From becoming the first person to win two Olympic medals for independent India to evading authorities investigating a deadly beating, wrestler Sushil Kumar has had a dramatic life.
Kumar is one of the prime suspects in the death of former junior wrestling champion Sagar Dhankad, who police say was killed on May 4 in what media reports described as a “clash”.
The Delhi Police’s initial investigations revealed that the violence was the result of a real estate dispute. Dhankad lived in a rented apartment owned by Kumar, according to the police, and had been asked to vacate the place.
The confrontation occurred late at night in New Delhi’s Chattrasal Stadium, one of the country’s most sought-after stadiums for wrestling. On May 7, three days after Dhankad’s death, the Delhi Police claimed to recover mobile phone footage which they said showed Kumar and other men beating up Dhankad and his friends inside the stadium complex. Several people were injured but Dhankad did not survive, police said.
Now police across several Indian states are on the hunt for Kumar and other suspects in the case.
“People known to them are being questioned and efforts to trace them are on. We had some recent leads on Kumar’s location and accordingly raids are being conducted to arrest him,” an unnamed investigator in charge of the case told the Hindustan Times. Kumar’s family hasn’t seen him since May 4, according to Indian media reports.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kumar became the second Indian wrestler to win an Olympic medal. He followed that up with a silver at the 2012 Olympics. Kumar also won medals and accolades at the Commonwealth Games, the World Wrestling Championships, and the Asian Games.
But he has also been involved in several spats with other wrestlers and the subject of several allegations of violence.
A public feud between Kumar and fellow Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt led to Dutt breaking off to open his own wrestling school. In another incident, a senior coach alleged that Kumar assaulted him, and joined Dutt.
In 2015, several Indian wrestlers including Commonwealth Games and Asian Games champion Bajrang Punia cut ties too. In 2017, wrestler Parveen Rana — Kumar’s former training partner — alleged that he and his brother were beaten up by Kumar’s supporters after national selection trials. “None of my friends or supporters were involved in the brawl,” Kumar told the Hindustan Times. He had claimed earlier that Rana had bitten him during a bout. “He bit me but no problem, it might be his tactics to stop me from performing well. All this is a part of sports,” Kumar had told reporters after the bouts. “Whatever happened here was wrong. I condemn it. There was mutual respect after the fight ended,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is worried about the damage to the sport’s image in the country as the fallout continues.
“The sport has struggled hard in earning a reputation because for long wrestlers were known only as a bunch of goons,” WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told the Press Trust of India.
Chhatrasal Stadium — considered the breeding ground for India’s best men’s freestyle wrestlers — is also reeling under the shock of its star athlete’s downfall.