The Genesis of the Moosewala Murder: 15 Years Ago, in Violent Student Politics | Latest India News
Politically aware university students in the 2000s; the men behind organized crime in Delhi and Punjab; an international connection; and gang warfare – these seemingly unrelated elements came together in the May 29 murder of Sidhu Moosewala.
The story begins in 2008, when Lawrence Bishnoi, son of a former Haryana police officer, an aspiring athlete, was preparing for the 1500m race in the state open athletics championships. Bishnoi, who studied at the DAV school in Chandigarh, was a law student at the University of Punjab, but his dream was to represent the state in athletics. Unsurprisingly, he was a regular on the pitch, as was Khalsa College student Sampat Nehra.
The two became close friends – and it’s a friendship that lasted all these years – and their names are etched together in Punjabi university documents, police records and even prison records. Delhi and Punjab police claim that Sampat Nehra is the deputy of gangster Bishnoi.
But all of that was far in the future in 2008 when only sport was on Bishnoi’s mind. It’s unclear why Bishnoi and Nehra left the sport, but police records show the two were sucked into college politics in the same year. That year, Bishnoi was imprisoned after assaulting a rival candidate in the Panjab University Students’ Union (PUSU) election. Bishnoi was a member of the Students of Panjab University (SOPU).
“Maybe he (Bishnoi) quit sports and studies during those 2-3 months in prison. He returned to college at the end of 2008 but was a different person. After his return, he assumed full command of SOPU. Fights on campus became common, as did his prison visits. But these were minor cases,” a police officer said, citing Bishnoi’s November 2021 statement to Delhi police.
In 2010, Bishnoi himself decided to contest. Nehra and another university student, Goldy Brar, were campaigning for him. Police describe Brar as a Canadian-based mobster, who leads the Bishnoi gang from overseas.
All three men are now suspects in Moosewala’s murder.
“When Bishnoi lost that election in 2010, he, along with Brar and Nehra, broke the legs of the winning candidate. It was their first crime together. Bishnoi formed his own gang in 2010. A year later, Bishnoi won the elections. After that, the three men continued to exercise control over the colleges of Punjab by presenting their candidates. There were many fights in colleges in the state,” reads a Delhi Police document dated November 2021.
But a fight was significant.
At a government college in Muktsar Sahib, Punjab, during the elections, Bishnoi presented his candidate. Avtaar (identified by first name in the police report) of PUSU opposed the candidate. One evening during the campaign, Bishnoi, Brar and four others shot Avtaar. It was Bishnoi and Brar’s first murder.
It was in 2013. Bishnoi was 21 years old.
The same year, 400 km away, at Delhi’s Shraddhanand College, two other young men made the news.
Jitender Gogi, a year older than Bishnoi, was the local volleyball star of Alipur, a semi-urban settlement in Delhi. Gogi had won medals during his school days at the local public school in Bakhtwarpur. But in 2008, around the same time Bishnoi was drawn into college politics, Gogi injured his hand in a traffic accident. He could never play volleyball again. Gogi told officers that he had been selected for the national games, but the police never found proof. But his sports career cut short, Gogi turns to crime.
By the time he graduated from school, Gogi was hanging out with local criminals at a store in Alipur. Between 2008 and 2012, Gogi was arrested at least three times for minor fights and assault. But it was not until 2013, when he crossed paths with his childhood friend Sunil Maan alias Tillu, at Shraddhanand College, that things got worse.
“If Bishnoi met boys who would become his lifelong friends, and who would even commit crimes together, Gogi’s longstanding rivalry with Tillu began in college. The two ended up supporting different candidates in college elections. Gogi was arrested for attacking Tillu’s friend that year. Over the years, the two will form their own gangs and compete to control Delhi’s criminal network,” said a second policeman who asked not to be named.
And that would spark a rivalry that would draw blood to the nation’s capital.
And just as Bishnoi met his closest assistant at university, Gogi met his, Kuldeep Fajja at Delhi University College. The two would later become Delhi’s top gangsters. Police describe Fajja as Gogi’s second-in-command. Fajja died in a police shootout last year.
At least two dozen people, all gangsters, have died because of the decade-long rivalry between Tillu and Gogi. Gogi himself was killed by Tillu’s gang in a daring shootout in a courtroom in Rohini last year.
So how does Punjab relate to all of this?
Delhi police investigations revealed that Tillu and Gogi sought help from Punjab and Haryana gangsters as they fought.
Last Sunday, hours after Punjab police announced that Bishnoi and Goldy Brar were prime suspects in the murder of singer Moosewala, a post on mobster Tillu’s unverified Instagram account read: We will take our revenge against Bishnoi and Goldy . Rest in peace Sidhu Moosewala.
But why was an imprisoned Delhi gangster threatening revenge for Moosewala’s murder? And how did Bishnoi get involved in the Delhi crime scene?
Delhi Police believe the genesis of it all was the vacuum in the Delhi crime world between 2014 and 2015 when there was, suddenly, an opportunity for someone to control the Delhi crime syndicate.
Prior to 2013, Delhi was controlled by two gangs – those of Neeraj Bawana and Nitu Dabodia – who waged bloody turf wars on the streets of the capital. Dabodia died during an encounter with police in 2013; Bawana was arrested in 2015.
In 2015, Bishnoi was a big man in Punjab. He also had a rival – the Bambiha gang led by Davinder Bambiha. If the Bishnoi gang had people like Goldy Brar working from outside (Canada), the Bambiha gang had Lucky Armenia (based in Armenia). The two fought pitched battles across Punjab, particularly over control of alcohol and real estate.
And both wanted more.
“In Delhi, even as Gogi and Tillu rose to fill the void, Bishnoi sensed an opportunity,” said a third policeman who asked not to be named.
According to a police report, in 2016 Bishnoi contacted Delhi mobster Sandeep Kala alias Jathedi as a first step to enter Delhi. Jathedi was a close confidante of Gogi at the time. Bishnoi spoke to Jathedi on a conference call connected from inside Ajmer prison by a prison official known to Jathedi. Jathedi was then in Delhi’s Tihar prison.
“Initially, Bishnoi and Jathedi worked together in Haryana, but Bishnoi had his sights set on Delhi. To gain Jathedi’s trust, Bishnoi helped him escape from custody during a court appearance from Faridabad, Haryana (February 2020). Jathedi repaid the favor by introducing Bishnoi to Gogi. The two merged their gangs,” the third policeman added.
By mid-2021, Bishnoi had successfully expanded its network to Delhi.
But he was not alone.
Police said the Bambiha gang also realized they could enter Delhi. And for that they contacted Gogi’s rival, Tillu Tajpuriya.
“Tumhare dushman mera dushman (your enemy is my enemy). This is the theory on which these Punjab gangsters have allied themselves in Delhi. Bishnoi, Jathedi, Brar and Gogi became one. The Bambiha gang joined with Tillu and Kaushal Rana (a Haryana gangster),” the third officer added.
Police suspect it is this alliance whose members are linked to Moosewala’s murder. After Moosewala’s murder, officers at Delhi’s Tihar prison increased their vigilance to prevent a gang war inside. All gang leaders such as Bishnoi, Tillu, Kala Jathedi are in Tihar prison in Delhi but continue to operate from inside.
How did Moosewala fit in?
On March 22, Delhi police arrested 12 men from the Bambiha-Tillu-Kaushal alliance. Police said the gangs were considering “the territory of the NCR to expand their operations”, particularly after the murder of Gogi (September 2021) and the arrest of Kala Jathedi (July 2021).
Police said that during questioning, at least three of the 12 confessed to their involvement in the killing of Vikramjeet Singh Middukhera, a leader of Akali’s youth wing in August 2021. Middukhera, a former student of the Panjab University was also the president of the university in 2009, and of SOPU. Among those campaigning for him was Bishnoi, then a sophomore.
A Chandigarh police officer, who asked not to be named, said Middukhera had links to the Punjabi music industry and promoted local singers. The officer said they suspected Bishnoi of supporting Middukhera while Moosewala had the protection of the Bambiha group.
“The 12 arrested men from the Bambiha-Tillu-Kaushal alliance said they received information about Middukhera from Moosewala’s group. They claimed to have also been housed by the Moosewala group after the murder. This information was also shared with the Punjab Police. It seems that Bishnoi and his accomplice Goldy Brar suspect Moosewala of passing information on Middukhera to the Bambiha gang. Maybe that’s why he was killed,” the officer said.
As of Friday afternoon, Punjab police had arrested three members of the Bishnoi gang. Delhi police are also unofficially investigating the case due to Bishnoi’s links to organized crime in the capital. Police arrested Bishnoi from Delhi’s Tihar prison on Tuesday in a 2021 arms supply case, but are questioning him for Moosewala’s murder. Punjab Police will question Bishnoi once Delhi Police complete their investigation against Bishnoi.