Chhota Rajan arrested in Bali: Here's what you need to know about the 'patriotic don'

A report on Monday said that the 55-year-old arrested by Indonesian police officials in Bali on Monday was Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje better known in Mumbai gangster lore as Chhota Rajan. If these reports are confirmed, it could represent the end of a more than two-decade-long run for Chhota Rajan as a fugitive.

 Chhota Rajan arrested in Bali: Heres what you need to know about the patriotic don

Chhota Rajan in a file photo. AFP

The son of a mill worker, Rajan who was born on 5 December, 1959, grew up in Tilak Nagar, Chembur. His life of crime began through touting movie tickets — reportedly outside Sahakar cinema — and scuffling with local gangs, under the mentorship of Rajan Nair, known as Bada Rajan.

It was in 1982 after Nair was shot dead at the Esplanade Court in South Mumbai that Rajan took on the moniker ‘Chhota Rajan’. It was a few years later that Rajan began a fruitful partnership with a gold and silver smuggler who was looking to expand operations and went by the name of Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar.

In the mid-1980s, when the Mumbai police began to intensify its hunt for Dawood, he fled to the UAE, specifically Dubai, leaving Rajan in charge of his Mumbai operations. Rajan surpassed his new boss’ expectations by expanding the gang’s operations to Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Eventually, the police made life in Mumbai impossible for Rajan, who also sought refuge in Dubai. And for a while, Rajan’s relationship with Dawood blossomed.

That is until 1992, when Subhash Thakur, a Dawood aide killed three of Rajan’s friends — reportedly at the behest of Dawood — and had Rajan in his crosshairs as well. Relations between Rajan and Dawood were affected, but they continued to work together until the 1993 Mumbai blasts. The two differed over carrying out the serial bomb blasts that killed over 350 across the city, and Rajan left Dubai.

It was around this time that he began positioning himself as the ‘patriotic don’, one who wouldn’t betray his country as Dawood had done. For the first time, Dawood had been cast as anti-national and since the blasts were believed to be anti-Hindu, Rajan claimed to have offered his services to protect the Shiv Sena and the Thackerays.

Over time, skirmishes between Dawood and Rajan’s respective gangs resulted in the deaths of over 100 their henchmen.

It was in the year 2000 that Dawood’s men embarked on their most audacious attack on Rajan at his home in Bangkok. Led by Chhota Shakeel, members of Dawood’s gang in the guise of pizza delivery men, attacked Rajan’s residence, killing his trustee aide Rohit Varma in the process. A bleeding Rajan was able to carry out a daring escape and was hospitalised. With the help of an aide, he fled the hospital too, evading arrest.

Over time, Rajan is believed to have become an informant for India’s intelligence agencies, supplying inputs about Dawood’s men and their activities — consolidating his credentials as the ‘patriotic don’. According to the red-corner notice issued by Interpol, Rajan is wanted for "Murder, Attempt to murder, Grievous hurt, etc. Attempt to murder, Arms Act. murder, conspiracy,  common intention, possession and use of illegal fire arms, organised crime syndicate".

In recent times, senior Mid-Day journalist J Dey was shot dead on 11 June, 2011, allegedly at the behest of Rajan — who was reportedly upset about some of Dey’s articles about him. Despite an interview in 2014 in which he maintained his innocence, the special MCOCA court in June this year, framed charges against Rajan and nine others in the murder of Dey.

In April 2014, reports did the rounds that Rajan was critically ill in Singapore, suffering from kidney troubles for which he had apparently been put on dialysis. If the man arrested on Monday in Bali is indeed Rajan, it remains to be seen just how much value he can add to future investigations by Indian authorities. But perhaps there may be some delayed justice.

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Updated Date: Oct 27, 2015 09:49:07 IST