Chhota Rajan arrested in Indonesia

The Indonesian authorities are believed to have initiated steps for Rajan’s deportation to India.

October 26, 2015 09:24 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 03:53 pm IST - New Delhi

A file photo of Chhota Rajan.

A file photo of Chhota Rajan.

Fugitive underworld don Chhota Rajan, one of India’s most wanted criminals and a leading figure in the Mumbai underworld, was arrested at Bali in Indonesia on Sunday. Rajan gained widespread sympathy and public attention after he broke away from Dawood Ibrahim gang, condemning it for carrying out the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai.

The Indonesian authorities are believed to have initiated steps for Rajan’s deportation to India. Confirming the don’s arrest, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the media that the Central Bureau of Investigation and other security agencies are in touch with their Indonesian counterparts to expedite Rajan’s deportation. Mr. Singh said the Indian government had been trying to arrest Rajan for a long time and had made a request to Interpol in this regard. "We had issued a notice (through the Interpol)," he said.

“It is a major success. The CBI had been pursuing the matter with the Australian authorities and this led to Rajan’s arrest by the Bali Police,” said CBI spokesperson Devpreet Singh. A senior officer said that it was the CBI which alerted the Australian authorities about Rajan’s presence in their country, and his planned trip to Bali.

Tipped off by the Australian authorities from Canberra, the Indonesian police intercepted Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje alias Chotta Rajan soon after he landed at Denpasar airport in Bali. His arrest was on the basis of an Interpol red-corner notice issued against him way back in 1995 for committing criminal acts such as murder, running an organised crime syndicate, conspiracy etc.

The police seized an Indian passport issued in the name of Mohan Kumar from the 55-year-old gangster. Suspected to be involved in over 20 murder cases, Rajan had been living in Australia for the past seven years under an assumed name. He flew out to Bali from Sydney on board a Garuda Indonesia flight.

Though India has no extradition treaty with Indonesia, officials said they were confident that Rajan would soon be deported, as in the case of Anil Bastawade, a key accused in the money laundering case against former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda. Bastawade was deported from Indonesia in 2013.

Rajan’s arrest in the latest twist in the dramatic life of the lower middleclass boy from Chembur, who took to crime early in school, joined Dawood Ibrahim gang, and split away from the most powerful underworld don protesting against the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts.

Reports emerged in summer that Dawood gang had made elaborate plan to attack Rajan in Australia. Alerted in time, Rajan had yet another narrow escape. In September 2000, he was not so lucky when a hit squad led by Dawood’s lieutenant Chhota Shakeel tracked him down to a hotel in Bangkok, killing his associate Rohit Varma and his wife. Despite bullet injuries, Rajan managed to escape and was admitted to a hospital, from where he slipped away and went underground.

School dropout who turned gangster

Born in a lower middle class family in Central Mumbai’s Chembur suburb, Rajan grew up with two brothers and a sister. His father worked as a shopkeeper with a pharmaceutical company. Rajan dropped out of a municipal school after Class V. In 1974-75, he joined gangster Rajan Nair alias Bada Rajan’s gang that was chiefly into selling black market movie tickets. The gang was also involved in running gambling rackets. People started calling him Chhota Rajan soon.

Rajan took over the gang’s reins after his mentor was eliminated by a rival gang in 1983. In no time, Rajan started working with Dawood Ibrahim and soon became a close aide, to the discomfort of some other members of D gang.

After the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts, Rajan parted ways with the alleged mastermind Dawood Ibrahim, accusing him of indulging in “anti-national activities”, to run a parallel gang. What followed was a bloody gang war that saw many on both sides getting killed. In his interviews to the media, Rajan said he would go to any extent to eliminate Dawood.

Rajan played a crucial role in eliminating several key Dawood aides, and also in disrupting many of his financial interests in Mumbai. In the post-Mumbai blast phase, Rajan also began to enjoy good contact with many in the security establishment, and he became an important tool in the all out efforts to finish off Dawood gang.

In recent years, Rajan was known for his boisterous claims, and had a nomadic life, moving from country to country, seeking safe hideout. Many intelligence operatives believed that he was past his prime, and was spending a peaceful life away from the bloodied underworld operations.

As much as it is about him, the arrest of Rajan is also about the renewed focus on Dawood Ibrahim, his mentor-turned-rival, whose shadow hangs over a large part of Indian security establishment discourse in recent months.

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