India’s only wrestling world champion has been arrested in his homeland over the killing of a fellow wrestler at a stadium, with police catching up with him following a series of raids after he evaded their search for 20 days.
Celebrated wrestler Sushil Kumar, who is a three-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist and was world champion in Moscow in 2010, was present when Sagar Dhankhar, a 23-year-old ex-junior champion, was beaten to death at New Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium, according to police.
The son of a police constable died from the injuries he sustained in the assault at the setting known as the “cradle of Indian wrestling” earlier this month, leading to non-bailable warrants being issued against Kumar and six others over what authorities believe was a clash between rival wrestling gangs.
Kumar had approached a court seeking protection from arrest, claiming that the probe was biased and that none of the injuries from the fracas, which also saw two of Kumar’s friends hospitalized, had anything to do with him.
#DelhiPolice Special Cell nabbed absconding murder accused wrestler Sushil Kumar and [email protected] from Mundka, Delhi early today wanted in a case of PS Model Town wherein they murdered another wrestler. Carried rewards of ₹1L & ₹50K. Being produced in Court.#NoWrestlingWithLaw pic.twitter.com/fi6uZzgb0X
— #DilKiPolice Delhi Police (@DelhiPolice) May 23, 2021
Officers had offered a reward of more than $1,000 as they carried out raids in an area of Delhi and other cities before finding Kumar and presenting him before a court on Sunday.
The court dismissed the initial appeal by India’s only wrestler with two Olympic medals because they said he was “prima facie the main conspirator” and considered the allegations against him to be serious in nature.
Dhankar trained at the stadium before he died in a shocking turn of events that is said to have shaken India’s sporting community weeks before the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“What he has done for Indian sports is something that can never be taken away from him,” said boxer Vijender Singh, who has been to two Olympic Games with Sushil, speaking to PTI.
“That’s all I want to say at this point. Let things be clearer. I don’t want to comment more.”
Vinod Tomar, the secretary of the Wrestling Federation of India, told reporters that bosses had been keen to change the perception of wrestlers “only as a bunch of goons”.
“I must say that the image of Indian wrestling has been hurt badly by this,” he added.
Kumar followed up a freestyle wrestling bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with silver in London four years later.
“We have recorded statements of all the victims and they all made allegations against Sushil Kumar,” said senior police officer Guriqbal Singh Sidhu.
Wrestling leaders are understandably keen to change the image of the sport amid more bad publicity in recent months.
Coach Sukhwinder Mor is awaiting trial for the murder of five people, including a rival trainer, in February.
An inspirational figure to younger wrestlers through his international success, 37-year-old Kumar remains an active competitor, although he had not qualified for the Tokyo showpiece.
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