Prize Catch Of Chhota Rajan
FRONTLINE|November 27, 2015
Prize Catch Of Chhota Rajan
The intelligence apparatus hopes the arrest of Chhota Rajan will lead to information that helps bring Dawood Ibrahim to book, but many people feel that a breakthrough may be unlikely.
Anupama Katakam

Indian investigating agencies have finally landed a big fish. Chhota Rajan, a notorious criminal and one of the biggest dons of Mumbai’s underworld, has been arrested in Indonesia and brought back to the country to be tried for a staggering 68 crimes. It is another issue that the agencies could have landed this catch much earlier.

The arrest of Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, better known as Chhota Rajan, will help crack several high-profile cases, police sources said. These include the murders of the trade union leader Datta Samant and the journalist Jyotirmoy Dey and a host of others and a number of extortion cases. The authorities, particularly the Intelligence Bureau (I.B.), are also hoping the gangster will reveal much-needed information on his arch-enemy and an even more dangerous criminal, Dawood Ibrahim. “This is questionable,” said a retired police officer who was closely involved in Rajan’s cases. “In all these years, Rajan has done little to lead them to Ibrahim. I don’t know how much use he will be. It might be too late. However, you never know, there may be a breakthrough.”

Chhota Rajan was taken into custody on October 26 when he landed at the picturesque island of Bali in Indonesia. According to police sources, he was travelling under the name of Mohan Kumar and flew in from Australia, where he had reportedly been living for several years. He was apparently travelling to renew his Australian visa.

On the basis of an Interpol tip-off and a “red corner” notice from the Canberra police about the possibility of a notorious criminal on the run, the Indonesian police nabbed Chhota Rajan at Bali airport. They handed him over to the Indian authorities after the identification and verification procedures were completed. Media reports said he gave himself up willingly. For a gangster who has worn the most-wanted tag for more than 20 years, the arrest was strangely anticlimactic, a police officer said.

The Home Ministry, despite denying knowledge of his whereabouts, was reportedly aware that Chhota Rajan was operating out of SouthEast Asia. The gangster is believed to have been in touch with Indian intelligence agencies post-1993, joining hands with them in the effort to nab Ibrahim, who is wanted for his involvement in orchestrating the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai.

The Indian authorities had a chance to extradite Chhota Rajan in 2000 when he was found in a hospital in Bangkok recovering from a bid on his life. However, they botched up the extradition.

Interestingly, while India and Australia have an extradition treaty, Chhota Rajan was allowed to leave Australia and land in Indonesia, which has a treaty with India that has not yet been ratified. Informed sources said the Australian police could not arrest him on a “red corner” notice but that the Indonesian law allowed it.

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November 27, 2015