A history-sheeter, co-conspirator in a triple murder case, and member of the notorious Sonu Dariyapur gang, Parmeet Dabas has a very simple rugby bio. He was ‘Tom’, a prop in the forward pack, who kept things simple. Dabas was arrested on August 2 in connection with the murder of three people, including a police officer, in April.
His India teammate, Kamaldeep Dagar, a Delhi Police constable, remembers the training sessions spent chasing the “strong, brave” Dabas. Having last represented India together in 2015, the two were on first-name basis. The Delhi ruggers’ fascination for western sobriquets meant Dagar was called ‘Pepsi’, and Dabas was ‘Tom’. These were not aliases from Dariyapur, where the gangs of Satyawan alias Sonu and Bhupinder alias Monu Dariyapur — who was among the three allegedly killed by Dabas — routinely shed blood.
Dagar says it was when ‘Tom’ left the rugby pack that his life went off the rails and crime took over. Their lives forked apart. Dagar, son of a wrestler and policeman from Maidangarhi in South Delhi, joined the force. Dabas, from Dariyapur in Northwest Delhi, returned to crime.
“Till he was Tom on the rugby field, he could stay away from violence — which some of his relatives were a part of. Phir uski zindagi patri se utar gayi,” says Dagar. Excessive drinking, which led to a pancreatic surgery in April 2016, sent Dabas into debt, and dragged him back into the world which his immediate family had tried to stay away from. “When he was playing, his social life was the team, and that kept trouble at bay. But after the surgery, his condition deteriorated, financially and socially. He couldn’t play anymore. And he returned to crime,” recalls Dagar.
The 28-year-old had been a promising prop against China and Sri Lanka with India’s U-19s, owing to his wrestling background — he was Parmeet Pehlwaan before he was christened ‘Tom’. In his other life as a gang member, he was called ‘Bhanja’ (nephew), like Satyawan, the gang leader and older relative, was called ‘Sonu’ or ‘Mama’ (uncle). “He was quite a strong and brave player who did not try any fancy tricks, and stuck to basic rugby as we were told to do. But everything changed after the surgery — ‘Tom’ was told he’d never play rugby,” says Dagar. By May this year, Dabas was reported to be absconding, after Monu was shot.
When he started in the sport, Dabas had played for both of Delhi’s top clubs — Lions and Hurricanes. While there are many others who’ve played for the capital’s four rugby clubs in the last decade, Dabas had cracked the India colts’ U-19 squad, before the first transgression.
He was arrested with his friend, Sandeep Chawla, in a murder case in 2007. Dabas remained in jail for three years. After his release, he gave rugby another shot.
“His family stayed a little distance away from the rest of the relatives who were involved in crime… ‘Tom’ wanted to build a life around rugby, and for some time he thought it was possible. He wanted to work hard for his bread and butter, and, while he was attached with a sports team, it worked. But he was drinking too much… When the surgery ended his game and he disappeared, I knew he would fall into bad company again. Shaayad kuchh galat hua, ya usme laalach aa gaya (Maybe something bad happened, or maybe he got greedy),” says Dagar.
Dagar says he understands the circumstances, but cannot empathise with someone who is accused of staking out and gunning down a policeman who was guarding Monu. On April 30, Monu, his friend Arun Shetty and Delhi Police ASI Vijay Singh were sitting inside a car in Delhi’s Paschim Vihar area when they were shot by unidentified assailants on two bikes and a car.
“He was jolly and liked to party… he didn’t show any criminal tendencies when he was in the national camp. But I saw him fall into bad company twice. And he was caught both times,” says the fast-running flanker ‘Pepsi’, dropping the old nickname ‘Tom’ in his final assessment.