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The ballad of Sidhu Moose Wala: Self-made, temperamental, the man from Moosa

While campaigning during the Assembly polls earlier this year, Sidhu Moose Wala would often say: ‘I am not going anywhere. I will live here, I will die here.’

Punjabi Singer Sidhu Moose Wala. (Express File Photo)

“I am not going anywhere. I will live here and I will die here”: This is a line that Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, who liked being known as Sidhu Moose Wala, would repeat at every rally and every roadside meeting while campaigning for the Punjab Assembly elections held in February this year.

Moosewala, 27, was the only child of his parents. He was shot dead near Mansa, three days after his security was downgraded.

Sidhu Moose Wala was shot at least 10 times while he was in his car.

Sidhu Moose Wala: Self-made pop sensation

Moose Wala was a self-made pop sensation. He could be petulant and temperamental and had frequent run-ins with the law. Among several cases, he was booked under the Arms Act for firing an AK-47 rifle at a shooting range during the lockdown. He was also booked for promoting violence and gun culture with his song “Sanju”.

But his heart beat for his village Moosa. “That is why I chose to be known not by my name but by that of my village,” he would tell people as he went from village to village to seek votes. He got the Congress ticket from Mansa, where he was pitted against the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Vijay Singla.

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Surprisingly, he ran a very different campaign shorn of any tall promises. Instead, he made a clean environment his poll plank. “We need to clean up the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and our political system,” he would say.

People gather at Mansa Civil Hospital where Sidhu Moose Wala was taken to after being shot.

Speaking at a gathering at Khiwa Khurd village about why he joined politics, he had said: “When I was 23, I chose a profession (music) to transform the life of my parents. At 27, I have fame and money to give to my parents, but I can’t buy the air… Rich or poor we breathe the same air.”

Cancer was another cause which Moose Wala worked for. He used to organise an annual free cancer camp in his village. “We are a small village of 2,800 people but every year, at least six to eight people get diagnosed with cancer. It’s all because of the toxins in our soil and air,” he said.

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He also fancied himself as a farmer and had invested in land using his handsome earnings from music. He had his life figured out — he would win the elections, play the messiah of Mansa, and continue to roll out chartbusters.

An engineer from the Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College, Ludhiana, one of the oldest engineering institutions in the region, he started his career as a songwriter in 2016. A canny marketeer, Moosewala made the most of the social media to market his songs. He was among the first leading singers in the state to start releasing his songs independently on his YouTube channel. He would also plan his tours, often tying up with international rappers such as Fredo and Morrison in London for the maximum impact, and was written about by papers such The Guardian. Most of his singles had an English title even though the songs would be mainly in Punjabi with a touch of English and Hindi.

His mega-hit titled ‘Jatt da mukabla’, best epitomises his bluster. And the lines “Ucha udh ke itna itraao matt parindo, Mai aukaat pai aageya toh aasmaan khareed loonga (Don’t flutter so high, you birds, for if I want, I can buy the sky)” became one of the most mouthed by his fans.

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Ironically, his latest track released on May 15 was titled ‘The Last Ride’.

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His songs which he wrote and composed himself — he made it to the Top 5 in the UK charts last year — frequently got him into trouble both with the police and the clergy.  Things came to such a pass that once his mother Charan Kaur asked him to take a vow that he would only sing hymns from gurbani.

Sidhu Moose Wala’s mother mother Charan Kaur.

If there is one person that he was scared of, it was his mother. He had gone from house to house to seek votes for her in the 2018 Panchayat elections. Needless to say, she won.

Later, he would crow about how he he had not distributed any money or promises. “They voted for us because they knew we were honest.”

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He tried to do that in his maiden election as well. His events never had any lavish pomp and grandeur, ending with simple pakoras at the end.

Many sniggered are his naïveté as he dug his heels in and said he would not fritter away his hard-earned money on any kind of freebies. He fought the elective against the advise of his mother. And seeing the response — he drew more children than adults — he would often wonder if his mother was right.

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When defeated by Vijay Singla, he raged against the voters, calling them anti-national. But that was Moosewala. More recently, when Singla was sacked, he addressed a press conference. It turned out to be his last. He lived and died. Just a few kilometres from his beloved village.

First published on: 29-05-2022 at 08:18:22 pm
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