The Indian Olympic legend Sushil Kumar accused of murder

The Indian Olympic legend Sushil Kumar accused of murder

The Indian Olympic legend Sushil Kumar accused of murder. Late on the night of 4 May, shots rang out in the Indian capital, Delhi, at a sports stadium famous for wrestling.

When the police arrived at the Chhatrasal Stadium, they found five vehicles parked outside and a shotgun and three cartridges in the backseat of an SUV. They also found dry blood on bamboo sticks heaped in the parking lot.

There had been a brawl at the stadium involving 18 to 20 people, police said. Three people had been injured and had been taken to hospital. Hours later, a 23-year-old wrestler, Sagar Dhankar, died of his wounds.

Among the brawlers, police said, was Sushil Kumar, one of India’s most decorated sportsmen. The 37-year-old wrestler is the country’s only two-time Olympic medallist in an individual event and the only Indian to win a wrestling world championship. This is an extraordinary feat in a country that had won a total of two individual Olympic medals in the last century.

Kumar also holds an official position in the sports department of the Delhi government and lives in a housing complex inside the stadium. Where he first began training as a 14-year-old under the tutelage of his former coach, and now father-in-law, Satpal Singh.

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The Indian Olympic legend Sushil Kumar accused of murder
The Indian Olympic legend Sushil Kumar accused of murder

Police, Media on Kumar

For three weeks the police hunted for Kumar. They launched raids and offered a 100,000 rupees (£950) reward for any information leading to the wrestler’s capture. On 23 May, Kumar was arrested outside a metro station in Delhi.

He now faces charges of murder, abduction, and criminal conspiracy related to the clash at the stadium. The police say they are looking for CCTV footage of the night. The media has been awash with claims about the brawl being triggered by property disputes. In which the wrestler was involved, and the alleged close links between gangsters and wrestlers.

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Kumar denies the charges, his lawyer Pradeep Rana told me. “Two groups of wrestlers were fighting. By the time Kumar arrived at the spot of the clash, they had run away,” Rana said. “There are no eyewitnesses. Some powerful people are behind the scenes to implicate my client and settle old scores.”

But Kumar’s arrest has shone a spotlight on what many say is the seamier side of wrestling in India.

A wrestler in India is sometimes called a pehelwan, which also means a strongman. Although the word is used loosely, wrestlers have been often accused of mingling with unsavoury characters and getting embroiled in fights.

“We get a bad name because gangsters also call themselves pehelwan in India. And people think wrestlers are gangsters. We are not,” said Kripa Shankar Bishnoi, a senior wrestling coach and a former partner of Kumar. But it is also true that wrestling in India appears to have a darker side.

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Source: BBC News

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