Freestyle wrestler and two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, 38, has been in a New Delhi jail since May 23, 2021. He has been charged with murdering fellow wrestler Sagar Dhankar (sometimes refered to as Sagar Dhankad or Sagar Rama), 23, on May 4 on the grounds of the famous Chhatrasal Stadium.
Kumar, who was once one of India’s most celebrated solo athletes, is trying to get out on bail while he awaits trial over the killing. However, Delhi Police are trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.
According to Times of India police wrote in a status report that Kumar is a “kingpin” and that if he was released witnesses would be at risk of intimidation. In their report police claimed that witnesses in this case were “terrified” of Kumar and his associates.
Police also stated that Kumar is a “globetrotter” who might flee the country if he is let out of jail.
Numerous motives regarding the killing of Dhankar have been floated by Indian press outlets, most of which quote investigators working on the case.
Among those theories are that Kumar and Dhankar became enemies after Dhankar stopped paying rent on an apartment Kumar owned. This led to Kumar evicting Dhankar. Additionally, Dhankar had decided to leave Kumar’s Chhatrasal-based wrestling team and start his own rival stable.
Another theory over their fall-out involves a love triangle involving a mysterious Ukrainian woman. All these theories lead to Dhankar allegedly badmouthing Kumar around the New Delhi wrestling scene. Police say this lead to Kumar wanting to punish Dhankar.
Investigators claim Kumar arranged for a group of men to abduct Dhankar and his friends and bring them to Chhatrasal Stadium. At the facility Dhankar and his friends were beaten with wooden sticks.
Dhankar, who was the main target of the assault, did not survive the beating. One of the attackers filmed the assault on their cellphone. That video is now in the possession of the police.
After Kumar was named a suspect in the attack, he lead police on a twenty day manhunt before he was capturing in the town of Mundka in West Delhi. To date at total of 18 people have been arrested in connection to this incident.
Since his arrest numerous accusations have been made linking Kumar to organized crime figures in Delhi and the neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
It has been claimed that Kumar once ran a toll booth company with the help of Anil Bhati, nephew of crime boss Sunder Bhati (who is serving a life sentence for the murder of politician Shiv Kumar). The toll booth workers at those stations have been accused of robbery, extortion and even murder. It has also been claimed that a well-known gangster helped Kumar acquire the apartment where Dhankar was staying.
Dhankar was also allegedly connected to organized crime. It has been reported that he is the nephew of Kala Jathedi, one of India’s most wanted gangsters. Dhankar is also the son of a police head constable in Delhi.
The case has also put into focus the uncomfortable overlap between athletes and criminal gangs in Delhi and the surrounding areas. Over the past few decades a number of high profile criminal cases have involved former and current wrestlers and power-lifters.