Twenty-five years after he fled India, fugitive underworld don Chhota Rajan alias Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, a one-time trusted aide of Dawood Ibrahim-turned-bitter foe, who is wanted for heinous crimes ranging from murder and extortion to smuggling, drug trafficking and threatening Bollywood personalities, was arrested by a joint Australian and Bali police team in Bali on Sunday .His dramatic apprehension, after evading the law for decades and surviving at least one assassination bid by the D-gang, was based on an Interpol red-corner notice and an affirmation of the don's identity by the CBI. Rajan was hiding in Australia for the last seven years under the identity of Mohan Kumar, sources said.
Dubbed as the `Hindu don' after he fell out with Dawood following the 1993 Mumbai bombings, Rajan was often seen as an `asset' by Indian agencies as they sought to counter the D-gang. But as his crimes piled up and his utility diminished, the operation to nab Rajan is said to have been in the works and his presence in Bali offered an opportunity to pick him up as Indonesian procedures to bring him back to India are seen to be simpler.
Rajan begun his descent into a world of crime as a petty black marketer of cinema tickets in the 1970-80s.From there he graduated to bigger crimes and won Dawood's recognition to become one of his key aides and a ruthless criminal.
Sources said Australia tipped Interpol about Rajan while processing a visa extension request from him. Interpol contacted CBI, which confirmed the applicant was indeed the subject of a redcorner notice issued at its behest in 1994. Soon, Australian agencies contacted Indonesian authorities about Rajan's travel to Bali from Sydney , leading to his detention on arrival.
While the clock began ticking for Rajan after the tip-off, CBI received the go ahead to seek his arrest and return to India from the top-levels of the government. The agency , which is the nodal agency for Interpol in India, was in touch with Australia and Indonesia as the moves to nab the don began to gather momentum.
Government sources said a CBI and Mumbai Police team will travel to Indonesia to process his deportation, after which he will be in the custody of Mumbai police. Rajan is at present being interrogated by Bali police and Indian in telligence officials stationed in Bali, said officials.
Indonesian officials are positive about Rajan being handed over to India “without delay“, perhaps as early as by this weekend, with India and Indonesia having in August signed a pact for deportation of wanted persons and cooperation in criminal investigations.
The don's arrest sparked intense speculation over why he had turned from being an `asset' against Dawood to someone India wanted to bring to book.Some felt that he had gradually become a headache for Indian agencies while others argued that the D-gang was once again closing in on him and apprehending Rajan was now necessary for his safety after reports in July revealed that he was in Australia. After he parted ways with Dawood Ibrahim in mid-90s, Chhota Rajan decided to work in league with Indian intelligence agencies to undermine his former boss's syndicate. Though he was initially used to counter and neutralise rival underworld gangs led by Dawood and top aide Chhota Shakeel, he seemed to have outlived his utility for a while now, said a senior intelligence official. In fact, a debate was underway within the security establishment as to whether it should continue to go soft on Rajan, especially in the wake of his alleged role in the murder of Mid-Day journalist J Dey in Mumbai in June 2011.
Top sources also suggested that Chhota Rajan had lately made a serious error, which irked New Delhi and precipitated his arrest. However, it is not clear whether this “mistake“ related to Australia not being happy with him staying there, his travel plans, purported double-crossing of Indian agencies, or some other incident. It is also being investigated whether Rajan broke any law in Australia, or if he was feeling the country because his cover had perhaps been blown.
Describing the don's arrest as a “major success“, Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said efforts were being made to bring him back to India. His No. 2 Kiren Rijiju said the arrest was the culmination of “close coordination between Indonesia, Australia and India“. CBI director Anil Sinha said that “Bali police arrested Rajan on the request of Interpol's Delhi office“ and that “it worked in cooperation with Australia and Indonesia in capturing him“.
The 55-year old don, who went by the name `Nana' in the Mumbai underworld in the late 1980s and early 90s, escaped at least one assassination attempt by the `D' Company after he split from it in the wake of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts.