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Gangs of Punjab: Moosewala's Murder Puts Spotlight on State's Criminal Crews And Their Top Guns

By: Anuradha Shukla

CNN-News18

Last Updated: July 22, 2022, 08:19 IST

Punjab, India

Gangster Lawrence Bishnoi (left) is  believed to be the 'mastermind' of Sidhu Moose Wala's killing. (Photo: hindi.news18.com)

Gangster Lawrence Bishnoi (left) is believed to be the 'mastermind' of Sidhu Moose Wala's killing. (Photo: hindi.news18.com)

The involvement of these gangs has been found in cases of contract killing, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, extortion, fleecing protection money, gun-point dacoity, snatching, highway robbery, vehicle snatching, and land grabbing

Singer Sidhu Moose Wala’s gruesome murder on May 29 rattled Punjab once again as it highlighted the unchecked activities of the criminal gangs operating in the state from inside jails as well as across the borders. Wednesday’s long-drawn encounter that saw the killing of two of Moose Wala’s assassins, Jagroop Rupa and Mannu Kussa, has put the focus back on these gangsters.

The rise of such gangs may be traced back to Prabhjinder Singh alias Dimpy from the Malwa region of the state. He was killed near Sukhna Lake on July 7, 2006. His close associate Rocky was alleged to have got him killed to establish his might in the world of crime. Successive rivalries gave birth to these ‘Gangs of Punjab’.

As the anti-gangster task force headed by additional director general of police (ADGP) Promod Ban under the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government is hounding these criminals, police have categorised these gangs into three categories. Sources say there are at least 30 gangsters of categories A, B, and C who are absconding, and the task force is in hot pursuit. The state police have identified 545 gangsters of A, B, and C categories in the last few years of which nearly 515 have been arrested. A huge cache of arms, ammunition, vehicles and other equipment have also been recovered from them.

With the name of wanted terrorist Harvinder Singh Rinda cropping up in the investigation of these gangsters, the police are probing their links with Pakistan-based pro-Khalistan elements in helping these crooks to use them in their anti-India plot as well. In Wednesday’s encounter also, Rupa and Kussa may have been trying to cross the border to reach Rinda, say sources.

As per police records, Punjab witnessed 724 murders in 2021 and 757 in 2020. There were 158 murders reported in the first 100 days of 2022.

The AAP leadership has been openly saying that, unlike past governments, gangsters will not be patronised by any political parties or leaders under its rule.

Prominent gangs

The murder of Subhdeep Singh alias Sidhu Moose Wala highlighted the names of the Lawrence Bishnoi and Davinder Bambiha gangs. Lucky Padial is also a member of Bambiha’s outfit. There are also the gangs of Gurpreet Sekhon, Vicky Gounder, Jaggu Bhagwanpuria, Shera Khuban, Harwinder alias Rinda, Pushpinder alias Tau, Harpreet alias Toosa, Jai Pal, Manvir Singh, Bhupi Rana, and Jaswinder Jhajj.

The involvement of these gangs has been found in cases of contract killing, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, extortion, fleecing protection money, gun-point dacoity, snatching, highway robbery, vehicle snatching, and land grabbing.

Lawrence Bishnoi gang

Lodged in Tihar Jail, Lawrence Bishnoi is a native of Dhattaranwali village in Ferozepur district, and was a student leader while studying at DAV College, Chandigarh, as he was the president of the Student Organisation of Panjab University (SOPU) from 2011 to 2012 before entering the world of crime. His associate Goldy Brar has openly claimed in the media that the gang killed Moose Wala.

The first FIR was registered against Bishnoi in 2010 for an attempt to murder while he was in college.

Davinder Bambiha gang

Davinder Singh Sidhu alias Davinder Bambiha was a kabaddi player from Bambiha Bhai village in Moga district. Jailed in 2010 after conviction in a murder case during a group clash in his village, Bambiha formed his gang after escaping from jail at the age of 21. He was named in several cases of loot, snatching, and murder before he was killed in an encounter with Punjab police at Gill Kalan village near Rampura in Bathinda on September 9, 2016. His gang is being run by elements based abroad.

Jaggu Bhagwanpuria gang

Jasdeep Singh from Bhagwanpur village on Batala Dera Baba Nanak road was a kabaddi player. He entered the world of crime after he came in contact with some politicians while organising kabaddi matches and started working for them. In jail, he forged friendships with Sukha Kahlon and Lawrence Bishnoi and started working with them. He is one of the suspects in Sidhu Moose Wala’s killing.

Shera Khuban gang

Gurshahid Singh, alias Shera Khuban, was a hammer thrower and was killed in a police encounter in 2012. He mentored Jaipal Bhullar who was killed in Kolkata last year in an encounter with the police. Khuban and Bhullar had met during a sports tournament in Ferozepur. Tirath Dhilwan, who now runs the Shera Khuban gang, was a known kabaddi player.

Shera was beaten up by a group of men in Jalandhar during a sports trial for a national tournament. His friend came from Chandigarh to avenge his beating and from there, his life took a turn for the worst and he joined the gang of his friends.

In jail, he met gangster Jaswinder Singh Rocky but their friendship went sour when Shera killed Rocky’s associate Happy Devra. Shera was killed in an encounter with the police in September 2012. Vicky Gounder from his group in 2016 claimed responsibility for killing Jaswinder Singh Rocky in a Facebook post.

Harvinder Singh Rinda gang

Harvinder Singh Sandhu alias Rinda, a Khalistani terrorist backed by Pakistan’s ISI as per Punjab police, belongs to Tarn Taran district from where the family shifted to Nanded Sahib in Maharashtra when he was 11 years old. He was booked in two cases at Wazirabad and Vimantal for allegedly killing two local traders.

Rinda is now operating from Pakistani soil and his name has cropped up in several terror cases in Punjab.

After the family shifted back to Punjab, in 2016, Rinda took part in Panjab University student politics and opened fire at Students Organisation of India (SOI) members. He also threatened inspector Narinder Patial. He is a key suspect in the attack at the vigilance office building in Mohali in May.

Neeraj Bawana gang

Lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail, Neeraj Bawana had, through social media, vowed to avenge Sidhu Moose Wala’s killing in two days. His gang associates itself with the Davinder Bambiha group and Bhupi Rana is also its member. Bhupi Rana had denied claims by the Lawrence Bishnoi gang that Moose Wala had anything to do with the murders of Vicky Midhukhera and Gurlal Brar.

Bawana operates in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, and Rajasthan.

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first published:July 22, 2022, 08:00 IST
last updated:July 22, 2022, 08:19 IST