Camera: Sandeep Singh
Video Producer: Aparna Singh
Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam
"Veer ji (brother) never sang about nasha, drugs… This is why I got his face tattooed on my arm," said 23-year-old Gaurav, as he stood outside slain singer-turned-politician Sidhu Moose Wala's house in Punjab's Moosa village on the morning of Tuesday, 31 May. He was one of the thousands who reached Moosa village to bid goodbye to the 28-year-old singer, who was killed on 29 May.
On Gaurav's left arm is a large tattoo of Moose Wala, along with the numbers 5911 inscribed under it – which signifies the singer's fondness for the HMT 5911 tractor that he often rode in. "I won't eat a morsel till I see his face, till his last rites are over," said Gaurav.
Moose Wala's last rites were conducted at around 2.20 pm in his fields, next to his house in Moosa village. The funeral was attended by thousands. As the news of his death spread on 29 May, fans from across north India – Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh – started showing up at Moosa village in Punjab's Mansa district.
While some carried photos and posters of the 28-year-old singer and others shouted slogans like Sidhu Moose Wala Amar Rahe, a few – like four young men from Himachal Pradesh's Paonta Sahib – sported T-shirts with his photo imprinted on them.
'Picked Up Punjabi Because of Moose Wala's songs': Fan From Himachal
Moose Wala's body arrived at his residence at 8.40 am on Tuesday. His favourite tractor – the HMT 5911 – and his trolley that he was often seen riding in and around the village were decorated with flowers.
From inside the house, visuals of his parents weeping emerged on social media; outside it, his fans waited for the funeral procession to begin, so they could see Moose Wala one last time.
On the morning of Moose Wala's last rites, outside his house stood Avi, Sahil, Deepak, and Aakash, who had spent the previous night on a bus as they travelled to his village from Himachal's Paonta Sahib – a 280-km journey.
These young men in their 20s and 30s, who work as daily wage labourers, told The Quint, "He was fearless, he was our brother. We are Hindi speakers but picked up Punjabi after listening to his music. He succeeded on his own. It hurts to see his mother weep like this."
From Haryana's Gurgaon – over 280 km away – came another young man, 22-year-old Retesh Mehta, who works in a factory. In order to reach Moosa, Mehta travelled eight hours via train, for which he took an advance from his employer.
He told The Quint, "When I heard that Moose Wala bhai has been killed, I fell physically sick. I borrowed some money, took a bus, and came here without informing my family about it."
'Roamed Around in His Tractor, Obliged All With Selfies and a Chat': Residents of Neighbouring Village
Those who live in Moosa village and the villages surrounding it remember Moose Wala as a successful young man who was "most accessible," and was responsible for putting the village on the global map with his music.
Harpreet Singh, a farmer who lives in a village 5 km away from Moosa, narrated an anecdote to The Quint. He said, "Once, I had relatives over, and they knew how close I live to Moose Wala's house. They told me they wanted a photo with him so we came to Moosa. We met him, and he took us to a farm on his tractor. There, he sat with us and also took photos."
He said that since Moose Wala was often seen on his tractor near the village, many people would stop him and ask for a selfie or a quick chat.
"He always agreed. I met him many times. He had become so successful and had a lot of money. If he wanted, he could have settled abroad or even Chandigarh but he chose to live in his village. He was attached to his village, his farms," said Harpreet.
On 30 May, Nainder Singh, a resident of a village in Patiala,120 km away, reached Moosa village, after he was told that Moose Wala's last rites would be conducted there. "When I got here, I found out that this will be on Tuesday. So now we will stay here. Only when veere ji's last rites are done will we go back home. His music brought us here, he only spoke the truth through his songs. His songs have a wakhra andaaz."
For Gaurav, the Kapurthala youngster with a tattoo on his arm, Moose Wala not only "taught him how to respect the turban" but also encouraged him to "wear it."
For others like Sheera, a young man from a neighbouring village, it was Moose Wala's "accessible" attitude that attracted him to the singer. "One could stop by at his house anytime and he would meet us, drink tea even," he said.
Moosa village reverberated with not just grief and disbelief but also anger. Slogans like "Punjab Government Murdabad" were raised.
Gaurav from Kapurthala said, "His parents have suffered a great loss, it's a betrayal. I hope the culprits are aptly punished for it." Sheera, meanwhile, asked, "Why have those who have owned up to the murder not been arrested yet?"