Written by Titha Ghosh
Video and Editing by Ishita Kumar
“Kala shot the leader of his rival gang and became infamous across all nearby villages. No one would dare to harm this business he has established,” said Praveen in a low voice, as if apprehensive of being overhead while we sat in an empty ‘Bite’ owned by Sandeep Kumar, a convicted murderer and arsonist currently serving his term in prison.
Sonipat is a city in Haryana, located about 20 kilometers from the country’s capital that has become home to over a dozen reputed private universities as a result of the Haryana government’s ‘Rajiv Gandhi Education city’ initiative. Naturally, the city has witnessed a surge of collegegoers in the last five years.
This has popularized the concept of shack establishments within the city that act as a more grassroot equivalent for night clubs that are open to underage students for parties all seven days of the week. “Students started coming and looking for drinking spaces, so villagers began coming up with the idea to run businesses of such thekas to accommodate them,” said Gautam, a local cab driver stationed outside O.P. Jindal Global University.
‘Bite’, a shack of similar bearing, that is allegedly run by the family of Sandeep Kumar (colloquially known as Kala), has garnered considerable amount of attention within the student community and the villagers over the last couple years. However, what is not discussed as publicly, is its sudden rise in popularity while managing to bypass any intervention from the state’s law enforcement and the simultaneous shutdown of competing shacks like Royal Kings or Baba Dhaba. “No villager will be comfortable commenting on the Royal King’s fiasco, but we know students cannot go there anymore,” said a grocery store owner who shares walls with the foreign liquor shop that sells to Bite customers.
Located ten minutes away from two of the largest universities within Sonipat, Bite is practically an open ground that has a liquor shop and a tiny kitchen area that serves to its customers. At the entrance sits the three brothers of Sandeep Kumar in rotation, to sell cigarettes, soft drinks and plastic tableware. They charge Rs 100 per person for entry and can host up to 200 persons on its grounds. “We open at 5 pm every day and do not allow locals or outsiders to enter. We believe it can hamper the safety of students who come here,” stated Rajeev Kumar, the youngest brother seated at the counter.
The cab drivers outside these universities that drive students to Bite believe, it is Kala’s power and relations with the local police is the reason Bite has managed to survive as a monopoly that only caters to students although he is presently in prison.
Daily visiting students, who are all below the age of 25, claim that the level of safety that they can expect while at Bite is dangerously low. However, the lack of other party spaces negates all other options for them. “Bite owners say the area is safe, but we know that is a lie. It’s in the middle of nowhere on deserted highway, where we can stay out till the break of dawn without any supervision,” said a student and daily-goer at Bite. “It is freedom at the expense of safety, an exchange we have had to accept because there is nothing else to do in Sonipat,” she added.
All of this exists within a 5 km radius of the Narela Police Station, but they do not interfere in the matters of Bite claims Praveen, a worker at Bite. “They paid 21 Lakhs to the nearby hattah to run this place. The police are aware, but because of the deal they have struck they will never raid Bite,” he continued.
According to Praveen, Sanjeev led a gang from Jagdishpur village and had sour relations with gangs of other villages. A member of his rival gang had come up with the idea of Royal Kings, which he had established without a legal license. As the number of students began increasing in the area, Royal Kings started making large sums of profit. Inspired by its growth in a short span of time, Kala opened Bite in 2017 without acquiring a license. “The men of the rival gang brought it to the police’s notice and Bite was raided and shut down. Beyond that all I know is that a member of their gang was killed one night on a wheat field and Kala was held accountable for his murder,” said Praveen, in the same whispering tone.
Within days, Royal King’s was raided, and its owner was imprisoned for running a business for underage drinkers illegally. The word spread across villages was that Sanjeev had escaped prison and was the mastermind of the incident. Locals do not feel comfortable sharing details of these events with the public and when asked how Sandeep’s family managed to reopen Bite after competing businesses ceased to exist, they said, “What will you do with the nitty-gritties? Kala is a very powerful man who is obeyed by all, and no one can harm his business anymore.”
The cab drivers outside these universities that drive students to Bite believe, it is Kala’s power and relations with the local police is the reason Bite has managed to survive as a monopoly that only caters to students although he is presently in prison. However, when asked where Kala is now, his brothers responded, “He is away for business, and we are in-charge.”
Here is what he had to say: