It has been a year since Sidhu Moose Wala was assassinated in Jawaharke village in Punjab's Mansa district by gunmen allegedly sent by gangsters Goldy Brar and Lawrence Bishnoi. A year later, the alleged masterminds behind his assassination are far from being brought to justice, though a number of smaller players have been caught.
The Futile Hunt for Goldy Brar
In the first week of December, Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann claimed that Goldy Brar had been detained in California in the United States.
Soon after this disclosure, The Quint spoke to authorities at different levels in California and and found that there was no documentary evidence of Goldy Brar being detained or arrested.
In the meantime, a person claiming to be Brar gave an interview to an independent YouTube channel.
A few weeks after his claim, Mann appeared to backtrack and said that Brar's status remains 'top secret'.
Till date, Goldy Brar's whereabouts are not known.
On 2 May 2023, in a purported Facebook post Goldy Brar took responsibility for the killing of gangster Tillu Tajpuriya in Delhi's Tihar Jail.
While his involvement in the Tajpuryia killing is unconfirmed, it is clear that Brar remains free and is coordinating his criminal activities from abroad.
The Rebranding of Lawrence Bishnoi
Lawrence Bishnoi, the head of the criminal syndicate that includes Brar, is lodged in Delhi's Mandoli Jail but shuttles between prisons in Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat - all states where he is facing cases.
The more disturbing part is that even while in jail, Bishnoi has managed to get a chance to rebrand himself.
This was evident by the two interviews he gave a news channel, in which he tried to present himself as a patriot and insinuated that Moose Wala wasn't nationalist enough.
This clearly made him a hero in a certain ecosystem.
Right wing influencer Gaurav Arya put out a video speaking positively about Bishnoi.
Then one of the shooters behind gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed's killing, claimed that he was inspired by Lawrence Bishnoi.
Where Does This Leave 'Justice for Sidhu Moose Wala'?
For those demanding justice for Sidhu Moose Wala, it is no doubt hurtful to see one of the accused roaming freely abroad and the other giving interviews from jail maligning Moose Wala.
Then there was the video which surfaced of Lawrence's brother Anmol Bishnoi dancing at a party in California.
There is a perception, quite justifiably, that the big fish involved in Moose Wala's murder remain unpunished.
However, the political potency of this issue may be reducing, at least that's what the ruling AAP government in Punjab seems to believe.
Last year, AAP suffered an embarrassing loss in the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat that had been vacated by Bhagwant Mann on becoming the CM.
However earlier in May this year, AAP wrested the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat from the Congress. Moose Wala's parents had campaigned extensively calling for AAP to be defeated.
AAP is seeing the win as an endorsement of its policies, including its action on gangs.
Though one understands the pain of Moose Wala's family, maybe this bypoll wasn't the right setting for them to take the campaign forward.
Local factors and demography shaped the outcome of the election. But AAP's win is being used by some of its supporters to claim that this issue no not politically relevant any longer.
Though the AAP government is to blame for reducing Moose Wala's security, the central government is partly responsible for Brar not being caught abroad. Coordinating with foreign agencies lies in the Centre's domain. Then the blame for Bishnoi's continued activities from jail lies on the authorities who are letting him operate and this could be from jails in multiple states.
Even worse in this entire episode has been the role of those who are glorifying Bishnoi and giving him a platform to refurbish his image.