Residents of Mothada Kalan village near Phillaur in Jalandhar district are stunned to know that NRI Dara Singh Mothada, the promoter of sports and culture in their village, was actually part of the Jagdish Bhola international drug smuggling racket.
Giving away expensive prizes like an SUV for the best player, gold rings for the best raid, motorcycles for all players, lavish spending on VIP guests, and inviting top artistes to perform, were highlights of the kabaddi cup that he organised in the village every year.
Living in Vancouver, Canada, Dara is the promoter of Azad Kabaddi Club, a popular sports body in Toronto. For promoting sports and culture and giving hefty donations, Dara's name found a pride of place in the village stadium.
"I am stunned. I can't believe that he is into drug trade as he always promoted sports and asked the youth to stay away from drugs," said village sarpanch Kanti Mohan.
Jagdish Singh, another resident, said he regularly gave donations for poor students and village development.
Dara had last visited the village in February 2013 when he organised the kabaddi tournament. In that tournament, the best player was given the SUV Tata Safari, Jazzy B performed there, while Dara distributed several cash prizes. "Cash flowed like water at the sports event that Dara has been holding in the village for the past 11 years," said a villager.
Similar is the story of Sarabjit Singh Nick of Baliaon village, near Samrala, where villagers find it hard to believe that the former kabaddi player, who is now settled in Vancouver in Canada, is part of the Bhola group.
Patiala SSP Hardial Singh Mann said on Tuesday, "During the investigation, several recipients of contraband consignments of the Bhola network have been identified, which include Sarabjit Singh Nick and Dara Singh Mothada."
The SSP said there were several players whom Dara and others had taken to foreign countries and the police were checking whether they used players for smuggling of contraband, which they concealed in packets in such a way that it was difficult to detect.
The names of 40 Canada-based NRIs have surfaced in the racket. These include Harbans Sidhu, resident of Burj Lit, Raipur, Ludhiana (now living in Toronto) and Nirankara Singh Dhillon of Jalandhar district (now in Brampton), father-in-law of Kulwant Singh arrested in the Anoop Singh Kahlon case.
The SSP said Dara managed to flee a month before the police raided the houses of Kahlon at Mohali and Jalandhar.
"Punjab Police have shared the inputs with the Canadian police and we are hopeful of a breakthrough about their hideouts," he said.