Every 48 hours, several teams of the Delhi Police and the Haryana Police head to Dariyapur Kalan village on the outskirts of Delhi. Every time, they ask the same question — “Is there any news of Sonu Dariyapur?” — and get the same answer, “No.”
Their obsession is understandable. Sonu Dariyapur, born in 1981 as Satyawan Sehrawat, is Delhi’s most wanted criminal with a reward of Rs 5 lakh on his head — same as the reward for India’s most wanted terrorist and suspected Indian Mujahideen chief Amir Raza Khan. But Sonu wasn’t always public enemy number 1. While he was wanted in cases of murder, attempt to murder and extortion in Delhi and Haryana over the last eight years, he flew under the radar, especially after he shifted to Nepal in 2010.
That changed on April 30 this year, when Sonu and his associates allegedly gunned down his arch-rival Bhupender Dariyapur alias Monu, his friend Arun Shetty, and assistant sub-inspector Vijay Singh, who had been assigned as Monu’s security detail.
The audacity of the attack shook the security establishment — the assailants, including Sonu, had come on two bikes and a car, and pumped over 40 bullets into the three victims, who were sitting inside a vehicle near National Market. Suddenly, Sonu was on top of the wanted list.
But tracing him is easier said than done — the last photo Delhi Police have of him is from 2007. Those who know him say Sonu is proficient in covering his tracks. He never shares his personal life even with his closest associates, and those arrested in the triple murder told police that he kept the location of his hideouts in Delhi, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh close to his chest. Known for his fondness for SUVs whenever he is outside Delhi, he makes it a point to travel on a bike in the capital to keep a low profile.
But with the Special Cell and several police teams working round-the-clock to track him, they do know this: Sonu, who married twice and fathered four children, makes a living extorting money from cable operators and bookies in northwest Delhi, realtors in outer Delhi as well as toll booth collectors.
Residents of Dariyapur Kalan remember a time when Sonu and Monu were inseparable. “They were buddies and would play together for hours. They studied in a government school, but both fell into bad company after they joined an akhara. They stopped going to school. Sonu was in Class XI when he dropped out,” said a villager who did not wish to be named.
Some months later, Sonu joined a gym — the first to be opened in their village — and Monu followed him. “They formed a group called the ‘cobra gang’. They roped in 10-12 young boys to ‘make their name’ in the village. Sonu was obsessed with local criminals — even when he was later released on bail or parole, he would return to meet them,” he added.
An inmate lodged with Sonu during his stint in Tihar jail in 2008 echoed this: “He was obsessed with weapons and quite glad to associate his name with criminals — even those accused of murder. He would inquire about guns, gang wars, and how they eliminated their rivals.”
Sonu’s elder brother, Anil, was a local criminal as well, but he was soon overshadowed by the ‘cobra gang’, which grew in notoriety after its members started helping villagers with land grabbing. “The first time an FIR was lodged against Sonu was when he was 19. It was under IPC sections 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) and 341 (wrongful restraint). When he got out on bail, he and Monu decided to branch into the cable business as that was booming,” the inmate added.
In the early 2000s, Sonu and Monu attempted to take over a disputed property. “Simultaneously, they were trying to set up an extortion racket in outer Delhi to make money from local bookies. They would also extort local businesses. The gang had by now become infamous in the village. In 2002, Sonu was booked in a land grabbing case,” he said.
Some gangsters wear the cases against them as a badge of honour. Sonu, those who know him said, is one such criminal.
Undeterred by the arrests, he and Monu made inroads into the cable business. They also started duping people after financing cars and selling them illegally. Another FIR was registered against Sonu in 2004, this time at Shalimar Bagh police station. But up until 2006, the duo managed to steer clear of being connected with “heinous cases”.
“For a short period, Sonu was associated with gangster Sandeep Johar alias Sandeep Bhuri, wanted in cases of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping for extortion, and controlling the ‘tender mafia’ in Delhi. Bhuri shot himself after being surrounded by a Punjab police team in Ludhiana in 2003. His brief association with Bhuri emboldened Sonu, and he started kidnapping people. In 2006, an FIR was registered against him at Mangolpuri police station, when he abducted a local businessman,” a senior police officer said, adding that Sonu got bail in a few months.
A love story
In May, 2005, as Sonu married his first wife Manju, another love story had started to blossom. Sonu’s cousin Rajrani, who stayed in Rampura village, met Monu at the function, and the two exchanged numbers.
After several meetings, the two decided to get married. But while their families gave the go-ahead, Sonu objected to the union because they belonged to the same ‘gotra’.
“On October 8, 2006, Sonu, his brother Anil, and some associates threatened Monu at his home. They were mounting pressure, and he decided not to marry Rajrani. But on October 9, 2006, Monu received a call from her mother, saying her son Naresh and his cousins were planning to kill Rajrani. She asked Monu to take her some place safe. Monu and his friends rushed to Sonu’s house, where they found Rajrani being assaulted by her brothers. Monu managed to rescue her and they fled. The brothers gave chase and intercepted them near Punjabi Bagh, where they opened fire. The couple survived, but one of Monu’s friends, Braham Singh, died,” said an officer, quoting Monu’s statement recorded before a court.
In 2006, Sonu, Anil, Naresh and their associates were arrested and sent to Tihar jail. “Sonu’s family tried to compromise with Monu, and rumours go that he even gave him lakhs to turn hostile in court.
But he didn’t. By this time, people had started taunting Sonu — that he couldn’t even ‘save’ his own sister,” said a close relative.
Consumed by anger, Sonu, out on parole in 2009, allegedly killed Monu’s elder brother. He then jumped parole in 2009, and has been on the run ever since. At the time, a Rs 1 lakh reward was declared on his arrest. Meanwhile, in 2010, Monu was provided security detail. After the reward was announced, Sonu came on the radar of the Special Cell and the Crime Branch. Investigation revealed that Sonu had hired contract killers to eliminate Monu before the test identification parade.
“He hired Sombir and Raj Kumar, and the deal was struck at Rs 5 lakh. He gave Rs 2 lakh in advance and also promised them an AK-47. But both contract killers were arrested before they could target Monu,” an inspector-ranked officer, who has spent years trailing Sonu, said.
The inspector, set to retire in two years, recalled, “He is smart — he never uses mobile phones and meets contacts in person. My team found that he went into hiding in Nepal in 2010, and married another woman. In 2013, we received inputs that he would come to India for his mother’s funeral. My team was there, but we were instructed to conduct a raid elsewhere because BSP leader Deepak Bhardwaj had been murdered. We later discovered that Sonu had, in fact, come for the funeral with 50 associates,” he said.
Senior officers privately admit Sonu “should have been taken more seriously” when they had the chance to nab him. They also believe there are many “sympathisers” who give Sonu shelter because they believe he was right in killing Monu to “protect the family honour”. “After he returned to India from Nepal in 2013, he joined Manjeet Mahal’s gang. After some months, he left to work with Samundar Khatri,” an officer said. Police believe Sonu and Khatri were involved in a series of crimes, including two murders.
“Sonu eventually left Khatri because he used to drink, and Sonu didn’t want anyone compromising his location. He later allied with Naveen Khatri,” the officer said. But the thirst for revenge never left him. He was even more enraged by the fact that Monu, after getting police security, started “throwing parties at high-end hotels, procuring semi-automatic weapons and flaunting his lifestyle on Facebook,” an officer said.
At one point, Sonu returned to his village and vowed to end Monu’s life. DCP (special cell) P S Kushwah said to accomplish this, Sonu tied up with gangsters Rajesh alias Rajje and his friend Naresh alias Kala.
On the fateful day, Sonu had only one instruction for those who accompanied him: No matter how many people get killed, Monu must not survive.
A close associate of Sonu, he was arrested in 2009. But he has been absconding since 2014, after he killed a Delhi Police constable. Khatri is alleged to have been involved in several cases with Sonu — many of them unsolved.
According to police, Naveen was part of the conspiracy to kill Monu. He was arrested after the April 30 murders
Sonu’s most high-profile associate, Mahal is currently lodged in Tihar jail. He is one of Delhi’s most dreaded gangsters, allegedly involved in a series of murders, extortions and other heinous crimes in the capital and neighbouring states. Mahal was also allegedly involved in the murder of Bharat Singh, the former Indian National Lok Dal MLA from Najafgarh
And his nemesis:
Bhupender Dariyapur alias Monu was Sonu’s childhood friend and, later, a part of his ‘cobra gang’. The two gained notoriety together, but had a falling out after Monu fell for Sonu’s cousin sister — a relationship he disapproved of. Monu was among the three men gunned down by armed assailants in April this year — a murder that led to Sonu becoming the capital’s most wanted man.