Sidhu Moose Wala funeral: tens of thousands gather in Indian singer-politician's village

Star was shot dead by unknown assailants while driving an SUV near his home in northern Punjab

People pay tribute to Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Wala at a candlelight vigil in Amritsar, India. AFP
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Tens of thousands of mourners descended on the ancestral village of Indian pop singer-turned-politician Sidhu Moose Wala, for his funeral on Tuesday afternoon, after he was killed by gunmen allegedly linked to a Canada-based criminal gang.

Moose Wala, 28, real name Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, was shot dead on Sunday by unknown assailants while driving an SUV with two friends near his home in Mansa district, northern Punjab.

His body was taken on his favourite tractor-trolley to his ancestral farmland for cremation, as thousands of fans stood along the roadside to bid farewell to the pop star.

A life-size portrait of the singer was also placed on the vehicle as mourners chanted slogans and slammed the government for his murder.

Videos broadcast on television channels showed his parents hugging the coffin and bidding a tearful goodbye to their only child, amid heightened security in the area.

His father Balkaur Singh has demanded that the case be investigated by a High Court judge.

He also wants an apology from the state police, who had cut down Moose Wala's security detail.

An autopsy conducted by a team of five doctors at the Mansa Civil hospital found more than 20 bullets were pumped into his body, including one in the skull.

The star rose to global fame in a short time for his fusion of folklore with a contemporary singing style and lyrics that criticised politicians and new-generation Punjabi singers.

But last December, he plunged into the political arena when unsuccessfully contesting the state elections on a Congress party ticket.

As an artist, Moose Wala enjoyed a large following in the UK and Canada ― home to a large number of Punjabi-origin communities ― where his songs reached the charts.

While some modern Punjabi music contains sexist lyrics and objectification of women, Moose Wala's songs talked of village life, making him popular with many people in rural Punjab.

Sidhu Moose Wala performs at London's Wireless Festival in 2021. The Indian singer was popular with a global audience. Photo: WireImage

On Monday, Canadian rapper-singer Drake paid tribute to the singer on his Instagram as he posted a picture of the hit maker and his mother with the caption “RIP MOOSE”.

An electrical engineering graduate, Moose Wala began his career in 2017 after releasing his first song on YouTube. Within four years, his songs had more than four billion views on the video platform.

He was both popular and controversial because of some of his songs, which were seen as promoting gun culture and violence, and he was allegedly on the radar of gangsters.

Police have arrested six people over the killing and said their initial investigation found that the motive was an inter-gang rivalry. Canada-based gangster Goldy Brar has claimed responsibility for Moose Wala's killing.

A forensic team investigating the crime scene found Moose Wala's car had 30 gunshot marks after it was ambushed from all sides by the assailants, who are suspected of having used a AN-94 Russian assault rifles.

Moose Wala said there were threats to his life several times and was given police security cover. But on May 28, the AAP government halved his protection to two officers.

He was among the 420 people, including prominent religious figures, whose security cover was reduced to divert police resources to maintaining law and order in the run-up to the 38th anniversary of the Indian Army's raid on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest site in the Sikh religion.

The raid, known as Operation Bluestar, came at the height of an insurgency by Sikh militants whose leaders had taken shelter in the temple complex.

The singer often drove a bulletproof vehicle but, on Sunday, he was driving an non-armoured vehicle and had refused to take his bodyguards with him.

Updated: July 21, 2022, 9:45 AM