The recent murder of national-level kabaddi player Sukhvinder Singh Narwahl, who was shot by two bikers just 100 metres from his home in Rohtak, has left many shocked. Sangeeta Yadav visits his village to bring you a report
It was 6:42 pm. The 24-year-old kabaddi player Sukhvinder Singh Narwahl was returning home from the Government Model Senior Secondary School in Rithal Nirwal village, Rohtak, after a kabaddi match with friends and a training session with students. He was just 100 metres away from his home and was talking on the phone when suddenly two bikers came from the front and shot him point blank in the chest. As Sukhvinder fell, the assailants shot him again. But this time, their gun jammed and the bullets didn’t go off. They reloaded it and then shot him thrice at point blank range. They fled on their bike, raising their fists in victory.
Little did the assailants know that their crime was captured on a CCTV camera installed in a house next to the crime spot. Hearing the gun shots, neighbours rushed out to see Sukhvinder lying in a pool of blood. His family rushed in too but he breathed his last before he could be taken to the hospital.
“On March 15, Sukhvinder left the school around 6:30 pm. Next day, we got this sad news. I had known him for three years. He used to visit the school daily with his team to play kabaddi after school hours. Known to be self-motivated and focussed on kabaddi, Sukhvinder also worked hard on the maintenance and greening of the kabaddi field. He used to train schoolchildren in the sport and would take them to play State-level competitions, village tournaments and open tournaments in the district,” principal of the Government Model Senior Secondary School, Surender Singh Hooda, recounts.
It’s been more than 20 days since the wanton killing and the family is still trying to come to terms with the loss. Sukhvinder’s father Chander Singh Narwahl who used to fondly call him Puttu keeps viewing the CCTV footage of his son being murdered on his phone and keeps breaking down.
“Puttu was a fun-loving and cheerful person who never got into fights. Even in this video, you can see how carefree he is, walking towards home while talking over the phone. Little did he know what was waiting for him and how it would turn our lives upside down,” Narwahl says amid sobs.
As you walk into Sukhvinder’s room, what catches your attention are the trophies and medals he won in kabaddi tournaments, photos of his childhood days with his family and of him taking awards, the Ramcharitmanas and preparatory exam books for IAS, NDA, SSC and English and computers course.
“Puttu was passionate about kabaddi since childhood. He trained under his school PT teacher. Wherever he went to play, he returned victorious. After playing nationals, he used to tell me that he wanted to play for India one day and also be part of the Pro Kabaddi League,” Narwahl recalls. Sukhvinder has two brothers and two sisters.
For the family, Sukhvinder’s death has come as a huge blow. Narwahl lost his eldest son Sujinder in an accident seven years ago; the second son Sunny is on the run and suspected to be involved in a murder case. One daughter got married a few years back and the other, the youngest of the siblings, is studying Psychology at Rohtak University.
“Sukhvinder had no rivalry. He was liked by all. There is a possibility that Sunny might have had enemies. We all come from a Government service background and Sukhvinder also wanted to serve the country. Sunny was the odd one out in the family, he got into wrong company,” Vijendra Singh, Sukhvinder’s uncle, reveals.
Police say that Sukhvinder’s murder was the fallout of a family feud.
“The murder was the fallout of a rivalry between Narwahl’s family and Devender alias Kala, a village goon who was murdered in June 2015. It is possible that Sukhvinder’s elder brother Sunny alias Kuki, who is on the run, was involved in Devender’s murder,” Vijay Singh, SHO, Sadar Thana, Rohtak, tells you.
Sukhvinder’s murder, the cop adds, was a well-thought plot by Devender’s cousins to take revenge.
“We’ve arrested Devender’s cousin Somvir (28) and Ankit (16) under Section 120 B of the IPC for criminal conspiracy. They confessed that two months ago Devender’s friends Amarjeet and Anil had met and and provoked them to avenge their brother’s murder. Amarjeet and Anil, who allegedly shot Sukhvinder, are history-sheeters. They, along with Dhola from Khatkar village in Jind and Rakesh from Shiva village in Panipat, were also involved in a double murder case of a man and his nephew in November 2015. We arrested Amarjeet and Anil on March 23, 2016 under Section 302 of IPC for the murder and Section 25/54 for carrying weapons,” Singh says.
The family claims that Sunny left home seven years ago right after the eldest brother died but police investigation revealed that he went missing only after Devender’s murder. For now, the cops are looking at all angles.
This is not the first time when a promising player has been shot in broad daylight. On December 20, 2015, State-level kabaddi player Deepak Kumar alias Deepak Pehalwan from the Ladot region of Rohtak was shot by two unidentified motorcycle-borne men. He managed to make a call to his brother who took him to PGIMS Rohtak but he died during treatment.
On May 20, 1983, Prithipal Singh, a former hockey player and an Olympic champion, also known as king of short corner and an assistant professor with the Punjab Agriculture University, was shot outside the vice-chancellor’s office as many looked on. This was also a case of revenge and out of 60 eye-witnesses, nobody came to testify in court. Unable to nab the shooters and due to lack of strong evidence, the court closed the case within one-and-a-half years.
On July 28, 1988, Syed Modi, eight-time national badminton champion, was shot in Lucknow while on his way out of the KD Singh Babu Stadium after a practice session. The police filed murder charges against Modi’s wife Ameeta Modi and her lover (and future husband) Sanjay Singh, who were having an extra-marital affair at that time.
In April 2008, Biranchi Das, who coached child marathon runner Budhia Singh, was gunned down in Bhubaneswar at his judo training centre by Odisha gangsters Raja Acharya and Chagala who are serving life imprisonment.
Sippy Sidhu, a national level shooter and a lawyer, was shot in a park in Sector 27 of Chandigarh on September 20, 2015. He had won his team a Gold, along with Abhinav Bindra in the Punjab National Games in 2001.
Haryana, specifically Rohtak, has given India many sportspersons who have performed exceptionally well in various sports. The region is also known for gang wars and a culture of revenge and instant retributions. Not surprisingly, the State has seen a rise in crime rate when it comes to riots, retribution crimes like murder and crime against women.
“Crimes that involve revenge indicate two things — a person, who commits a crime or is a victim of it, harbour feelings of revenge against each other. When any heinous crime takes place, most people want the harshest of punishments for such people. That’s the retributive theory of crime which society believes in. It’s only over a period of time that reformative theories have gained momentum where you talk about rehabilitation and reformation. While the law may have changed over time, people’s sentiments and culture of violence remained largely at the level whereby feelings are very strongly expressed by the people leading to taking them revenge.
“The failure of the criminal justice system and the lack of faith in our law enforcement machinery to provide justice is why people often take the law into their hands. It also indicates continued conflict between feudal and constitutional value systems. Haryana remains a rural and feudal culture where traditional justice systems like Khap Panchayats mete out verdicts based on what they think is right,” ,” Prof Vijay Raghavan, dean, Centre for Criminology and Justice at the Tata Institute for Social Sciences, explains.
That Sukhvinder was a victim of one such crime, therefore, doesn’t surprise many. But other villagers tell you that because he was such a promising player and would have brought much acclaim to the village, his death is a loss to them and the country.
Sukhvinder first came into the limelight when he won the District Level School Games of the Sports and Youth Welfare Department, Haryana, in 2005. He participated in the Junior National Kabaddi Championship in Madhya Pradesh in 2009 and bagged the coveted Colonel Dharam Singh Sharma Award of Excellence for his exemplary kabaddi performance.
“His life was centred around kabaddi. His day used to start at 4:30 am with a 10 km jog, a race with his friends and playing kabaddi. He used to return by 7:30 am and then go to the field to help his father and work for the welfare of the school with other youth club members,” a village elder says.
Coming from an Army background, Sukhvinder wanted to join the Haryana Police.
“He got through the selections and was waiting to clear his physical examination when he was killed so brutally. He was also preparing for the selections of the Pro Kabaddi League,” Sukhvinder’s cousin Vinod tells you. Vinod was a child when he lost his parents and Sukhvinder took care of him.
“Just like his own younger brother,” Vinod says. Considering that he participated in induction training programmes for National Youth Corps at Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan Haryana (2014), Northern Region Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institute (2014) and Computer Education Programme of Directorate of School Education by NICT, Sukhvinder had made a well-defined roadmap for a career ahead.
Though Sukhvinder was getting several marriage proposals, he had set aside everything to focus on his dream of playing kabaddi for Team India.
“Mujhe bahut garv mehsoos hota tha jab main apne bete ko kabaddi khelte dekhta thha. Woh sabka dil khush rakhta thha, sabki madud karke. Kheti mein mera haath batata thha. Kabhi kissi cheez ki chinta nahi hoti thhi. Uski shaadi ke liye achhey rishtey aane lagey thhey, par woh kehta thha ki abhi usey khel me aagey badhna hai. Saath khana khana, uthna baithna, hansi mazaak karna… ek dost ke jaisa thha woh. Usne bahut kuch socha thha sabke liye, par uski soch uske saath chali gayi,”
(I used to feel proud every time I saw my son play kabaddi. He used to make everyone happy and help them in need. He would help me in the fields and that would make me carefree. He was getting good marriage proposals but he would always say that he wanted to make a place for himself in the game. We would eat together and laugh together; he was like a friend to me. He had planned so many things for all of us but it has now all gone with him) Narwahl tells you.
It was not just sports that Sukhvinder was good at. He was also brilliant at academics and was an outstanding alumnus of the Government Model Senior Secondary School. He enrolled for BA from Panjab University’s DAV College through sports quota. During his graduation days, he trained under coach Bharam Prakash. But then he started falling ill and that affected his studies so much that he had to give it up and return home, but he didn’t ever give up on his passion for kabaddi.
“I saw a spark in him. He had a great sportsmanship spirit. He used to touch his guru’s feet and ask about their welfare. I taught him Political Science in 2010-2011 and he would always score marks in 60s. Unlike other students, who used to bunk classes, he would come to me and ask for leave for his kabaddi matches. Even after the tournament, he used to offer gratitude to us for giving him permission,” Jai Bhagwan, a teacher of Political Science at his school, recalls.
“Other students used to give a tough time to teachers. Sukhvinder formed a committee to deal with such trouble-makers. He organised poverty eradication, awareness programmes and cleanliness drives. The last talk I had with him was about children who would urinate on the school’s boundary wall. His club had helped many children by providing them with sports shoes, school shoes, winter clothes. He organised several sports and cultural activities,” Hooda says.
(The article was published in the Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/special/revenge-killing.html).