Prelude to operation Dawood or return of a ‘friendly’ don?

There is a renewed vigour to hunt down India's enemy No. 1 Ibrahim, ever since Narendra Modi government came to power

October 27, 2015 03:21 am | Updated November 16, 2021 03:53 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Joint Commissioner of Police Himanshu Roy (C) displaying the weapons recovered from Chhota Rajan gang in Mumbai.

Joint Commissioner of Police Himanshu Roy (C) displaying the weapons recovered from Chhota Rajan gang in Mumbai.

Ever since the Modi government came to power last summer, the Indian security establishment has acquired a new vigour in hunting India’s enemy number one — Dawood Ibrahim. His associate-turned-arch-rival Chhota Rajan was expected to play a part in the hunt that was expected to partly define Modi government’s security posture.

Rajan’s meek surrender in picturesque Bali wasn’t part of the narrative that many in the security establishment had been speculating for sometime now. Or, is it a masterstroke to secure the friendly don, as the hunt for Dawood reaches its climax?

For those watching the underworld, Rajan’s arrest is intriguing for many reasons. After the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, of which Dawood was allegedly a key conspirator, Rajan proudly displayed his Hindu credentials to move away from Dawood and cosy up to Indian agencies.

Crucial role In the years after the serial blasts, Rajan’s gang played a crucial role in neutralising many of Dawood’s associates and financial assets. His role was crucial to the Mumbai police and intelligence agencies that were overwhelmed by the communal flare-ups and the deep tentacles of Dawood gang in the commercial capital and global financial markets.

The most vivid record of Rajan’s links to the Indian agencies came in 2005, when his associate Vicky Malhotra was intercepted on a Delhi road while travelling with Ajit Doval, the present National Security Advisor. A U.S. embassy cable that emerged later said: “The media originally speculated that the IB wanted to use Malhotra to target and kill Ibrahim if he travelled to Dubai to attend the reception [for his daughter’s wedding]. According to this theory, Doval acted as the conduit between the IB and Malhotra.”

Two explanations For all these years, Indian intelligence knew Rajan’s exact location. The question then is why did the CBI suddenly alert the foreign polices about an international alert issued some two decades ago? Why would a man with such close ties to the Indian security establishment suddenly face arrest in Bali?

There are only two explanations: One is that he is no more of any use. The other is that Rajan’s surrender is a masterstroke to ensure that he is deported to the safety of Indian jail.

In recent months, some developments have given a hint of what Rajan’s life had become. Intercepts had showed that Chhota Shakeel, Dawood’s Man Friday, had planned to eliminate Rajan in Australia. But Rajan was tipped off well in time. Despite his efforts to withdraw into anonymity and peace, his past kept catching up with Rajan.

Of late, Rajan was known more for his bluster in media than anything else. Many observers had deduced that he had withdrawn into a post-crime life of peace somewhere in Australia.

Many are wondering if Rajan was acting out a script to secure himself in an Indian jail, rather than roam around perpetually haunted by threat from his rivals, especially Dawood. Or if he was of no use any more to the Indian agencies, and they decided to score one last point with his arrest.

If Rajan’s plan was to secure himself in an Indian jail, then the coming days could be bloody in the Mumbai underworld. He wouldn’t have been offered this safe passage into India without a bargain.

And that bargain could only be about Dawood.

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