Stamping out gangsterism from Punjab is a big task for police

The Punjab police deserves kudos for killing two shooters involved in Moosewala murder case in an encounter recently, but to claim it would soon make state free of gangsters seems easier said than done, given the culture of gangsterism in the state, reports Rajesh Moudgil

After hunting the shooters of popular Punjabi singer Shubhdeep Singh aka Sidhu Moosewala for over one-and-half months, the Punjab police finally chased and shot two of them in a remote Cheecha Bhakna village on Attari border in Amritsar district on July 20, last. It was the first major action of the state police in the May 29 Moosewala’s murder case that shook the state.

Hundreds of rounds were fired from both sides in the said encounter which began around 10 am and lasted for at least three hours. Three cops were also shot at and were hospitalised.

The action by the Punjab police’s anti-gangsters task force (AGTF) was being seen as its first major action as, so far, the Delhi police’s special cell had made the crucial headways in the case by quickly tracing phone calls made from members of notorious gangster Lawrence Bishnoi from inside Delhi’s Tihar jail to other gangsters living abroad with a motive to kill the popular singer.

Immediately after the murder, its responsibility was taken by Goldy Brar – who is said to be currently in Canada – of Lawrence Bishnoi Gang. The rivalry between these gangs with the former manager of Moosewala was already well-known.

It was the Delhi cops only who made the first three crucial arrests and concluded with the inputs from Punjab police that at least six shooters carried out the killing of Sidhu Moosewala, 28, on May 29 near his native village Jawaharke in Mansa district, a day after his security was withdrawn by the Punjab police among 424 others. He had joined the Congress in December last year ahead of the February assembly elections this year.

The anti-gangster task force (AGTF) of Punjab which got a tip-off that the two gangsters – Manpreet Singh aka Manu and Jagroop Singh aka Rupa were hiding in an isolated house in Cheecha Bhakna village in Attari border area rushed to the spot, cordoned off the area asking people not to come out of their homes and asking the accused to surrender. 

However, the encounter followed in the wake of no response from the accused following which both of them were killed.

The AGTF also recovered an AK-47, a 0.30 mm pistol and heavy ammunition from the two accused. A bag was also recovered from the spot though it was yet to be inspected and examined by the forensic team, police said.

According to the police, Manu and Rupa were the first to overtake Moosewala’s car and open fire at it. Two cars had been following Moosewala and the second car was carrying four shooters who were identified as Priyavrat alias Fauji, Kashish alias Kuldeep, Ankit Sirsa and Deepak Mundi. Except for Mundi, the other three had been arrested by Delhi police.

Police said that the two accused had been on the run since the murder. They had re-entered Punjab from Rajasthan recently and were on its radar. A CCTV footage which had recently surfaced, showed the two rode a bike at Samalsar in Moga district on June 21. 

They belonged to the Jaggu Bhaganpuria gang which had provided these shooters to Lawrence Bishnoi for the Moosewala killing.

Mann pats cops

Commending the police encounter, chief minister Bhagwant Mann, said that the state would soon be free from gangsters and drug peddlers. He said it was his guarantee to the people of the state that his government would not allow anyone to disturb hard earned peace in the state and every effort would be made to maintain peace and communal harmony in Punjab by making it free from gangsters and drug smugglers.

Gangsters nurtured by the previous government leaders were running the crime rackets sitting in jails and some even from abroad, he said and added that the state government had started a planned action plan and results would soon follow on ground.

Director general of police Gaurav Yadav said the AK 47 found from the spot of encounter was being forensically examined keeping in view of the chances of its use against Moosewala. Besides AK 46, a pistol, a lot of ammunition had also been recovered, he said and added that the police was also tracking the left out gangster, Deepak Mundi, who would soon be arrested. Red corner alert against Goldy Brar has also been issued, he said.

Easier said than done

However, wiping out gangsters from Punjab in a short span of time did not appear to be an easy task, given the huge fan following of several gangs who have been active on social media platforms since years. Reason? Youngsters are easily attracted to fast money, late night parties with drugs and alcohol as well their flashy lifestyles and gun culture shown by them on social media.

According to reports, huge money comes to them from illegal businesses of extortion, kidnapping, arms smuggling, drugs and even controlling kabaddi leagues. In some cases, these criminals also have political patronage, it is alleged.

However, a bigger worry for the police has been that some of the gangsters were in touch with the Sikh terror outfits and got their weapons from across the border.

However, to the advantage of the police, there is also bitter rivalry between some of these gangs.

Sample this: Immediately after Sidhu Moosewala’s murder, at least two gangs took to social media to vow revenge for his (Moosesala’s) killing. Taking to Facebook, the Neeraj Bawana and the Davinder Bambiha gang vowed revenge for the singer’s murder.

Both of them are said to be the sworn enemies of the gangster Lawrence Bishnoi. It may also be recalled that Canada-based gangster Goldy Brar and associates of Lawrence Bishnoi had already taken the responsibility for Moosewala’s killing.

The connection of the rivalry between the two gangs – Punjab police believes – is the shocking August 2021 killing of Vicky Midukheda, a Youth Akali Dal leader, who was reportedly close to some members of the Lawrence Bishnoi gang.

It is alleged that Shaganpreet, who was the manager of Sidhu Moosewala, was involved in this murder. He has been absconding since. Brar and his associates also accused the Punjab police of not digging deep enough into the case of Midukheda’s killing.