Olympic medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar is in the news for all the wrong reasons. He allegedly thrashed Sagar Rana, a 23-year-old former junior national champion and a part of the senior national camp, to death during a brawl in the Chhatrasal Stadium parking area on 4 May. As India’s trailblazing grappler finds himself embroiled in controversy, we put together a detailed timeline of the events:
Tuesday, 4 May: Sagar Rana Allegedly Beaten to Death by Sushil Kumar
On the night of 4 May, Sagar, who used to compete in the 97 kg Greco-Roman category, lost his life in a scuffle involving two groups outside the Chhatrasal Stadium, which houses the training centre run by Sushil’s father-in-law, Satpal Singh.
Reports emerged that Sagar, along with his friends, Sonu Mahal and Amit Kumar, was allegedly beaten up by around 20 men armed with hockey sticks and baseball bats in the parking lot of the stadium premises in North-West Delhi. Sagar succumbed to his concussion injuries early on Wednesday morning, while Sonu and Amit are undergoing treatment at the BJRM Hospital.
It has come to light through the police investigation that Sagar and his friends were tenants in a house reportedly owned by Sushil near the stadium in the Model Town locality. They were asked to vacate as Sagar was not able to pay the rent and that led to friction between the two. Sagar finally vacated the house four months ago and moved elsewhere but he allegedly criticised Sushil for his poor attitude. Sushil was reportedly angry at Sagar, for allegedly calling him names like “badmash” in public and thereby tarnishing his image, The Print reported.
“We have found during investigation that a quarrel had allegedly taken place between Sushil Kumar, Ajay, Prince Dalal, Sonu, Sagar, Amit and others in the parking area of the stadium,” Guriqbal Singh Sidhu, Additional DCP of the North-West district said.
“We have been told that Sushil found out from his circle that Sagar was calling him names. He was annoyed and angry that Sagar disrespected him and criticised him in public and in their circle, trying to malign his image of a guru. He feared that he may lose respect, become unpopular in his circle,” a source in Delhi Police told The Print.
Police recorded the statements of all the victims during which they said that Sagar and some of his allies, including injured Sonu, a henchman of gangster Kala Jathedi, were staying in a house linked to Sushil. “Sonu Mahal is a close associate of gangster Kala Jathedi and was earlier arrested in a robbery and murder case,” police sources confirmed.
Thursday, 6 May: FIR Lodged Against Sushil Kumar for Alleged Murder
The Delhi Police sprung into action and lodged an FIR on grounds of murder, abduction, criminal conspiracy and launched a search operation to locate Sushil, who has gone into hiding. It has been learnt that Sushil left for Haridwar and then Rishikesh after the incident. He stayed at an ashram in Haridwar before returning to Delhi and is now constantly shifting base within the capital.
The Delhi Police said in its statement that on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday, information regarding alleged firing inside the Chhatrasal Stadium was received at the Model Town police station. During the investigation, information regarding the death of Sagar and injury to Sonu was received from Trauma Centre, Civil Lines, following which an FIR under Sections 302, 365, 120B of the IPC was registered.
“We have recorded statements of all the victims and they all made allegations against Sushil Kumar,” Sidhu informed the media. “We have lodged an FIR of murder, abduction, criminal conspiracy and are conducting raids to nab Sushil Kumar.”
The FIR states that the police control room got a call around 2 am from Chhatrasal stadium about an alleged “firing incident”. The caller claimed that he saw two men with pistols open firing at others. According to the FIR, when police reached the spot, they found five cars in the parking area but nobody was there inside.
"The crime scene as well as all the five vehicles were inspected. During the inspection, one double barrel loaded gun with five live cartridges were found in one Scorpio and two wooden sticks were also recovered from the spot. All the five vehicles and weapons of offence were seized. The crime scene was further inspected by forensic experts of FSL, Rohini," a senior police official said.
“It was a premeditated attack, planned very well in advance. The men had come armed with [cricket] bats, [hockey] sticks for the attack. We still do not know how many people are involved in this as it is a student compound. Our teams are working on identifying the perpetrators,” he added.
Sunday, 9 May: Accused Sushil Kumar on the Run; Delhi Police Issues LOC
The preliminary probe was to no avail as the Delhi Police wasn’t able to track the accused wrestler. However, they did manage to get their hands on an alleged assailant and one of Kumar’s aides, Prince Dalal, a Jhajjar resident, in the murder case. In the investigation the police recovered a video from his phone in which the faces of all the attackers can be seen.
“Dalal was arrested from the spot and we seized his cellphone, two double-barrel guns along with seven live cartridges of 12 bore from his possession. After investigation, we have found that the guns were registered in the name of one resident of Ashoda village in Haryana’s Jhajjar,” police sources claimed.
The Delhi Police on Sunday evening issued a Look-out-Circular (LoC) against Sushil. “An LOC has been issued. Teams are also conducting raids in Delhi and the neighbouring states. We have possible leads and the suspects will soon be arrested,” a senior officer updated the media on the subsequent course of action.
Monday, 10 May: WFI Rues Loss of Reputation Due to Sushil Incident
In his salad days, Sushil had single-handedly pinned Indian wrestling on the world map. But with his alleged involvement in the murder case, Indian wrestling’s reputation has suffered damage.
Sushil holds the distinction of being the country's only two-time Olympic medallist in an individual event and the first Indian to win a wrestling world championship. Sushil’s bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing games ended India’s 56-year-long medal drought at the Olympics.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is concerned that the prestige acquired over the years with splendid international performances, with Sushil at the very heart of it, has been severely affected due to the incident.
“Yes, I must say that the image of Indian wrestling has got hurt badly by this. But we have nothing to do with what wrestlers do away from the mat. We are concerned with their on-mat performance,” WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar told PTI.
“Not only this, but the incident that happened in February had also tarnished the image of Indian wrestling. The sport has struggled hard in earning a reputation because for long wrestlers were known only as a bunch of goons,” Tomar lamented.
The WFI official was referring to coach Sukhwinder Mor’s alleged hand in the murder of five people, including a fellow coach Manoj Malik, in Jaat College in Rohtak district of Haryana.
Inquired on if WFI would axe Sushil from the annual contracts list given his alleged connection with the murder, Tomar said they “were not mulling any such move as of now” and will wait for the police investigation to run its course.
Saturday, 15 May: Delhi Court Issues Non-Bailable Warrant Against Accused Sushil Kumar
A Delhi court on Saturday issued non-bailable warrants against two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar and six others in connection with the Chhatrasal Stadium brawl that led to the death of a wrestler here, police said in a statement. This comes in the wake of a lookout notice being issued against Kumar in the same case.
A senior police officer informed, “We moved an application before the court to issue a non-bailable warrant (NBW) against wrestler Sushil Kumar and six others in the case, and as per request, the application was approved and accordingly NBWs have been issued against them.” A lookout notice was issued late on Sunday evening.
Monday, 17 May: Cash Reward Announced on Sushil and Co-Accused Ajay
The Delhi Police on Monday announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh on Sushil and of Rs 50,000 on co-accused Ajay, ANI reported. They are wanted in the alleged murder of a fellow wrestler in north-west Delhi.
The proposal to announce cash reward was approved by the police headquarters on Monday, a senior police officer notified. “We are hopeful to get leads about Sushil after announcing the cash reward as he is a public figure and hiding for long at any place will be tough for him,” he said.
The officer added that Sushil is constantly changing his location and at several instances, police teams were a few minutes late to catch him as he escaped by a hair’s breadth. “We have arrested three of his accomplices and they have got details of Sushil’s hideouts,” the cop added.
Tuesday, 18 May: Sushil Kumar Seeks Anticipatory Bail
Wrestler Sushil filed an anticipatory bail application at Rohini court in Delhi in which he argued the investigation against him was biased, and the allegations levelled on him had an ulterior motive to dent his reputation.
Sushil’s anticipatory bail application has been listed for hearing before Additional Sessions Judge Jagdish Kumar. Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra is expected to argue his case. The application pleaded that the entire investigation was being conducted with “a pre-determined and biased mindset”. It also said he was “innocent of all wrongdoings”. The court was told the alleged victims in the case “have criminal antecedents”, and when Kumar asked them to vacate the property in Model Town which belonged to his wife, they “tried to falsely implicate” him.
The court was told the firearms retrieved from a Scorpio car and even the cars which were found at the crime scene were not among his or his family members’ possessions. Kumar’s application also stated that he and his family were under immense financial and mental stress due to the false implication of the applicant. Moreover, the court was told there was a delay of 5-6 hours in registering the FIR, and this delay falsely implicated Kumar.
In the plea, the sportsman put forth his willingness to join the investigation and provide a "true and correct picture of the incident" to help the investigating agency reach a logical conclusion.
“That unfounded, baseless, scurrilous and preposterous allegations have been made against the applicant maliciously with the only motive to humiliate and injure the reputation of the applicant,” the application stated, adding that he “should not be compelled to face harassment, ignominy and disgrace at the instance of baseless and unfounded allegations.” the anticipatory bail application read.
Delhi Police Urges Court To Turn Down Sushil’s Bail Plea
The Delhi Police urged Rohini court to decline the anticipatory bail to the accused wrestler. It was learnt that the court has reserved its decision on granting an anticipatory bail plea to Tuesday evening.
As per a report carried out in India Today, The police told the court that video evidence suggested that Sushil Kumar was present during the clash in the parking lot of the stadium premises which resulted in Sagar Rana’s death. Delhi Police requested the court that the absconding Sushil shouldn't be given bail as he has links with criminals and musclemen who can intimidate the witnesses.
Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastava, representing the police, told the court that there is electronic evidence where he could be seen "with a stick and hitting" the wrestler. He also said that Sushil's passport has been confiscated to alert the authorities as there is growing circumspection that he may flee the country.
As per Investigating Officer Dinesh Kumar, the wrestler's custodial interrogation is the need of the hour to unravel the chain of conspiracy and recover the weapon of offence from him.
"He is the main accused in the whole incident, who has played a key role in the commission of offence. Data retrieved by FSL experts confirms his active role in commission of crime," the Investigating Officer told the court.
Court Denies Anticipatory Bail to Sushil Kumar
Paying heed to the police persuasion, New Delhi’s Rohini court on Tuesday dismissed the anticipatory bail plea of two-time Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar.
While dismissing Sushil Kumar's pre-arrest bail, the judge reasoned that "the allegations against the accused are serious in nature. From the perusal of record of investigation so far, it reveals that prima facie the accused is the main conspirator".
Further, the judge noted: "The investigation is still going on and some of the accused persons have not been arrested so far. The NBWS [non-bailable warrant] has already been issued against the accused. The Court is not making any observations on the facts as submitted before Court because it is the stage of anticipatory bail and giving any observation may prejudice the parties vice versa."
The Additional Sessions Judge also relied upon the statements of the eye-witnesses while dismissing the plea and said "So at this stage, the Court is not inclined to grant anticipatory bail to the accused".
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