Monday, May 24 2021

Dive In

Taking people for ransom, selling them weird ideology, and winning business by defaming scientific medicine are unpardonable offenses. Such untutored and unlearned statements are a threat to the literate society of the country as well as to the poor people falling prey to him.

That’s the Indian Medical Association—the country’s largest body of doctors—demanding that the government prosecute Baba Ramdev for statements deriding allopathic medicine (full letter here). In a viral clip, the baba had said allopathy is a “stupid science"—and that “lakhs of patients have died after taking allopathic medicines.” After the IMA rebellion, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan wrote a letter chastising Ramdev, saying: “Through your statement you not only disrespected corona warriors but also deeply hurt the sentiments of countrymen.” Ramdev has now retracted his statements.

Big Story

The wild world of Indian wrestling

The TLDR: The arrest of the two-time Olympian for murder exposes the seedy side of Indian wrestling—and the darker influences of bullying, nepotism and gang violence.


Remind me, who is Sushil Kumar?

The Indian dream: 

  • Born in a Delhi village, Kumar began his professional career at the age of 14 at the city’s Chhatrasal Stadiumwhich has incubated some of the greatest wrestlers in Indian sporting history. 
  • Kumar has achieved a storied career as India’s only world champion who can boast of two Olympic medalsa bronze in 2008 and a silver in 2012. 
  • But ever since, his fortunes have been on a decline. Kumar became a national champion in 2017 only because many of the younger wrestlers simply conceded the matchout of fear of a “a gangster-type menace that emanated from Sushil and his acolytes.” 
  • And he is now out of the running for the Tokyo Olympics this summer.


The ultimate ‘pehelwan-ji’: After he medaled at the 2012 London Olympics, Kumar became a bona fide sports iconand soon after acted like one. As a Mumbai Mirror reporter observed in 2018:


“There are several things that one learns when one is chasing Sushil Kumar. One of them is that he is a lot like a rumour; promised meetings with him never materialise. Two, calling him by his name elicits frowns from those who revere him; ‘Pehalwanji’ is much better, thank you.”


Adding to his power: Kumar is married to the daughter of his coach, Satpal Singha former wrestling great and a powerful figure in the sport’s establishment. Singh ran the wrestling program at Chhatrasal Stadium, and the School Games Federation of India (SGFI). In 2016, he stepped down from SGFI, only to be replaced by his damaad as presidenta position Kumar continues to occupy despite repeated instances of corruption and mismanagement. Thanks to Singh’s influence, Kumar is also an Officer on Special Deputation at Chhatrasalwhere he is regarded with near-religious reverence and, of course, fear:


“Sushil… calls the shots. If you won’t listen to him or do as he suggests, he would quietly start harassing you… People are scared to say anything. They come to make a career, not to indulge in politics. So they found it [more] convenient to leave than [to] tolerate the stadium politics.”


Point to note: At Chhatrasal, Kumar was treated like god, literally:


“Adjacent to a Hanuman statue at the entrance of the wrestling hall are two giant pictures of Sushil. The young pehelwans followed a daily ritual: first seeking the Lord’s blessings and then touching their idol’s feet.”


And he killed someone?

Allegedly so. Here’s how it went down:


  • The victim was 23-year old Sagar Dhankar, a talented wrestler, who also trained at Chhatrasal. 
  • Dhankar had rented a house owned by Kumarand was often behind on the rent. This became a point of contention, and Dhankar eventually vacated the premises.
  • But soon after, Dhankar began bad-mouthing Kumarwhich upset the latter: “He was annoyed and angry that Sagar disrespected him and criticised him in public and in their circle, trying to malign his image of a guru.”
  • FYI: This Times of India report suggests that the flat itself was a base for gang operations—and the fight over it may have been triggered by inter-gang rivalry.
  • On May 4, around 20 men armed with bats and hockey sticks attacked Dhankar and his friends in the parking lot of Chhatrasal. Dhankar died due to his injuries, while the others had to be hospitalised.
  • According to police sources, Kumar was wielding a ‘danda’ and was present during the attackand the incident was captured on a phone recovered from one of the attackers arrested after the attack.  
  • On May, the police filed an FIR against Kumar charging him with murder, abduction and criminal conspiracybut he had already absconded, first to an ashram in Haridwar, and then moved around between Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
  • Kumar was finally arrested yesterday in Delhi.


What’s the gang connection?


In today’s edition

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