In prison for a decade, but it's business as usual for gangster Lawrence Bishnoi – The Sunday Guardian Live – The Sunday Guardian

NEW DELHI: Bishnoi is successfully executing murders and extortions around the world from behind the bars.
Sometime in the summer of 2014, 21-year-old Lawrence Bishnoi, whose name was already registered in police diaries across Punjab and Chandigarh for offences related to violent student politics, “graduated” to become a gangster while he along with his friends were going to pay obeisance to Balaji temple in Salasar, Churu, Rajasthan.
During a road rage incident which led to the involvement of the police, Bishnoi and his accomplice rammed through barricades and opened fire at Rajasthan police personnel. They were later arrested in a high speed chase.
However, his first stay in prison was a relatively short one and on 21 January 2015, Bishnoi, born in the remote Dotaranwali village in the Abohar block of Firozpur district, Punjab, roughly 50 km from the India-Pakistan border, escaped while he and the policemen travelling with him got down from their van to have dinner at a dhaba in Dehri village on the Landran-Banur road in Punjab.
At the time he was accused in cases related to rape, murder and car snatching. He was being taken to Ropar prison after his hearing at Abhor court. Two cars, an Innova and a Swift driven by Bishnoi’s friends that were tailing the van, fled as soon as Bishnoi, who was not handcuffed, ran and sat in the Swift.
However, his stay outside the jail was even shorter, as he was arrested by Faridkot police on 5 March 2015 after an encounter with a moving car. A huge cache of foreign weapons was captured.
It has been more than nine years since Bishnoi stepped into the open as a free man, but despite being under heavy police vigilance, being watched by Central agencies, Bishnoi is successfully executing murders and extortions around the world.
The 12 February 1993-born Bishnoi, who developed a streak of violence after entering Chandigarh to pursue his graduation, has been under the custody of National Investigation Agency since 24 November 2022 after he was arrested by the agency from Bhatinda jail. But that has not curbed his activities, which are now being done by unemployed youths, who roam around in thousands across the country, and who have never met Bishnoi but are enamoured by his gangster life that is depicted on his many Facebook and Instagram profiles. Some of these pages are being used by Bishnoi’s close associates to recruit gullible youths to carry out the orders of their master, who till last year was incarcerated in Tihar prison, which is regarded, even if it doesn’t have the record to show for it, the most secure prison in India.
Bishnoi was in Bathinda jail in the custody of the Punjab police when he ordered the execution of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala alias Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, who was shot dead on 29 May 2022. Bishnoi is presently in the Central jail of Ahmedabad since August last year. He cannot be moved from there for one year as the government has invoked Section 268(1) of the CrPC in his case vide an order dated August 30 last year. The section gives the government special powers to exclude certain persons from the operation of Section 267 of the CrPC. The order is issued on the likelihood of the disturbance of public order if the person or class of persons is allowed to be removed from the prison.
However, as the recent instance of the firing at the house of Bollywood actor Salman Khan shows, even from there he has been carrying out his activities without any difficulties.
In between these two high profile attacks, which have caught the attention of the national and the international media, Bishnoi, along with his elder brother Anmol, who is based in a European country, has executed several rival gangsters.
This includes the killing of the Canada-based gangster Sukhdul Singh in the Canadian city of Winnipeg on 20 September last year, firing at Punjabi singer Gippy Grewal’s residence in Vancouver, Canada and the killing of a local Jaipur-based politician, Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi, who was found dead inside his house in December last year.
The 31-year-old Bishnoi, by carrying out murders and shootouts for numerous reasons—personal, political, extortion or “nationalism” as his supporters have been claiming—has ensured that his fear and his influence increase substantially in the last few years. More so because all of this he has done while being under the detention of Central police agencies.
The fact that he has been ordering hits while being in custody has raised questions on the entire police system that is in place to ensure that his crime syndicate is eliminated. It has also caused concerns among analysts and security watchers on why the prison system and the Central police agencies have not been able to control Bishnoi’s undesirable interaction with his supporters outside who are acting on his orders.
In July last year, NIA had deported Vikramjeet Singh @ Vikram Brar, a key aide of Bishnoi, from UAE. Brar, it was revealed, was operating as a “communications control room” (CCR) for Bishnoi from Dubai. This CCR was facilitating calls of Lawrence Bishnoi and another of their associates, Goldy Brar (based in Canada) to make extortion calls to various people. This was a vital arrest as it showed how vast and organized the gang was.
A few officials, who have interacted with him inside the prison in the past, have described him as a “religious” man who is into rituals. In an interview—that was not authorized—to a news channel in March last year, while being in prison, Bishnoi claimed he wanted to kill Salman Khan while alluding to the actor’s alleged involvement in the killing of black bucks in 1998 while shooting in Rajasthan for a movie.
However, it is likely that Bishnoi is deliberately modelling himself as a “Hindu” don on the lines of Chhota Rajan who too marketed himself as one, while claiming that he was fighting the “Muslim’” don Dawood Ibrahim. Bishnoi has also claimed that he was eliminating “Khalistania”, again a narrative that will make him a “principled gangster”.
This is likely being done by Bishnoi with the intent to make himself larger than life and attract more youths for a “bigger cause”.
Bishnoi has now, arguably, become the most prominent gangster of India. His rise and “popularity” have, however, brought light on the incapability of the security apparatus to control his activities, despite having him in their detention for more than 10 years now.
However, even the NIA, India’s nodal agency to tackle terror, is finding it tough to stop the killing and extortion spree of Bishnoi which has increased a sense of fear among his target group, including businessmen.
A veteran security analyst said that perhaps the officials were not realizing the long term repercussions of Bishnoi becoming “bigger”. This includes raising of questions at international forums, not limited to those dealing with business and commerce, on India’s ability to control criminal gangs.
Estimates claim that more than 700 people are working for him as shooters and spotters to extort money from across India but especially from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi. So far, he has been unable to make an entry into the Hindi heartland states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar due to the mafia and criminal networks that are already active in these two states for many years.
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