Famous Punjabi singer and Congress leader Sidhu Moosewala was shot dead on Sunday by unidentified assailants in Punjab’s Mansa district, a day after the state government curtailed his security cover.
Moosewala’s cousin and a friend, who were travelling in a Mahindra Thar jeep with him, were also injured in the attack.
“This incident seems to be a case of an inter-gang rivalry,” Punjab Director General of Police VK Bhawra said, adding the Lawrence Bishnoi gang was behind the killing.
He said at least three weapons including 9 mm and 455 bore were used and 30 empty cases were recovered from the site.
Moosewala, 28, had fought the recent assembly election on a Congress ticket from Mansa and was defeated by the AAP’s Vijay Singla.
According to police sources, Canada-based Goldy Brar has claimed responsibility for the murder of Moosewala.
Leaders of Congress and other political parties expressed shock and anger over the killing and blamed the AAP government for the incident.
A three-member Special Investigation Team has been set up to probe the murder, the DGP said.
In a media statement, the state police chief said Moosewala’s security cover was scaled down to free personnel for deployment during the Operation Bluestar anniversary next month.
Two of the four Punjab police commandos deployed with Moosewala were withdrawn, he said.
Moosewala did not take the two remaining commandos with him when the incident happened, the DGP said, adding the singer was not riding his bullet-proof vehicle.
Giving details of the incident, the DGP said Moosewala left his house around 4:30 pm with two persons — Gurwinder Singh (neighbour) and Gurpreet Singh (cousin).
Moosewala was driving the vehicle, Bhawra said.
“When they reached village Jawahar Ke, they were followed by a car and they were intercepted from the front by two vehicles. There was heavy firing from the front on Sidhu Moosewala,” he said, adding that this incident took place at around 5:30 pm.
Moosewala was declared brought dead at the civil hospital while his cousin and his friend are in stable condition and they have been referred to Patiala for further treatment.
When asked about the use of an AK-47 rifle in the incident, SSP Mansa Gaurav Toora said it could be possible, but all facts would come out during the investigation.
DGP Bhawra said the name of Moosewala’s manager Shaganpreet had figured in the killing last year of youth Akali leader Vicky Middukhera.
Shagunpreet had fled to Australia.
The singer’s killing seems to be a revenge for Middukhera’s murder, said the top police officer.
He said the Lawrence Bishnoi gang was behind this incident, adding that one of the members of the Bishnoi gang from Canada had taken the responsibility of the murder.
There is a rivalry between Lawrence Bishnoi gang and Lucky Patial gang, police sources said.
Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, known as Sidhu Moosewala, was among the 424 people whose security was withdrawn or curtailed by the Punjab Police on Saturday on temporary basis.
As his government drew flak over the killing, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said no one involved in the gruesome murder will be spared and appealed for calm. “I am shocked and deeply saddened by the gruesome murder of Siddhu Moosewala. Nobody involved will be spared. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and his fans across the world. I appeal everyone to stay calm,” he tweeted.
AAP national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also said the culprits will be given the harshest punishment.
“Sidhu Moosewala’s murder is saddening and shocking…Culprits will be given the harshest punishment. I request everyone to remain strong and maintain peace,” Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
Targeting the AAP, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged the secret list which had the names of people whose security was removed was made public, exposing those people to a mortal threat. “In a way, it was an open invitation to murderers, that you can do your work Arvind Kejriwal is responsible for this murder.”
Patra also held AAP’s Raghav Chaddha responsible. “Both these people should apologise and explain what is happening in Punjab today,” he said.
Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, who played a major role in bringing Moosewala into the Congress fold, said he was “shocked beyond belief and expression”.
He demanded the dismissal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government.
”He was showered with bullets in Mansa just 2 days after @BhagwantMann govt withdrew his security. @AAPPunjab govt has lost moral authority. It must be dismissed,” said Warring in a tweet.
The others whose security has been removed included former MLAs, two Jathedars of Takht Damdama Sahib and Takht Kesgarh Sahib, heads of Deras and serving and retired policemen.
Moosewala was touted as a youth icon and an “international figure” by the Punjab Congress after he joined the party. His mother is a Sarpanch of Moosa village in Mansa district while his father is an ex-serviceman.
Though Moosewala faced criticism from several quarters for allegedly promoting violence and gun culture in his songs, he has a considerable fan following among the youth.
He was also booked for allegedly promoting violence through his song ”Sanju”.
He had earned the wrath of Sikh organisations for allegedly hurting their sentiments by using “objectionable” words against Mai Bhago, a Sikh warrior who fought against Mughals.
Moosewala had established his name as a Punjabi singer with chartbusters like ‘Jatt Da Muqabla’, ‘Dollar’, ‘So high’ and ‘Bambiha Bole’.
During the poll campaign, he had told PTI that he wanted to do something good for the people of Mansa constituency.