Entertainment

The family of one of India’s most popular Punjabi hip hop artists – who was murdered last year –  have used his memorial service to call for justice.

Sidhu Moose Wala was shot dead by unidentified gunmen the day after his state security was removed by India’s new government.

Addressing the crowds, his father Balkaur Singh raised slogans against the government, saying “criminals and gangsters sitting inside jails have internet access and they are giving TV interviews whereas the government has shut down internet for the common people”.

“This has been done deliberately to suppress our voices seeking justice for our son,” he added.

Gurvinder Singh Sandhu, a family friend, said: “We have got the person who fired that gun but who are the people behind it?

“His father is literally saying [police should] investigate those people.”

Sandy Joia, his childhood friend, came from Kent for the ceremony – Sidhu often stayed with him while in Britain.

He said: “Sidhu’s impact can be seen all around the world.

“The UK parliament raised this issue because he had a resident permit and he was a PR [permanent resident] for Canada.

“But our main concern is the Indian government, where he was paying tax more than £200,000 a year – this government is not doing anything.”

Forensic examination of the cartridges recovered after Sidhu’s death showed the use of an AK-47 rifle, a .30 bore pistol and four or five 9mm pistols. There were more than 25 bullet marks on his vehicle and several more in the walls near the crime scene.

Police said 27 people, including the six gunmen, had been arrested in connection with the killing, but the case is ongoing.

The state’s top police official, VK Bhawra, said the initial investigation revealed the killing to be linked to “inter-gang rivalry”.

But the family are not satisfied with its pace and investigations, and they don’t believe his killing was gang-related.

At the memorial service in his native village of Moosa, the young and old converged to pay homage, coming from all parts of the Punjab and beyond.

Avijeet and his five friends travelled from Mohali, all wearing T-shirts with Sidhu’s picture.

He said: “There is no one like him, and there will be no one like him.

“He is our hero, he is our pride across the world.

“His loss is as if a part of me has been cut off.”

Sidhu’s popularity remains unrivalled with an ever-increasing fan base even after his death.

His songs and videos transcend borders and are watched hundreds of millions of times – his song So High has more than 645 million views and counting.

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It was So High in 2018 that catapulted his music career in India and among the Indian and Punjabi diaspora in countries such as the UK and Canada.

Set to hard-hitting hip hop beats, many of his songs were about weapons, revenge and gangs, interlaced with emotive and political issues.

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Described as a pioneer for his community, he was a frequent collaborator with artists from the UK scene, including the rappers MIST and Stefflon Don, and producer Steel Banglez.

He became the first Indian singer to perform at Wireless Festival and won four awards at the BritAsia TV Music Awards.

After his death tributes came from many of music’s big names, including Canadian rapper Drake and afrobeats star Burna Boy.

He also dabbled in politics, unsuccessfully standing for election as an Indian Congress Party candidate in the Punjab elections.

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