The murder of a singer in the northern Indian state of Punjab, a day after his security cover was trimmed, has sparked outrage.

Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, popularly known as Sidhu Moose Wala, was shot by unidentified people while he was travelling in the state’s Mansa district on Sunday evening.

Two others were injured in the attack.

Police said they were investigating the incident, and that they suspected the involvement of gangs in the crime.

State police chief VK Bhawra said on Sunday that a Canada-based gangster had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mr Bhawra added that Moose Wala’s security detail had been reduced to two commandos from four, and that these officers weren’t travelling with the singer when he was attacked.

The death sparked a political storm in Punjab as opposition leaders questioned why the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, led by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, had scaled back security cover for over 400 people, including Moose Wala.

Mr Mann had said the step was partly taken because of a government exercise to crack down on so-called “VIP culture” which privileges politicians above ordinary citizens.

Police officials said it was also done to deploy more personnel for security ahead of the anniversary of the controversial Operation Blue Star – when the Indian army stormed the Sikhs’ most sacred shrine.

But the move had become controversial after the names of the people on the list were leaked on social media, with some pointing out that it increased the threat to their lives

Moose Wala’s death shocked fans across the world

Mr Mann expressed shock at Moose Wala’s murder and promised that the culprits would be punished. He also urged people to maintain peace after protests erupted in some parts of the state.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said he was “deeply shocked and saddened” by Moose Wala’s murder – the singer had joined the party last year.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa also urged federal home minister Amit Shah to initiate an inquiry into how the list of persons whose security was withdrawn got leaked.

Moose Wala, known for his temperamental and edgy lyrics, was one of Punjab’s biggest pop stars. He was also a controversial figure who had several run-ins with the law.

Critics often called him out for promoting gun culture – a major concern in Punjab – through his songs and social media activity.

In May 2020, the singer was booked for firing an AK-47 rifle at a shooting range during the Covid lockdown. He also had a police case against him for allegedly promoting violence and gun culture through his song Sanju.

He contested the state assembly election earlier this year as a Congress candidate but lost.

His death shocked fans across the country and beyond – the singer was hugely popular in Canada, which has a sizeable Punjabi diaspora population. Social media was flooded with tributes, with many demanding justice for Moose Wala.

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