrial development have further created mental unrest and anxiety among the young population. All the above factors, coupled with gang rivalry, have created a ‘toxic cocktail’ which is exploding from time to time in murders, killings and counter killings between different gangs,” Singh told this newspaper.
Punjab’s gangs and gangsters have had a major influence in the state over the last two decades—be it on the streets to music, from politics to political power and from small sections to big political constituencies and from villages to cities.
More often than not, these gangs have the blessings of political parties and politicians as they command influence, muscle power and money power that act as an added advantage for politicians to stay in power and gain clout among the electorate. “In Punjab, organised crime has also received a fillip from the drug lords who have been operating from inside jails. The assassination of one criminal belonging to one particular gang by assassins of another gang has become frequent. Further advancement in technology has brought the boundaries of various countries closer and high-profile crimes like extortions and trafficking taking place in one part of the globe are meant to benefit masters sitting in a different country,” Singh told this newspaper.
These gangs also make popular pop singers, wrestlers and kabaddi players their easy target. Like the involvement of Olympian wrestler Sushil Kumar in the murder of his junior colleague due to gang rivalry, the murder of kabaddi player Sandeep Nangal Ambiya and the latest, that of Sidhu Moosewala, have proved how deep-rooted the gang nexus is between this influential section in Punjab. Most often, these celebrities are targeted for extortion and protection money by these gangs.
Sidhu Moosewala was killed on 29 May by the Lawrence Bishnoi gang in Punjab’s Mansa district. Soon after his murder, Bishnoi’s confidant, Goldy Brar, who is believed to be in Canada, through a Facebook post, claimed responsibility for the murder.
Police investigations also revealed that the plot to murder Moosewala was hatched from inside the Tihar prisons in Delhi where Bishnoi was lodged. The police also claimed that Moosewala was killed as part of the revenge killing by the Lawrence Bishnoi and Goldy Brar gang as Moosewala’s aide had killed Middhukhera and Gurlal Brar who were associates and friends of Lawrence Bishnoi from the university and were relatives of Goldy.
Middukhera, a 33-year-old Akali leader, was shot dead in August 2021. It was learnt by the Goldy gang that Moosewala’s manager, Shaganpreet Singh, was responsible for executing their killings through the “Kushal gang”, which include Kushal, Bhammbia and Lucky Padial.
Another associate of Goldy Brar was Gurlal Singh (cousin of Goldy Brar), who was also murdered by the rival gang. Gurlal was killed about two years back. He was the state president of the student organization. Three motorcycle riders had shot him dead in Chandigarh.
The Delhi Police’s special cell last week arrested the sharpshooters that were involved in the killing of Moosewala, including the execution head, Priyavarat, alias Fauji.
Along with the arrests, the Special Cell also recovered a cache of arms and ammunition during the raid, which included hand grenades, rocket launchers, under barrel grenades, AK-47 assault rifles and electric detonators. Such high recovery of arms and ammunition has given rise to the theory that it is the Khalistani elements who are providing such sophisticated weapons to these gangs.
Sources in the NIA that this correspondent spoke to also pointed out the links of the Khalistani elements supporting the active gangs and helping them out with arms and ammunitions to keep the state disturbed.
NIA sources also pointed to the role of Harinder Singh Rinda, a key operative of the Babbar Khalsa group who is hiding in Pakistan, in the murder of Moosewala. The NIA source said that Pakistan and ISI are trying to revive the Khalistani movement and they have found these gangs an easy way to make their entry into Punjab once again.
NIA sources also pointed out that in many parts of Punjab, the Khalistani movement is on the brink of revival and this has happened due to the penetration of money and manpower that was pumped into the farmers’ protest that took place for almost a year along the border of Delhi.
Border Security Force sources also told The Sunday Guardian that Pakistan is trying to make use of drones to drop consignments of arms and ammunition through the Punjab sector and that the BSF has been able to thwart many such attempts made by Pakistan.
Some of the active gangs of Punjab include:
* Jaggu Bhagwanpuria gang: Headed by Jasdeep Singh, the gang and Jaggu are a popular “youth icon” amongst the sports fraternity in Punjab. He holds a command over the kabaddi players in Punjab. Jasdeep and his gang are also famous for supari killings in Punjab and Haryana.
* Bambiha group: Started by Davinder Bambiha, a great kabaddi player who was killed in an encounter in 2016 at the age of 26, but his gang is still active in Punjab. This gang was known as the most dangerous gang of Punjab and has reportedly been run by Bambiha’s close friends who are into extortion, drug peddling and murders. They have been using social media to update their criminal activities. The Bambiha gang is one of the arch rivals of the Bishnoi-Goldy Brar gang.
* Lawrence Bishnoi gang: Starting as a small gangster during his college days, he came in contact with the bigger nexus in Punjab and formed his own gang. The Lawrence Bishnoi-Goldy Brar gang is one of the most well-known gangs in Punjab, involved in extortion, murders, sharp shooting, political protection, carjacking and murders. Bishnoi was in Tihar jail and is currently in Punjab police’s custody for his involvement in the Moosewala murder case.
Reportedly, Punjab has around 700 gangsters, and 70 small and big gangs. The police under the then Captain Amarinder Singh government, reportedly eliminated over 300-350 people involved with gangs, after getting a free hand.