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View | On Sidhu Moosewala killing, Punjab government faces perception problem

View | On Sidhu Moosewala killing, Punjab government faces perception problem

View | On Sidhu Moosewala killing, Punjab government faces perception problem
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By KV Prasad  May 30, 2022 6:34:20 PM IST (Published)

The dastardly killing of popular Punjab singer Sidhu Moosewala pushed the nascent Bhagwant Mann government on the backfoot. The murder in the home place of the icon by unknown assailants occurred a day after the government pruned his security along with that of 400 others. By accepting the demand for a judicial probe, the AAP government hopes to address the situation.

The tragic killing of popular Punjabi singer Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu aka singer Sidhu Moosewala in Mana, the home district of the slain artiste put the spotlight on the nascent Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of Bhagwant Mann. The AAP government has to straightaway launch battles to counter a perception of its ability to be efficacious in dealing with security and law-and-order.

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The public outcry and slew of messages across social media platforms lament the unfortunate development that resulted in the audacious killing on Sunday by unknown assailants. That the attack occurred in the backdrop of the Punjab government to prune security for the singer along with 400-odd protected persons added to the situation.
While the state police claimed the young singer was a victim of inter-gang rivalry, his immediate family and fans are wary of accepting the theory. Punjab police stated that one Lawrence Bishnoi, an aide of Canada-based gangster Goldy Brar, owned responsibility for the brutal killing.
A social media post purportedly of the gangster alleged the state police did not act in the killing of a young member of a political party Vikramjit Singh last June. The charge was that an aide of the slain singer was allegedly involved in hiring the killers of Vikramjit.
Police on Sunday said the singer reportedly left home in a personal vehicle both without the bullet-proof version and his security. The Chief Minister said these aspects will form part of the investigation by police that is combing through evidence besides reasons behind the reduction of security and fix responsibility for the decision.
On his part, CM Mann expressed deep shock over the death of Moosewala, a celebrated artiste and cultural icon of the state. The Chief Minister asserted the guilty in the murder case will be brought to justice and accepted the demand of his father for an inquiry by a sitting judge of the high court.
Now, there are a few aspects of the development. One, the decision to reduce the security detail of the singer from four commandos to two, the shadow of gang wars and gun culture in the state.
In March, this year came a report from Jalandhar of the killing of an international Kabaddi player Sandeep Singh that law-enforcing authorities linked to a turf war over control of the popular game, especially in rural and semi-urban areas. Earlier this month, the intelligence headquarter of Punjab police at Mohali was the object of a Rocket-Propelled Grenade attack.
There are reports that a number of singers and artists in the state live under the shadow of threats from gangsters and receive calls for ransom. Though there was little to suggest that Moosewala of having lodged any complaint of threats to him. His fans remain intrigued over a recent number titled ‘Last Ride’ which suggested a premonition. Moosewala was riding a Thar vehicle when the assailants pumped bullets on Sunday.
The killing of Moosewala acquired political undertones and adding to the grist is the fact that Moosewala was the candidate from Mansa in the recent Punjab assembly elections, contesting on the Indian National Congress ticket. The 28-year-old singer lost to AAP’s Vijay Singla, recently in the news. The AAP minister was dismissed by CM Mann following allegations of corruption and taken into custody.
Sensing the killing was gathering momentum and a wave of anger, especially among millions of fans of the young singer, Chief Minister was quick in accepting the demand for a judicial probe Moosewala’s father insisted on. The move should help in assuaging the sentiments of the family and fans and also allow the Chief Minister to deflect the political heat the opposition was generating.
Besides, the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticised the killing. The parties interpreted the incident as part of the deterioration in the law-and-order situation in the sensitive border state.
The political stand of various parties, notwithstanding, the AAP government will have to live with the fact that its grand plans to reduce security in order to remove the ubiquitous VIP culture and free up police personnel for regular work will be debated.
That the killing of the singer came about 24 hours after the security was pruned, will require an explanation as to what led to a revision in threat perception. Afterall life of a young person under protection was lost.
It is natural for the politically inclined to juxtapose the development since the AAP in Delhi sought to liken the absence of police in Delhi to reducing the efficacy of the state government to tackle law-and order-situation or other crimes in the national capital. Punjab offers no such shade since the police, as per similar arrangement in other states, report to the executive of the day.
— KV Prasad is a senior journalist and has earlier worked with The Hindu and The Tribune. Views expressed are personal.
Read his other columns here
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