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Role reversal: Former sportsmen excel in the field of Delhi crime

Before their names figured in the list of the Delhi police’s most wanted, they had been local celebrities for their exploits in the sports

delhi Updated: Jan 29, 2018 07:13 IST
Prawesh Lama
Prawesh Lama
Hindustan Times
Sportsmen,Delhi,Crime
Before their names figured in the list of the Delhi police’s most wanted, they had been local celebrities for their exploits in the sports(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

From wrestlers to boxers, rugby players to powerlifters — some of Delhi’s most wanted gangsters and their henchmen are former sportsmen who have played different sports at the competitive level.

Before their names figured in the list of the Delhi police’s most wanted, they had been local celebrities for their exploits in the sports. Take for instance, Joginder Gogi — Delhi’s most wanted who carries a reward of Rs 2 lakh on his head. Gogi is on the run, courtesy his comrade Deepak Pahal. Pahal is a former national boxing champion. He attacked a police team and helped Gogi escape custody.

At the time of his arrest in 2016, Pahal was considered Gogi’s right-hand man, involved in cases of extortion, robbery and murder, said police.

A 2011-12 junior boxing champion, Pahal, was expelled from Sports Authority of India hostel after he punched a fellow boxer in 2014 and a case was registered. The incident drifted him away from sports and led him to Gogi’s gang.

Deepak is not an exclusive case. Police records show that many gangsters of Delhi have been former sportspersons who participated in state and national-level championships and won medals. As per data, over the last three decades, Delhi’s criminal gangs have been dominated by such sportsmen turned criminals. Most of these men started their careers in the akhara (wrestling ring).

One of Delhi’s first known gangsters, Krishan Kumar alias Krishan Pehalwan, was a wrestler in the late 80s, hence was known by his nickname Pehalwan (wrestler). He is now a politician.

“Most gangsters in the southwest part of the city bordering Haryana have aliases Pehalwan. Even though Krishan’s surname is Kumar, even in police and court records his name is given as Krishan Pehalwan,” says a senior officer, who did not wish to be named.

Anoop Balraj, another infamous gangster, was Pehalwan’s rival in the early 90’s and a budding wrestler in the 80’s from Najafgarh village.

More than 200 men died in the gang war between the two ‘pehalwans’ in the last three decades.

Another known gangster, Anil Leela alias Anil Pehalwan, a sharpshooter got his nickname because he was once a national-level powerlifter. Unable to complete his graduation, Anil took to crime with his first arrest for carjacking. He eventually became the henchman of known gangster Manoj Morkheri. Anil was involved in various cases of kidnapping and murder, among others, and had a reward of Rs 2 lakh for his arrest. Among the persons he allegedly murdered was Devender Dalal, head of Tanda Heri village, Bahadurgarh, Haryana. He was arrested in 2014.

The alias of present day gangsters like Tillu Tajpuriya is also Pehalwan.

Arjuna awardee and Commonwealth Games medalist Kripa Shanker Bishnoi says pehalwan is a misunderstood word. He says, “Most of these pehalwans have not represented the country in a sport. They are local goons. Till recently, I had stopped telling people that I am a pehalwan. Unfortunately, this word has now been associated with a goon. This is also because of the representation of pehalwans in old Hindi movies. Actor Pran in many movies played the role of a villain and was called a pehalwan. This glorified the image. But, this is now changing.”

Bishnoi, who trained actor Aamir Khan and other actors for the Hindi movie Dangal, adds that one of the reasons why aspiring sportsmen take to crime is the scarce employment opportunities. “Many youngsters take to sports to represent their country. When they fail, they look at it as a means to get government job. I was lucky to get a job in the railways but everyone is not lucky. Many are misguided to join criminals for easy money,” says Bishnoi.

Former Delhi police deputy commissioner of police LN Rao says many such gangsters were misled by local property dealers who used them as muscle-men. “Because not of all them earned enough through sports, they started working for property dealers in their pass time. The dealers used them as muscle-men while grabbing properties or settling disputes. Soon they realised they were being used and decided to form their own gangs. This is what most of them said in their interrogation,” says Rao.

Sportsmen who took to crime

Parmeet Dabas (28) – International rugby player and member of Sonu Dariyapur gang. Arrested on August 2, 2017 for triple murder

Suraj Bahadur (28) – Two-time gold medalist, national level taekwondo player. Arrested on October 27, 2017 for more than two dozen robberies

Vijay Kumar (25) – Nicknamed Dhoni. A member of Gaurav Jhareda gang. Played club-level cricket. Arrested on December 10, 2017 for murder

Deepak Pahal(22) – member of most wanted Jitender Gogi gang. In 2011 Pahal won gold in junior boxing national championship. In 2012, he represented India in the Hayder Aliyev Cup Boxing tournament in Uzbekisthan. Arrested on August 2, 2016

Anil Pehalwan alias Leela(28)- participated in national weightlifting championship. Initially part of Manoj Morkheri and Krishan Pehalwan gang but later formed his own king. Carried a reward of Rs 1 lakh. Was known as Kidnapping gang. Arrested on October 17, 2014

Rakesh Kumar,25, – killed in a police encounter in 2013. Was the Delhi senior state wrestling champion in 2008. Also won bronze in the 2007 Rajiv Gandhi gold cup.

First Published: Jan 29, 2018 07:12 IST