Chandigarh, July 31
When Youth Akali Dal leader Vikramjeet Singh, alias Vicky Middukhera, skipped his early morning routine of working out in a gym in Sector 71, Mohali, on August 7, 2021, he just dodged death. But for a few hours only.
Four shooters, for whom killing targets like him was just a way of living, were waiting for him outside the gym.
When he didn’t turn up, the shooters went to Sector 71 market to have snacks and restart the recce of his house. One of them spotted Vicky’s SUV, a Toyota Fortuner. As the 5’8” medium-built Vicky was about to sit in the driving seat, two shooters — Sajjan alias Bhollu and Ajay alias Sunny alias Lefty — ran towards him firing at will. But Vicky, instead of lunging for his gun kept in the dashboard, chose to run. He threw his phone at one of the assailants and escaped only to run into the other two shooters — Somvir (identity unconfirmed) and Anil Lath — waiting for him in a car as the backup team.
Anil Lath easily shot at Vicky through the open window. Ajay, who was following Vicky, shot him multiple times, leaving him dead near the boundary wall of a community centre.
A part of this chilling murder was captured on CCTV camera and the footage that went viral sent shock waves across the region. Several theories, including personal enmity, political rivalry and gang war abound.
But none could imagine at that time that the sensational murder will lead to the gruesome killing of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala and make it an international talking point. Moosewala’s former manager, Shaganpreet Singh, a resident of Khamanon, Fatehgarh Sahib, has been alleged to be the main conspirator of the crime though no direct involvement of Moosewala with Vicky’s murder has come to light so far.
The police are banking on the arrest and interrogation of Shaganpreet to know if Vicky was killed due to gang rivalry or someone had ordered his elimination.
The police could not reach Shaganpreet easily. It was the Special Operations Cell of the Delhi Police, headed by HGS Dhaliwal, that took the lid off the crime eight months later. In the first week of April, it launched ‘Operation 3-P’ to neutralise gangsters in north India who were eyeing the national capital for their activities. It found that the killing was not just a war between gangs but two powerful syndicates of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, NCR and Uttar Pradesh gangsters were at each other’s throats.
The killing of Middukhera was executed via gangster Lucky Patial from an Armenian jail, who gave directions to fugitive gangster Dinesh Kumar alias Gandhi hiding in Malaysia.
Gandhi further directed, planned and arranged the shooters, weapons and logistics support for the “job”. Also in the loop was Bhuppi Rana, another gangster lodged in a Punjab jail.
So effective was the network that the shooters would find a vehicle waiting for them at the next turn if they had to abandon the existing one. The four shooters sent for the job were fugitives whose work cycle was to kill, go into hiding, re-emerge after a few months and kill again.
Dhaliwal said the syndicates emerged from the alliance between different gangs. On the one hand was the Lawrence Bishnoi-Sandeep alias Kala Jathedi-Virender Pratap alias Kala Rana-Sube Gurjar alliance.
On the other was Lucky Patial-Bambiha-Kaushal Chaudhary gang-Sunil Balyan alias Tillu Tajpuriya-Neeraj Sehrawat alias Bawaniya gang.
The Special Operations Cell first took on the Lawrence syndicate which was active in and around New Delhi. They arrested Kala Jathedi, Kala Rana and several of their shooters under the stringent MCOCA Act. Lawrence too was arrested under the Act.
Next was the Patiala-Bambiha-Kaushal syndicate, which was already involved in a turf war with Lawrence and others in Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab and Chandigarh. The syndicate carried out the sensational Rohini courtroom murder of Jitendra Gogi, arch-rival of Tillu Tajpuriya. Gogi was shot 18 times.
Then this group of gangsters struck in Punjab, killing kabaddi player Sandeep Nangal Ambian brazenly in a kabaddi field in front of hundreds of spectators at Malian Khurd village, Jalandhar. “The murder further enforced the belief that the criminal alliance be profiled, mapped, identified and brought to book before they could strike again, especially in the national capital,” said HGS Dhaliwal.
He revealed the gangs were operating in a hub-and-spoke model, “We launched a long-drawn-out complex operation where massive data was requisitioned and analysed on 24x7 basis and sources were deployed. Intensive analysis of the available interrogation report was done to know the spread of the alliance.
“The communication between them was found to be in a ‘hub-and-spoke’ model. With all the hubs settled offshore, they were the link between the gang members in India. The local gang members had minimal communication and spoke through masters in a foreign land only making their detection a herculean task.
“Intensive analytics found multiple foreign-based communication and coordination hubs located in the UK, Canada, USA, Thailand, Malaysia, Armenia, Pakistan and other countries. Their local bases were in Bengaluru, Nasik, Zirakpur, Faridabad, Baddi, Delhi, NCR, and Dehradun,” said Dhaliwal.
More than a dozen gangsters and shooters were nabbed in the operation. Three of them Sajjan alias Bholu, Anil Lath and Ajay revealed about the killing of Vicky Middukhera.
These three shooters have stated to the Delhi Police and later the Punjab Police that gangster Kaushal Chaudhary had ordered the killing.
Was close to several gangsters & politicians
- As per the police investigation, Vicky Middukhera was close to several gangsters and politicians as many of them had grown in student politics under his umbrella. All respected him and he had the final word in settling disputes.
- He had good relations with other politicians also, all of whom describe him as a peace-loving and soft-spoken person. However, the Patial-Kaushal-Bhuppi Rana group was feeling that Vicky was more close to Lawrence Bishnoi and may have worked against the group.
- Lawrence Bishnoi, in his interrogation disclosure statement to the police, said Vicky was like his elder brother. He said Vicky helped him, a novice student leader, to settle in Chandigarh, establish a foothold in student politics and then in several police cases. A post on his behalf said, “I, along with my brother Goldy Brar, take responsibility for killing Sidhu Moosewala. People may say whatever they want to, but we have avenged the death of our brother Vicky Middukhera. Sidhu Moosewala had helped to get him killed. I had called him (Sidhu Moosewala) from Jaipur and told him that what he did was wrong. He told me he didn’t care for anyone and he challenged me saying that he, too, kept his weapon loaded. So now, we have avenged our brother’s death.”
Shaganpreet Singh, a resident of Khamano in Fatehgarh Sahib
- Former manager of Sidhu Moosewala.
- Suspected to have provided logistics and facilitating recce of the shooters in Middukhera case.
- After the Delhi Police questioned him in the case, he suddenly left for Australia on May 6. The police said the details provided by him about his departure do not match.
- The police have begun proceedings to issue a lookout circular against him. Presently, he is absconding.
‘I am innocent’
Shaganpreet, who according to the police fled to Australia on May 6, now through his lawyer Vinod Ghai has claimed innocence before a court. He said he had cooperated with the police when he was called for questioning. The police booked him four days after he had gone to Australia as per his ‘prior engagements’. The police have issued a lookout circular for him.
Lucky Patial, resident of Khuda Lahora, Chandigarh
- Belongs to Khuda Lahora village, Chandigarh.
- Main leader of Bambiha-Patial gang after Bambiha was killed in an encounter in 2016.
- Directed operations to kill Middukhera from Armenia jail. Had also got killed one Sandeep alias Deouty in a gang war in Jalandhar. Wanted in several murder and extortion cases.
- Presently in Armenian jail
Bhuppi Rana, alias Bhupesh Rana (32), a resident of Ambala
- Involved in providing logistics, shooters in Middukhera case.
- Booked for contract killing, robberies and other heinous crimes. Close associate of Davinder Bambiha and Neeraj Bawana. Arrested for the murder of a sarpanch in Naraingarh, Haryana.
- Presently in judicial custody
Kaushal Chaudhary (37), a resident of Gurugram
- Involved in providing logistics, shooters in Middukhera case
- Accused in several murder cases and others, including extortion. The son of a property dealer, he is said to be the big brother of many. He was arrested in 2019 and since then is cooling his heels in jail.
- Presently in judicial custody
Sajjan, alias Bholu (37), a resident of Jhajjar
- Assassinated Middukhera, earlier killed Haryana Congress leader Vikas Choudhary in Faridabad 2019
- Involvement in eight cases and wanted in six.
- Was on the run for the past five years, in judicial custody now
Anil Lath (32), a resident of Kakrola, Delhi
- Shot at Middukhera; also involved in a double murder in Ambala (March 2021)
- 6 FIRs registered against him, wanted in five. Presently, in judicial custody
Ajay, alias Sunny (20), a resident of Kurukshetra
- Shot at Middukhera, the left-handed shooter was the first one to catch cops’ eye. He’s an associate of jailed gangster Bhuppi Rana and involved in a murder in Baddi (HP).
- Involvement in three cases and wanted in four. In judicial custody now
Somvir: Untraced till now
(One of the shooters)
FB post claimed responsibility
Hours after Middukhera’s murder, a Facebook post from Davinder Bambiha’s name surfaced, claiming responsibility.
— With inputs from Gaurav Kanthwal
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