If the allegations are true, Indian police have their hands on one of the most prolific hit men and gang leaders operating in the criminal underworld that thrives in the shadow of India’s economic boom. Jagghu Pehelwan is charged with 31 murders, but the inspector who arrested him believes he’s responsible for more than 150 (among his secondary charges are kidnapping, extortion and gun smuggling). His alleged victims include politicians, businessmen and gangsters—the same groups that are said to have paid him to kill.
Police say Pehelwan—a 285-lb., 28-year-old man from a poor village—first killed for cash as a teenager in 1998. By his early 20s, he was allegedly an accomplished car thief. In August, a special police operations unit tracked him down in the industrial city of Ghaziabad, where they arrested him after a brief gunfight. Since then, police say, Pehelwan has confessed to more than 100 killings. But Pehelwan maintains his innocence. He says police beat the confessions out of him—a charge the authorities deny. “I have never hurt anybody, let alone murdered someone,” Pehelwan told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in an interview from his prison cell. “I hope I will get out soon. I am praying for that.”