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The sporting ecosystem of India has been in shock ever since wrestling great Sushil Kumar was named in an FIR regarding the murder of a 23-year-old wrestler Sagar Dhankar.

Sagar died as a result of a brawl between two groups at the famous Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi. It has been alleged that Sushil and his associates beat up Sagar in the parking area of the stadium leading to his death. What followed the brawl was the Olympian absconding and a look-out notice against the wrestler. His subsequent arrest. Arrests of his associates. Sushil being sent to police custody as the investigation continues.

The major reason behind the case dominating the headlines is the stature that Sushil holds in India’s sporting history. With a bronze medal in the 66kg freestyle category from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a silver in the 2012 London Games, Sushil is the only Indian athlete to win two individual Olympic medals. An elite athlete in his sport, Sushil also has a gold medal from the 2010 World Championships.

We take a closer look at the case and its timeline, the investigation, the wrestler’s past controversies, and how the Chhatrasal Stadium incident will impact Sushil’s legacy in Firstpost Explains:

What’s is the whole case about?

On the intervening night between 4 and 5 May, wrestler Sagar and his two friends Sonu Mahal (35) and Amit Kumar (27) got into a brawl with another group in the parking area of the Chhatrasal Stadium located in the northern part of Delhi. The police reached the spot after they were informed about firing inside the stadium compound. Upon arrival, they found the injured in the parking area who were then taken to the BJRM hospital and later Sagar succumbed to his injuries. At the crime spot, the police also found five cars but nobody was inside. They also found a loaded double-barrel gun and three cartridges inside a Scorpio car parked outside the stadium.

On 6 May, an FIR was registered against Sushil after the preliminary investigation showed that the alleged brawl took place between Sushil, Ajay, Prince, Sonu, Sagar, Amit and others. The FIR was registered under 302 (murder), 308 (culpable homicide), 365 (kidnapping), 325 (causing grevious hurt), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 506 (criminal intimidation), 188 (Disobedience to order by public servant), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and various sections of the Arms Act.

On the same day, police informed that a team was sent to Sushil’s house but he was found to be missing.

Meanwhile, on 5 May, Sushil in his interview with news agency ANI claimed that he or his associates were not involved in the brawl.

“They weren’t our wrestlers, it happened late last night. We have informed police officials that some unknown people jump into our premises and fought. No connection of our stadium with this incident: Wrestler Sushil Kumar on an incident of brawl,” he said.

It has been reported that the brawl took place due to a property dispute. Sagar and his friends were staying in a house linked to Sushil near the Chhatrasal Stadium and were asked to vacate the property eventually leading to the fight.

When was Sushil arrested?

On 10 May, after failing to locate Sushil, the Delhi police issued a look-out notice. A few days after the look-out notice a Delhi court issued a non-bailable warrant against Sushil and six others in connection with the murder.

The police conducted raids in Delhi NCR and neighbouring areas in search of Sushil and his associates who went absconding after the FIR was registered. Few media houses also reported that Sushil escaped to Haridwar and then Rishikesh to avoid arrest. On 17 May, Delhi Police announced Rs 1 lakh cash reward for information on the wrestler.

On 18 May, a Delhi court rejected Sushil’s appeal for anticipatory bail. While dismissing Sushil Kumar’s pre-arrest bail, a judge noted that prima facie Sushil is the main conspirator in the murder case.

Eventually, on 23 May, Sushil and his associate Ajay, alias Sunil, (48) were arrested from Mundka in Delhi.

Who was Sagar?

A former junior national champion, Sagar competed in the 97-kg Greco-Roman category and was part of the national camp. A resident of Sonepat, Haryana, Sagar was the son of Ashok Dhankhar, a head constable in Delhi Police.

What is the status of the investigation?

On the day of his arrest, Sushil was remanded in police custody for six days. The police remand was extended for four more days on 29 May. So far eight people other than Sushil have been arrested in connection with the murder.

The wrestler was retaken to the stadium to recreate the crime scene and the interrogation in the case is underway. Also, recently, a video allegedly showing Sushil beating a man with sticks has emerged on social media.

According to a media report, questioning of Sushil’s associates revealed that the wrestler instructed people with criminal past to come to Chhatrasal Stadium on the night of the incident, where they along with the wrestler took part in the brawl.

Meanwhile, the prosecution while asking to extend the remand said in the court that Sushil was the “mastermind” of the murder and wasn’t cooperating with the investigating agency.

How has the sporting world reacted to this news?

The accusations against Sushil and his subsequent arrest have led to intense reactions from the sporting world. Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) said that the murder case has badly hit the image of wrestling in India.

“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 said.

Former hockey captain Ajitpal Singh termed the incident unfortunate.

“…it is very shameful and unfortunate. Being a role model Sushil should have led by example and never indulged in such a brawl. He has got everything in life, the sport gave him everything, money, fame,” he told PTI.

Boxer Vijender Singh who won a medal alongside Sushil at 2008 Games, said people should wait for things to get more clear.

“What he has done for Indian sports is something that can never be taken away from him. That’s all I want to say at this point. Let things be clearer. I don’t want to comment more,” Vijender said.

What have been the immediate ramifications for Sushil?

It has been reported that Indian Railways is set to suspend Sushil as a result of the murder case investigation. The wrestler is a senior commercial manager with the Northern Railway and has been posted by the Delhi government as an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) at the Chhatrasal Stadium.

Also, WFI is set to drop Sushil from its annual contract list. He is currently part of the Grade A category of the contract list earning Rs 30 lakh annually. The federation however has claimed that the decision is taken as a result of non-performance and has nothing to do with the murder case.

Sushil’s past controversies…

Sushil is not new to controversies, however, this time he may have taken it too far.

Narsingh Yadav case: In 2016, Narsingh Yadav was selected to represent India at the Rio Olympics in the 74kg category ahead of Sushil after winning the spot through a medal at the 2015 World Championships. This infuriated the star wrestler as Sushil moved to Delhi High Court asking for a trial but failed in his mission.

Narsingh eventually could not go to Rio as he failed a dope test ahead of Olympics. He and WFI had then accused Sushil of spiking the wrestler’s food leading to the failed dope test.

Walkover controversy: Sushil won the national championship in 2017 in the 74kg category after receiving three walkovers from the quarter-final stage. He fought only two bouts in the preliminary stage. The incident raised a question mark on the culture of wrestling in India.

Brawl at trials: A fight broke out between two groups during the trials for Commonwealth Games 2018. Sushil had just defeated Praveen Rana in a bout after which a brawl broke out between their supporters.

An FIR was also lodged in Delhi by Praveen and his brother Naveen Rana who alleged that Sushil and his associates beat them up at the trials for participating in the match against the two-time Olympic medallist.

How will the murder case impact Sushil’s legacy?

There’s no doubt that the alleged involvement of Sushil in Sagar’s murder case has badly impacted the image of wrestling in India. However, since the time Sushil won the Olympic medal in 2008, wrestling in India has seen a number of stars emerging from its akhara.

Sushil’s name getting associated with the murder case is a short-term loss for the sport in the nation but would have long-term repercussions on his legacy. The murder case is still under investigation and Sushil could very well be exonerated. However, his choice to go absconding instead of facing the investigation puts a question mark on him. Sushil on the wrestling mat was rarely intimidated by the challenges in front of him. But when the biggest challenge of his life came, he opted to go missing.

And so, even if he is proven innocent, his legacy has already been tarnished. If he is proven guilty, his legacy will be lost forever.

Another damage the whole incident has done is to reinforce the stereotype that wrestlers inherently have a connection with criminals. It was an image that Sushil once helped erase.

Also See: Delhi Police take murder-accused wrestler Sushil Kumar to Chhatrasal Stadium to recreate crime scene

‘It is unfortunate’: Mixed emotions in Indian sports after Sushil Kumar’s arrest in murder case

Video purportedly showing Sushil Kumar, associates thrashing man surfaces on social media

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