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Delhi's Wrestlers and Gangsters

By: Anvit Srivastava


Last Updated: June 29, 2021, 12:26 IST

Videograb Shows Sushil Kumar with stick in his hand

Videograb Shows Sushil Kumar with stick in his hand

After evading police for 19 days, Sushil Kumar was finally arrested along with his associate Ajay, from near Mundka, Delhi.

Two days after his arrest in a murder case, the two time Olympic medalist wrestler Sushil Kumar, who has also been accused of his links with gangsters like Neeraj Bawania and Kala Jathedi, was back to Chhatrasal Stadium, a place witness to his rise to glory. Even though Kumar was once again a showstopper, the stadium this time was a scene of crime where Kumar had been escorted by a police team to reconstruct the killing.

Sagar Dhankad, whom Kumar had allegedly beaten to death, inside the stadium, on the night of May 4, over an alleged property dispute, is nephew of Kala Jathedi, who is at present one of the most wanted gangsters in northern India, with his dominance over the criminals in at least four states — Rajasthan, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and of course Delhi.

When Kumar was on the run, with a cash reward of Rs 1 lakh on his arrest after the murder, Jathedi, outraged over his nephew’s murder, had threatened the wrestler on his life. But if the police sources are to be believed, Kumar too had been backed by none other than Neeraj Bawania, Delhi’s another dreaded gangster, infamous for brazen killings, extortion, abductions, currently lodged in Tihar Jail.

After evading police for 19 days, Kumar was finally arrested along with his associate Ajay, from near Mundka metro station, by a special cell team led by Inspector Shiv Kumar and Inspector Karmveer.

Even though the wrestler’s links aren’t yet officially established with the gangster, investigators have found that the he and Bawania have had several mutual contacts. Last week, Kumar too was shifted to Tihar jail, where Bawania is lodged, from Mandoli jail where he had initially been sent in judicial custody.

The links between sportsmen, particularly wrestlers, with Delhi’s gangsters is, however, not something surprising that the police have come across in Kumar’s case.

Deepak Pehal aka Boxer, is another gangster who is currently on the Delhi police’s hit list with at least four criminal cases — extortion, murder, assault and illegal posession of arms — to his credit. Before gaining fame as Jitender Gogi’s henchman, one of Delhi’s most wanted gangsters arrested last year, 25-year-old Pehal, born in Sonipat, Haryana, was a junior level boxing champion representing Delhi.

It was in 2014-2015 when the junior boxing champion, who was just 19-20 year old then, was expelled from the Sports Authority of India hostel after he assaulted a fellow boxer and a case was registered against him. The incident pulled him away from boxing and through mutual contacts he came close to Gogi gang, so much so, that it was Pehal who had once attacked a police team to help Gogi escape custody. The incident made him win Gogi’s trust and he soon became his confidant.

Another on the list is Anil Kumar, a national level powerlifter with six criminal case — including two attempts to murder, one murder, firing at policemen, and a kidnapping — registered against him.

Born in 1990, in Jhajjar, Haryana, Kumar completed his schooling in Haryana and then joined Delhi University’s Motilal Nehru College. It was at the same time, he was earning fame as a national level powerlifter, but was arrested in a case of carjacking, and was jailed. Before he could complete his graduation, he drifted towards his contemporary criminal ganglord Manoj Morkhedi and rose to becoming his closest adjutant.

For his notoriety, Kumar even carried a cash reward of Rs two lakh before being finally arrested in 2014.

Other than this trio, Irfan Chhenu and Ranveer Dhillu are the two other names that prominently feature in this category. While Dhillu, a gold medalist at ASIAN games 1996 went on to set up his own gang in the late 90s, Chhenu, who has 26 criminal involvements, with two murders, four robberies and one attempt to murder, also turned into a gangster. Chhenu was also booked under the draconian MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act).

Another wrestler Rakesh Kumar, who was gunned down by the police in an encounter in 2013 had also represented Delhi in wrestling championship in 2008 and won a  bronze. Police files show that Kumar too was associated with Manoj Morkhedi gang.

But when Delhi’s wrestlers and their links with gangsters are mentioned, Kishan Pehalwan is considered to be the godfather of Delhi’s gangwars. Of the very first gangwars that the National Capital may have witnessed, in the early 80s, Kishan Pehalwan’s and his rivals’ clashed against each other.

A wrestler turned gangster turned politician, Kishan Pehalwan has 23 criminal cases to his credit that include seven murders and four cases of attempts to murder. He too was booked under the MCOCA.

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    The gangwars between Pehalwan and his biggest rival Anoop, who also was a wrestler and later went on to becoming a dreaded gangster, that was set off in the early 80s and continued till late 90s, claimed more than 100 lives in a period of little less than two decades. Both of them belonged to Village Dichaun Kalan in Delhi’s Najafgarh and were once friends, until a land dispute drifted them apart. It was a peice of land in Village Dulina, Jhajjar in Haryana, the ripple effect of which led to multiple killings in Najafgarh and other villages of Delhi and Haryana causing heavy casualties on both sides.

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    first published:June 29, 2021, 11:56 IST
    last updated:June 29, 2021, 12:26 IST