Two-time Olympics medallist, the wrestler Sushil Kumar, has recently been making the headlines - not because of a comeback but in connection with the alleged murder of a former junior wrestler Sagar Rana. Sushil’s arrest on 23 May has highlighted the links the wrestling world has with crime and opened the lid on wrestlers' connection to gangsters.
According to the police, detectives have learnt that, while he was on the run after the incident on 4 May at the Chhatrasal Stadium, Sushil was helped by a gangster, operating from inside the Tihar Jail in Delhi. "Sushil was not just evading arrest but also trying to save himself from gang members of a Malaysia-based gangster Sandeep," an official told Sputnik.
Police said it has been found that a friend of the deceased Sagar Rana, Sonu Mahal - who was also assaulted in the brawl at Chhatrasal Stadium - is a relation of wanted gangster Sandeep, alias Kala Jatheri.
"[Sandeep] escaped police custody in 2020 and settled abroad. He seems now to be operating from there. Sushil [after the brawl and murder] is believed to be on Sandeep's hit list,” said a senior police officer, on condition of anonymity.
He further mentioned that there is also a threat to Sushil’s life in jail. On Wednesday, a Delhi court sent Sushil into judicial custody and ordered that he should be kept in a separate cell because of threats.
All these incidents have occurred at a time when Sushil was emerging as one of the most influential people in Indian wrestling.
Sushil’s Arrest - A Jolt to Wrestlers' Repute
According to the president of the Wrestling Federation of India, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Sushil Kumar's case has plunged the wrestling fraternity into ignominy. But it is premature to judge anyone.
“The cops are investigating the case and the federation is closely monitoring the Crime Branch probe. But I agree that the incident has triggered widespread shame for wrestlers,” he has told media.
Singh, a parliamentarian of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, is himself facing several criminal cases under sections of attempt to murder, voluntarily causing hurt to prevent a public servant from performing his duty, punishment for wrongful restraint, and rioting. He was also accused of having a part in the 1992 Babri mosque demolition case, in which a mob of Hindus brought down a historical mosque.
Wrestlers in India Indulging in Criminal Activities
Over the past few years, a number of cliques of wrestlers and gangsters have sprung up, particularly on the outskirts of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh states.
According to the police, several wrestlers, thanks to their popularity, have either joined criminal gangs or created their own groups.
Police say these people launch their companies but are actually into land-grabbing, extortion, or facilitating property deals (not the legal kind). They also work as a conduit for anything from contraband to getting access to politicians so that the lawmakers can give the go-ahead to shady deals.
In another incident of a wrestler's involvement in crimes, a few years ago a village chief was killed in Haryana state. It was found that one of the accused in the case was wrestler Naveen Dalal. He had started to make it big at national level competitions. But in 2018, Dalal opened fire at ex-Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid in Delhi.
Earlier this year in February, a wrestling coach Sukhwinder Singh was held in connection with the murder of five people in Haryana state.
According to Delhi Police, more than 30 wrestlers - including those at national level - have been booked for murder, attempted murder, intimidation and assault in the past year.