From selling black tickets to becoming Dawood rival

From selling black tickets to becoming Dawood rival

From selling cinema tickets in black in the Tilaknagar-Chembur area here to becoming the No 2 of Dawood Ibrahim and then parting ways and starting his own syndicate in South-East Asia, Rajendra Nikhalje alias Chhota Rajan has come a long way in the world of crime establishing himself as a notorious and ruthless criminal and also helping the Indian agencies at times.

Rajan, now 55, is wanted by various Indian agencies, including the Mumbai Police, for several cases of murder, attempt to murder, extortion and land-grabbing, over the last two decades.

In the early eighties, he started selling cinema tickets in black in the flourishing Chembur suburbs and came in contact with local don Rajan Nair alias Bada Rajan. 

After Bada Rajan died, he climbed up the ladder and Rajendra Nikhalje became Chhota Rajan. After this, he also came in contact with Vardarajan Mudaliar alias Vardha Bhai and expanded his operations by joining the bootlegging network.

In late eighties, he joined the Dawood Ibrahim gang and there was a point of time he worked closely with Arun Gawli, who is currently lodged in Nagpur jail after being convicted of murder.

Rajan became very close to Dawood, when he eliminated Samad Khan, the nephew of underworld don Karim Lala, the last of the Pathan dons of Mumbai. Incidentally, Karim Lala has close relations with Vardha Bhai and Haji Mastan.

Rajan and Gawli split after the latter’s elder brother was murdered. However, he still was a confidante of Dawood Ibrahim till Chhota Shakeel and Abu Salem became his close lieutenants along with brother Noora. After the 1993 serial blasts, Rajan parted ways with Dawood and started targeting his men leading to the bloody war among the underworld gangs. By 1995, he established himself as a “Hindu don”.

In September 2000, Shakeel engineered an attack on Rajan in Bangkok, in which his close aide Rohit Verma was killed. He survived but admitted in hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds, from where he made a Bollywood-style escape.

It is said that Rajan helped Indian agencies like Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) about the activities of Dawood. Of late, the health of Rajan had deteriorated and he continued to be in some or the other South East Asian countries or in Australia.

Rajan’s associates tracked down and shot dead Vinod Shetty in 2001 in Mumbai, as well as Sunil Soans, another Dawood associate. Both Vinod and Sunil had provided information to Dawood’s associates on Rajan’s whereabouts.

While their killings did not significantly disrupt the D-Company, in 2003, Rajan’s associates gunned down Sharad Shetty, Dawood’s chief finance manager and money-laundering agent, at the India Club in Dubai.

Rajan also continued to target some of the key Dawood men who were involved in the 1993 serial blasts and were on bail.

In the last seven years, there has been splits in his gangs that weakened him but he continued to evade the agencies and continued extortion to keep things going.

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