Sidhu Moose Wala, Deep Sidhu and Punjab's Unending Cycle of Grief & Resilience

The untimely deaths of Sidhu Moose Wala and Deep Sidhu have left the spirits of many Punjabis deeply wounded.

6 min read
Hindi Female
Edited By :Padmashree Pande

It may be a bit cliched to speak of the collective spirit of a place or people after a tragedy.

However in recent times, if there is anything that captures the spirit of Punjab, it would be the image of Sidhu Moose Wala's father Balkaur Singh Sidhu at his funeral – imitating his son's signature step of hitting his thigh with his hand and pointing his index finger to the sky. He did this while still in tears.

There were so many emotions involved in that one gesture. Courage and resilience in the face of unbearable grief. Defiance in the face of violence. And immense pride and love for his departed son.

This spirit of Punjab could also be seen in the manner in which Moose Wala's mother Charan Kaur tried to cover her deceased son's face with a dupatta to protect him from the heat at the funeral.


This reporter's experiences and vocabulary are extremely inadequate to even begin describing what Moose Wala's father and mother may have felt.

But one wonders how many countless mothers and fathers through Punjab's history would have had to go through the same plight as Charan Kaur and Balkaur Singh?

It is important to ask this question this week in particular, as it is the 38th anniversary of Operation Blue Star and Operation Wood Rose. The official Indian narrative is that this was a crackdown against militants at Harmandir Sahib and in other parts of Punjab respectively.

However, many Sikhs call it Teeja Ghallughara or Third Genocide as it involved an attack on their holiest site as well as several Gurdwaras across Punjab. They also say that thousands of Sikhs were killed and arrested during Operation Wood Rose.

Sidhu Moose Wala was an Ideal Son – to his Parents and to Punjab

Sidhu Moose Wala – or Shubhdeep Singh as his parents named him – was an ideal son in every way. An ideal son to his parents, and to Punjab.

"My son left a fort for me," Balkaur Singh told the media, proudly talking about the house Shubhdeep had built for them in their village Moosa in Punjab's Mansa district.

The house is a story in itself. Over the past few years, we could see the house in different stages of construction in some of Sidhu Moose Wala's music videos.

In contrast to opulent locations often seen in music videos, Moose Wala often showed his under construction house, such as in his song 'DEAR MAMA'.

The untimely deaths of Sidhu Moose Wala and Deep Sidhu have left the spirits of many Punjabis deeply wounded.

(Screengrab from 'DEAR MAMA' by Sidhu Moose Wala)

(Sidhu Moose Wala YouTube channel)

He had zero pretensions. Who he was, where he came from, was there for all to see.

It was his dream to build a home where his parents could live in comfort and with pride. What other dreams or hopes he had, we may never know.


Deep Sidhu and Sidhu Moose Wala

Punjab lost another young son earlier this year - actor and activist Deep Sidhu who died allegedly in a road accident on 15 February. He was just 42.

Though Deep Sidhu didn't have the kind of international fame and cult following like Sidhu Moose Wala, there were a lot of similarities between the two of them. Their names for one – Sandeep Singh Sidhu and Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu.

Both of them could effortlessly traverse between international platforms and rural Punjab without ever losing their authenticity. If Moose Wala collaborated with some of the best international artists, Deep Sidhu left much of the Indian TV media surprised with his crisp English during the farmers' march to Delhi.

Both of them wanted to do a lot more for Punjab. And neither of them believed in compromising on their views and ideals.

Both Deep Sidhu and Sidhu Moose Wala had very clear views on Punjab and Sikh issues – on identity, the struggle for rights and justice.

Both seem to have arrived at these views through some trial and error. And their views may still have evolved more, had their lives not been cut short.

For instance, Deep Sidhu was initially close to the Deol family, who are firmly with the BJP. However, he became a crucial part of the movement against the Narendra Modi-government's farm laws in 2020.

Unlike other Punjabi celebrities, who would come and go at the protests, Deep Sidhu stationed himself almost permanently at the Shambhu Morcha on the Punjab-Haryana border.

His speeches would go well beyond the farm laws, to issues of federalism, minority rights and geo-politics. In fact, he believed the farmers' protest should be the beginning of a larger "change in the power equation".

The untimely deaths of Sidhu Moose Wala and Deep Sidhu have left the spirits of many Punjabis deeply wounded.

(A huge crowd gathered at to pay tribute to Deep Sidhu)

(Simranjit Singh Mann Facebook Page)

Unlike one section of farm leaders and individuals like Lakha Sidhana, Deep Sidhu didn't join active politics. But he began campaigning actively for Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann in the Assembly elections.

He addressed a few rallies in Amargarh, where Mann was contesting. He was set to return for an even more intense campaign schedule, when he died on the highway.

Sidhu Moose Wala, on the other hand, joined the Congress on the eve of the 2022 Assembly elections in Punjab. According to one section of the media, he joined for security reasons as he was facing threats from gangsters. He also shared a good rapport with Gidderbaha MLA and present Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring.


However, ideologically, he was a bit of a misfit in the Congress. He publicly spoke against Operation Blue Star. On being asked about Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in an interview, he did say that though he had joined the Congress, he had no qualms accepting that he admired Bhindranwale.

Moose Wala's political views were clear in the song 'SCAPEGOAT' that he released as a reaction to his electoral defeat. In the song, he chastises the public for "defeating" Simranjit Singh Mann, Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra and "forgetting about Deep Sidhu".

Moose Wala defied ideological binaries. He held the mirror to everyone across the political spectrum and 'SCAPEGOAT' and '295' are the best examples of this.

The untimely deaths of Sidhu Moose Wala and Deep Sidhu have left the spirits of many Punjabis deeply wounded.

In SCAPEGOAT, Moose Wala chastised voters for defeating Simranjit Singh Mann

(Sidhu Moose Wala YouTube channel)

Deep Sidhu, too, was unequivocal in his praise for Bhindranwale when a senior Delhi journalist tried to corner him in an interview.

It is important to state here that the narrative on Bhindranwale in Punjab is very different from the national narrative. You can read more on that in this article.

One may agree or disagree with Deep Sidhu and Moose Wala's views on this matter, but the point here is that neither of them felt the need to sugarcoat their views due to political expediency or to appear more "acceptable".

Many celebrities in Punjab try to duck such issues or keep a low profile. And some of those who do speak out, are partly based abroad, making it less tricky to take such positions. This is not to judge any of them. In an uncertain context, their approach was understandable. They made their choices, Sidhu Moose Wala and Deep Sidhu made theirs.


Two Funerals and Punjab's Broken Political System

It is not surprising that Moose Wala's funeral in Moosa village, and Deep Sidhu's bhog ceremony at Fatehgarh Sahib, were among the most massive crowds seen at any public event in Punjab.

Senior journalist IP Singh who works with Times of India wrote an important article following Deep Sidhu's Antim Ardas, calling it the "Sixth major mass mobilisation in Punjab with Sikhs at its centre". The previous five listed by him are:

  • 2012: Protests against Balwant Singh Rajoana's impending hanging.

  • 2013: Activist Gurbax Singh Khalsa's hunger strike and related protests demanding release of Sikh political prisoners.

  • 2015: Protests against the Bargari sacrilege and Behbal Kalan firing. These eventually culminated in the 10 November 2015 Sarbat Khalsa.

  • 2018: Bargari Morcha demanding action against those guilty in the 2015 sacrilege and firing cases.

  • 2020-21: Protest against the Modi government's farm laws.

It is important to state that the crowds gathered in these five instances were almost entirely outside the domain of mainstream party politics.

The fact that these mass mobilisations are all taking place outside mainstream politics, even in opposition to it in some cases, indicates that there is something broken in Punjab's political system. It shows that many deep grievances exist in Punjab which don't even find mention in mainstream politics, leave alone being addressed.
The untimely deaths of Sidhu Moose Wala and Deep Sidhu have left the spirits of many Punjabis deeply wounded.

A large crowd gathered at Sidhu Moose Wala's funeral in Moosa village

(Photo: Altered by The Quint)

Sidhu Moose Wala and Deep Sidhu gave voice to these grievances in different ways – Deep Sidhu through his speeches, Moose Wala through his music and poetry, and both of them through their work and interviews.

The untimely deaths of Sidhu Moose Wala and Deep Sidhu have left the spirits of many Punjabis deeply wounded. Their deaths may be recent but the wounds are older. Wounds that were hidden under bandages but have never healed and are countered only by resilience, like Balkaur Singh Sidhu's raised hand.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Punjab   sikhs   deep sidhu 

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