How Rajendra Nikalje turned into Chhota Rajan
One of India's most wanted gangsters, Chhota Rajan, was nabbed in Indonesia after eluding law enforcement agencies for over two decades. A recap of how he rose to prominence in the underworld
>> Born in Tilak Nagar, where his family still resides, it is said poverty and illiteracy forced Chhota Rajan to take up black-marketing of film tickets. He did this in the 1970s and ‘80s at Sahakar Cinema in Tilak Nagar.
>> He was under the tutelage of Rajan Mahadev Nair alias Bada Rajan who then headed a small gang and worked with underworld don Vardarajan Mudliar. An ambitious Rajan soon graduated from a petty criminal to become the right-hand man of Bada Rajan.
>> In 1983, Bada Rajan was shot dead in South Mumbai by Chandrasekhar Safalika and Abdul Kunju.
>> The killing of his mentor was avenged by Rajan who tipped off Inspector Emmanuel Amolik who killed Safalika in an encounter.
Chhota Rajan. Pic/ PTI
>> Kunju was killed by don Rama Naik’s men in Chembur while playing cricket, at the behest of Rajan. These two killings helped Rajan stamp his name in the underworld.
>> Dawood Ibrahim needed a strong man who would look after the gangland activities in Mumbai. He selected Rajan for the job.
>> Till 1993, Rajan-Dawood had become a deadly combination in Mumbai’s underworld, said police.
>> The serial blasts on March 12, 1993, in which Dawood was one of the conspirators changed equations in gangland. Chhota Rajan split from him.
Rajan’s crime sheet
The arrest of Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje alias Chhota Rajan (55) is a crucial and important one for the Mumbai police. The city police have registered around 70 cases directly naming Rajan, while his involvement has been listed in several other cases. Here’s a brief criminal history of the captured fugitive:
Rajan has been active as a criminal from the late ‘80s. The first FIR against Rajan was registered in 1978 in Tilak Nagar police station in Chembur, his home turf. He was charged for rioting, assault and attempt to murder in the same case. Born and brought up in Chembur, Rajan has very strong hold in the area.
During his early days as a criminal, he used to sell cinema tickets in black outside Sahakar Cinema. Rajan mostly has extortion cases registered against him. He is accused of extorting several builders and businessmen.
J Dey murder
Rajan is connected to the murder of mid-day’s crime and investigations editor, J Dey. Rajan’s men allegedly murdered Dey on June 11, 2011. Satish Kalia, the prime accused in the murder, was allegedly approached to organise a perfect plan to eliminate Dey at Rajan’s behest.
JJ Hospital shootout
He is said to have been involved in the JJ Hospital shootout on September 12, 1992. The incident is known as one of the most sensational gang war shootouts. This was the time when he was associated with Dawood Ibrahim.
Over 20 people with AK-47s barged into ward no 18 of JJ Hospital and opened fire on Shailesh Haldankar. Haldankar was a member of Arun Gawli’s gang and had been admitted to the hospital for treatment.
Haldankar was killed to avenge the murder of gangster Dawood Ibrahim’s brother-in-law Ismail Parkar, who was married to Dawood’s sister Haseena Parkar. The two constables who were guarding Haldankar were also killed in the shootout.
Rajan’s men also fired at Dawood Ibrahim’s brother, Iqbal Kaskar house on May 17, 2011. Two gunmen had fired outside Kaskar’s house on Pakmodia Street in south Mumbai, killing Kaskar’s bodyguard and driver Arif Syed Abu Bukha. However, Kaskar was not present at the time of firing.
Trade union leader murder
Rajan’s associates are accused of carrying out the killing of trade union leader Datta Samant. On January 16, 1997, Samant was gunned down and murdered outside his house in Mumbai by a contract killer.
Another important case, in which Rajan was allegedly involved, is the attack on hotelier BR Shetty in Oshiwara in November 2012 outside a mall in Andheri. Shetty, who runs a chain of hotels in Mumbai, Dubai and Malaysia, was shot at by Rajan’s trusted aide, Satish Kalia.
Rajan is also said to be involved in the firing case on bookie-turned-builder Ajay Gosalia in 2013. Rajan is also involved in the murder of East West Airline director Thakkiyudin Wahid in Bandra in 1995. Thakkiyudin had started India’s first private airline company and was said to be close to Dawood Ibrahim.