Awards for the first position in a relay race, second position in a 200 metre race, and third positions in both long and high jump, at a school-level competition, were placed neatly over the bed where her father lay, shattered and dazed, his 20-year-old daughter, Nisha Dahiya, an upcoming trainee wrestler, shot dead the previous afternoon (Wednesday) along with her brother by her coach Pawan inside a wrestling academy.
While her 18-year-old brother Suraj was allegedly chased to death by Mr. Pawan and his associates, their mother Dhanpati, is fighting for her life at the Pandit Bhagwat Dayal Sharma Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Rohtak, after sustaining gunshot injuries on her spine and arms. Nisha and Suraj were the youngest among four siblings.
At his modest two-room house in a narrow bylane at Sonipat’s Halalpur village, their father Dayanand Dahiya (50), his eyes downcast all the while, has trouble putting his feelings into words. “She was such a bright and focused child...Nisha had won several school and university-level wrestling awards. She also won second place at the All India Inter-University competition in Aurangabad in the 52 kg category. Had she been given proper guidance and training, she would have done the country proud and won an Olympic medal,” Mr. Dahiya told The Hindu .
Posted as an Inspector with the Central Reserve Police Force at Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian, Mr. Dahiya said that he always fulfilled her daughter’s needs when it came to her diet or wrestling equipment. “She joined Pawan’s coaching academy three years back, and before that she was training for three years at a wrestling institute in Nangal. I gave her money whenever she needed...what was the need to kill her? What had her brother done that his life was also snuffed out?” he asked.
Mr. Dahiya added that it had only been three months since Nisha had started complaining about molestation by Mr. Pawan to her mother. “I always had my doubts about the coach...he used to brainwash Nisha and several others in his academy and extort money from them on the pretext of helping them win international medals. He was a bad character and I even warned him but gave in due to my daughter’s career,” he rued. Nisha was studying at a college in Delhi’s Kanjawala.
Her brother Suraj, who was about to turn 19 on November 30, was enrolled in a computer skills course at a Delhi-based institute and had recently completed his Class 12. “We were of the same age and even Suraj’s birthday was this month (November). We frequently talked over phone,” his cousin brother Deepak said.
Just like any other day, on Wednesday, Nisha left for training at around 8 a.m. to the Sushil Kumar Training Academy, came back at 1 p.m., and then went back again. At around 2 p.m., Mr. Pawan called Suraj and told him that Nisha had taken ill, and asked him to pick her up. When Suraj, with his mother Ms. Dhanpati on pillion, reached the academy, a scuffle broke out and the coach, along with his accomplices, shot Nisha dead in cold blood; shot her mother, who ran towards the neighbouring Nahri village; and chased Suraj to death as he ran towards their home.
According to Ms. Dhanpati’s police statement, when she and her son reached the academy, Mr. Pawan, his wife and other relatives were present and they followed Nisha to the gate. “Nisha told me that the coach had molested her again and threatened her of consequences if she revealed it to anyone...following this, he shot her,” the statement read.
Nisha’s neighbours remember a disciplined wrestler whom they mostly saw in and out of training, “minding her own business”. “‘Ram Ram tauji (uncle)’ was how she greeted everyone while on her way to the academy. She helped us whenever required. I still cannot believe we have lost her,” said Subhash Chander, a neighbour.
Laxmi, another neighbour, recalled: “Both Suraj and Nisha lived a very simple life and never had any enmity with anyone. We never expected this to happen.”
The academy, about a kilometre from Nisha’s house, was vandalised by locals after the incident. Though no links have emerged to the Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, Mr. Pawan is said to have been “inspired” by Mr. Kumar. There are several pictures of Mr. Kumar and Mr. Pawan adorning the walls of the academy.
Haryana police on Thursday arrested the main accused, Mr. Pawan, his wife Sujata, and his brother-in-law Amit, in connection with the incident. Assistant Superintendent of Police (Kharkhoda) Mayank Gupta said, “We have deployed four police teams to nab the other accused persons, and a reward of ₹1 lakh has been announced for their arrest, in discussion with the village panchayat.”