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‘Coach called Nisha to academy, molested her, then shot her dead’, Haryana wrestler’s mother says

Nisha Dahiya & her brother Sooraj were shot dead Wednesday on the outskirts of village Halalpur, where prime suspect Pawan Kumar runs a wrestling academy.

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Sonepat: Police in Sonepat Thursday arrested two people in connection with the murder of a budding wrestler, Nisha Dahiya, 21, and her teenage brother that took place Wednesday.

The accused have been identified as the wife and brother of the prime suspect in the case, Nisha’s wrestling coach Pawan Kumar.

Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Mayank Gupta told ThePrint that the coach’s wife Sujata and his brother-in-law Amit were among four people present when Pawan opened fire.

“Searches are still on to look for Pawan, who is the main accused. A man named Sachin, another relative of Pawan, is also on the run,” he added.

Speaking about the suspected motive, Gupta said, “The mother of the woman has alleged that the coach used to molest her (Nisha) on several occasions. The woman had also complained about it to her family and mother. She, however, never approached police with any such complaint. The motive will become clear once the main accused is arrested and questioned.” 

Nisha Dahiya | By special arrangement
Nisha Dahiya | By special arrangement

The Dahiya siblings were shot dead Wednesday on the outskirts of village Halalpur, where Kumar runs a wrestling academy named after Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar, who is currently in jail for alleged murder. Their mother was also shot at. She sustained serious injuries and is currently undergoing treatment in hospital. 

The murders came to light in a haze of confusion Wednesday evening as several media outlets mistook the victim for another namesake wrestler, Nisha Dahiya, who won a bronze at the Senior U23 World Wrestling Championships 2021 earlier this week.  

Condolence messages subsequently flooded Twitter before world medalist Dahiya released a video to claim she was safe. The real identity of the victims then emerged.

According to the family of the victims, Nisha secured the second position in the All India Inter University Championship at Aurangabad in 2019, and wanted to become an ace wrestler. She was preparing to participate in an international wrestling event, they added.

Nisha, who also has two married sisters, is believed to have started training at Pawan Kumar’s academy three years ago. 

Speaking to ThePrint about the molestation allegations, their father Dayanand, a CRPF trooper currently posted in Jammu & Kashmir, said she “had complained about misbehaviour and molestation in the past”.

Nisha and Sooraj's father Dayanand (seated on bed) at the family's home | Sukriti Vats | ThePrint
Nisha and Sooraj’s father Dayanand (seated on bed) at the family’s home | Sukriti Vats | ThePrint

“I knew this academy had no value, nobody knew him. He used to deceive her in the name of giving her opportunities. I had told Nisha I will get her admitted to a better academy in Rohtak or Panipat, but she didn’t listen to me,” he added.

Also Read: Mud, medals, money, even murder – Inside India’s secretive akhadas, beyond Sushil Kumar

Villagers angry

Residents of Halalpur have been trying to wrap their heads around the crime and there is deep anger against prime suspect Pawan, who is married to a native of the village. 

Neighbours described the victims as “seedhe, saade bacche (simple kids)” who were also good at studies. Nisha was a student at Aditi Mahavidyalaya in Bawana, while Sooraj had just passed his Class 12 with 85 per cent and was preparing for JBT (junior basic training), a teaching course popular among the youth of Haryana.

Sooraj Dahiya | By special arrangement
Sooraj Dahiya | By special arrangement

After their murder, fuming villagers Wednesday evening broke down the walls of the academy, adorned with huge posters and pictures of Sushil Kumar, and set the building on fire.  

According to the alleged sequence of events, pieced together from the mother’s statement to police (accessed by ThePrint), the coach called Nisha to the academy around 1.30 pm. He then allegedly called her mother Dhanpati to come and pick her up.

When Dhanpati arrived at the academy with her son Sooraj, 19, Nisha accused the coach of molestation. He then allegedly shot her. When Sooraj and Dhanpati tried to escape, he chased them and opened fire. 

“The details of the timeline of the crime and how many bullets were fired will be clear after the investigation and autopsy. The family has said they will not interfere with the police investigation,” ASP Gupta said.

Sonepat police have announced a Rs 1 lakh reward for information that leads to the arrest of Pawan, who is believed to be a native of Baland village. 

The villagers were earlier planning to not hold the funerals until the capture of the culprits but went ahead after a closed-door meeting between family members, the panchayat and the district administration.

Asked about the allegations of molestation made by Nisha’s family, many villagers said they “were not aware of Pawan’s behaviour”. He was just known as a “damad (son-in-law)” of the village.

A woman who did not wish to disclose her name said her 14-year-old grandson used to attend the academy regularly, but never complained of any ill-behaviour by Pawan. Two other villagers whose children attended the academy echoed the claim.

“A murderer is only revealed as a murderer after he has killed someone,” added another villager who didn’t wish to be named.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: Day after Padma Shri, Haryana wrestler starts protest in Delhi over ‘unfair’ treatment by state


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