Delhi’s Goonga Pehalwan clan: Family of ex-wrestlers with 125 cases, 13 offenders
For more than three decades, crime has been the ‘family business’ for two former wrestlers and their sons in Delhi.
According to police records, as many as 13 of the 23 members of south Delhi’s Goonga Pehalwan family have at least 125 criminal cases against them across the city.
Two brothers Mohammed Umar alias Goonga Pehalwan (55) and Anwar alias Anwar Langda (52), who started the gang, retired around five years ago. But their nine sons have taken over the family’s alleged extortion business. The 18-member family of the two brothers live in south Delhi’s Srinivaspuri. Records available with the police show their involvement in crimes since 1985 but police suspect there could be more cases.
Last month, Umar’s son Rashid (24) was arrested for smashing a man’s head with a bottle. The victim alleged he was attacked for refusing to pay extortion money. Deputy commissioner of police (southeast) Chinmoy Biswal said Rashid had confessed to having entered into the family’s extortion business because his elder brother Abid is currently lodged in prison. Failing to appear before a court in two other criminal cases, the court had declared Rashid a proclaimed offender. A police team finally tracked down Rashid on January 15, and arrested the 24-year-old when he was reportedly entering a gym.
“Umar and Anwar were former local wrestlers,” DCP Biswal said. “Their sons are body builders who intimidate their victims with their build. Rashid was arrested as we wanted to ensure that no trader in Okhla Mandi or anywhere is harassed. We are going after criminals in the area and some even from outside Delhi, who visit the markets to extort traders ,” officer Biswal said.
Born to a vegetable vendor in Uttar Pradesh’s Khurja district, the two men — Goonga Pehalwan and Anwar Langda — both illiterate, had come to Delhi in search of a job in the late ’70s. The two started selling vegetables at the Azadpur vegetable market and later in Daryaganj, central Delhi. Though it is unclear how the two men first got themselves on the wrong side of the law, a police complaint dated October 14, 1986, shows the two had already settled into the extortion business before the complaint was filed. The typewritten complaint by a vegetable seller accuses the two men of making threats. The complaint reads,” These two already have cases against them in Chandni Mahal and Daryaganj police stations. They are bullies, who have in the past opened fire to threaten us. Please save my life and property.”
Records show that the two brothers gradually expanded their crimes and started taking protection money from fellow vegetables sellers in Okhla vegetable market, once they shifted from Daryaganj. Umar and Anwar have 13 and 15 cases against them respectively. Umar’s son Abid, has the most number of criminal cases (64). Except Abid, who has been convicted, all the others are out on bail.
The 125 cases against the 13 family members are mostly of extortion and robbery. But some are also accused of murder and other heinous crimes, such as armed robberies. Umar’s wife is the only woman in the family with a police case. Nababan (48) allegedly stabbed her neighbour in Amar Colony in 2013. For over two months in 2013, Nababan was in prison on alleged charges of attempt to murder.
In south Delhi’s Okhla mandi, the wholesale market that supplies vegetables across most parts of south Delhi and Noida, the two brothers are known only by their nicknames Goonga Pehalwan and Langda. These nicknames are mentioned even in police records. Neither locals nor the police know why Umar earned the goonga (dumb) moniker.
“We can understand the nickname Pehalwan. He was a wrestler in his village, but we don’t know why Umar is called Goonga Pehalwan,” one of his neighbours said.
“He is not dumb. Some people may not even know that his name is Umar. He is Goonga Pehalwan for everyone here. We have heard that Umar and his brother wrestled in local village competitions in their younger days,” he said.
Umar’s brother, Anwar wasn’t always called ‘Langda.’ He got the nickname after 1990, according to his crime dossier. Sometime in 1990, Anwar was shot in the leg inside Tihar jail when he tried to break out of prison. With a bullet injury on his right leg, Anwar walks with a hockey stick. The photograph on his crime dossier shows him posing with an ‘Olympic’ hockey stick.
A local Okhla shopkeeper, who refused to be identified said, “Stories of their failed prison escape and their crimes help them maintain the image of a rough crime family. We do not mess with them. Thank god the police arrested their son recently.”
Umar and Anwar at present have two registered shops in the Okhla wholesale market. Police say this is a cover up for their real crimes. Locals said Umar also claims to be the chairman of the market.
“On Thursdays, their sons are very active. Shopkeepers open their shop that day, which is not allowed under market rules. They extort money from such shopkeepers. They have bought two houses in Gandhi camp. One of their sons, who has criminal cases against him, recently purchased a KTM sports bike. They own a bike, which costs over Rs 3 lakh but continue to live in this camp area because they have influence here and are feared by many,” one of their neighbours said.
In September 2015, the local Srinivaspuri resident welfare association filed a police complaint against the family. The complaint accused the family of terrorizing residents. The RWA had alleged Umar, Anwar and their sons robbed from locals and often opened fired to threaten shopkeepers.
A former RWA member, who had filed the complaint, said “I am not a RWA member now. Most men in that family are bullies and incorrigible. If there is a fight or scuffle in the area, we know that one of the sons is involved.”
Following the RWA’s complaint, police had tried to book the male family members under the stringent MCOCA. An officer said they could not pursue the case because though most family members were alleged criminals, it was reportedly difficult to prove that the crime was organized.
Police believe education and family play a role in youngsters following the footsteps of their elders and entering the world of crime. Umar and Anwar have 11 sons and eight daughters, but only one of them goes to a school. Most of the sons and daughter dropped out of school or failed to pass the fifth or third standard. At least 9 kids are illiterates.
Police said Umar and Anwar Langda were responsible for destroying the lives of their children by shielding them and actively supporting their crimes and even mentoring them.
Sample this, an officer explained - On January 16, a day after Umar’s son Rashid (24) was arrested, the family approached court claiming Rashid was only 16 years old and should be treated as a juvenile in conflict with law, which would mean lenient punishment. Last Thursday, a team of doctors submitted the bone ossification test result to determine Rashid’s age. The report read Rashid’s age to be over 21.
“Instead of learning from their own lives and changing the future of their children, Umar and Anwar support their sons and even mentor them. They even lied in court that their 24-year- old son is 16. This is the problem,” DCP Biswal said.