Just hours after Sidhu Moose Wala’s gruesome killing about 10km from his ancestral village Moosa on Sunday, another rising star of Punjabi music industry, A P Dhillon, whose top hits include songs like ‘Brown Munde’ and ‘Insane’, had posted a story on Instagram (one of the most preferred social media platforms for Punjabi artists) saying most people did not know what a Punjabi singer had to deal with behind the scenes. “The constant judgement, hate-filled comments, threats and negative energy directed at people like us who are just doing their job,” he wrote.
Even as he did not write about extortion, multiple people in the industry feel extortions start once an artist makes it big. “You saw it in the case of Parmish Verma,” said one of the sources.
Verma was shot at on April 14, 2018, on the directions of a gangster who wanted to extort money from him. In July that year, police had arrested gangster Dilpreet Singh Dhahan, alias Baba, and later recovered Rs 4 lakh from him which Verma had paid as extortion.
In all, Verma had paid him Rs 10 lakh and Baba had spent Rs 6 lakh. He has since moved to Canada and married an India-origin politician-lawyer there.
« Back to recommendation stories
Though police are yet to establish Moose Wala’s murder as the fallout of an extortion racket, at least three people in the industry felt the biggest reason singers and actors ended up coming in contact with gangsters was either because of extortion or protection from extortion.
In Chandigarh, the Panjab University and its affiliated colleges in the city have become a ground for singers, politicians and wannabe gangsters. “Gangster Lawrence Bishnoi and politician Vickey Middukhera, who became a victim of gang violence, were involved in student politics,” said the manager of multiple singers.
None of the people from industry wanted to reveal their names to this publication as they feared backlash in the form of less work or even physical harm.
Asked how people like Bishnoi got in touch with stars, the manager said singers were often called to perform at student fests and annual shows at the university and colleges. “That is where the henchmen, or people who are somewhere between politics and these gangsters, come in touch with these singers,” he said.
Once a singer gets a hit, added the manager, the extortion calls start almost instantly. “Let us suppose the student politician the singer met at the university is a member of Gang A. When the singer makes it big with a couple of hits, a member of Gang B drops in a voice message for extortion. When the singer ignores them, they start following him, spooking him. Send feelers about who they are. If the singer falls for it, they get the money and he has been extorted till they trouble him again. However, there is also a possibility that the singer would then approach the politician they met in the university and get in touch with Gang A,” said the manager.
The singer would not want to be a part of any gang or nexus, but inadvertently is caught in the crossfire, said the manager. He said that it was not necessary for Gang A to be entirely gracious and they would be expecting something in return later. “Chandigarh is one place where all of these people come face to face. Even the numbers are provided to the gangsters by these middlemen,” said the manager.
The manager pointed to the growing number of singers who preferred foreign shores. “It is better to leave for most as it is a vicious circle here. Once you make it big, you get sucked into it,” he said.
The same manager said if Moose Wala had been receiving threats, he should have moved out of the country. “Look at what his competitor Karan Aujla wrote. He said he did not feel like doing anything. The industry is scared by what happened to Moose Wala. On the face of it, they were competitors, but no one wished for his death and definitely not for the violence to reach this extent.”
Wazir Patar, who worked with Moose Wala on the ominously named track The Last Ride, also broke his silence on the tragedy on a defiant note on Tuesday: “Revolution won’t die. It will continue.”