Chhota Rajan To Bada Dawood

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There’s nothing chhota about Chhota Rajan. The man could provide valuable insights into the life and times of his former mentor Dawood Ibrahim, so his return to India. Does that mean India is planning an operation to capture the villain behind the Mumbai blasts asks BK SINGH

Ask anybody in India about Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhalje and you might get a blank stare. But then ask who is Chhota Rajan and you would get a quick response. Actually, Chhota Rajan’s real name is Nikhalje. So why was he living in Australia under the alias of Mohan Kumar? Well, that’s a long story. The short point here is that Chhota Rajan, a one-time close associate of the Bombay Don Dawood Ibrahim, was recently captured in Indonesia after an operation involving three-way international cooperation between India, Australia and Indonesia. Rajan is now in Indian custody.

The beginning of the end for Chhota Rajan came in the aftermath of the Mumbai blasts in 1993 when he fell out with his boss Dawood Ibrahim. Since then, Rajan has led a precarious existence with several attempts being made by D-Company to kill him. Ironically, Rajan was running D-Company’s operations in India from 1986 until Dawood fled the country in the wake of the Mumbai blasts. Cut to the present and we have Rajan shuttling between Australia, Malaysia and Cambodia. Dawood Ibrahim’s men tracked him to a hotel in Bangkok in 2000 and tried to kill him.

The question uppermost on the minds of most analysts is whether Chota Rajan was working for Indian intelligence and continues to do so? The story gained currency in July 2005 when Vicky Malhotra and another Rajan associate Fareed Tanasha, were arrested by Mumbai police in New Delhi. Also in the car with these two was Ajit Doval, who had retired as Director Intelligence Bureau in January 2005.

At that stage, the suspicion was that the Intelligence Bureau had tasked Rajan to use his men to get rid of Dawood during the latter’s daughter’s wedding in Dubai. This delicate relationship was recently confirmed by former Union home secretary R.K. Singh to a TV channel in August this year, when he said that the former NDA government had planned a covert operation to “take down” Dawood Ibrahim.

Despite these revelations, the question still remains as to why the Intelligence Bureau was using Rajan, a known criminal with several cases against him, to get rid of Dawood? The only reason stated bluntly, is fighting fire with fire!

Intelligence and police officers in the know recall that in the aftermath of the 1993 Mumbai blasts, it was Chhota Rajan’s gang which provided crucial information on Dawood Ibrahim, Tiger Memon and the ISI. The information he gave was reasonably accurate, and this helped in establishing his reliability. Rajan also targeted and killed several Dawood gang members involved in the 1993 blasts, including Phillu Khan, Saleem Kurla, Majid Khan and Mohammad Jindran.

The fundamental reason for IB wanting Rajan to work for them was to split D-Company, for it had acted at the behest of Pakistan in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. Knowing that Pakistan’s ISI used Dawood and his henchmen to carry out the operation, it became necessary to counter them by penetrating D-Company. In 2011, Rajan claimed that wherever Dawood goes, he “is provided full security cover by the ISI. Even in the Middle East, which he keeps visiting, he is under the ISI’s protection. He keeps moving around the world, but our agencies cannot trace him.” That was the aim; the extent to which India succeeded remains moot.

Thus, if the Rajan-India association is as old as 2005 (or even earlier), then it stands to reason that Indian intelligence would try and protect Rajan wherever he went. It would then make sense if Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) told their Australian counterparts that Rajan’s life was under threat while he was resident there. India’s external intelligence agency, R&AW, had in fact alerted the Indonesian Government in October this year, about Rajan’s arrival in Bali. The reason for Bali was that the Australian Government was chary of having an Indian gangster being bumped off on their soil. So they devised a way to get him out of the country. Next stop, Rajan in Bali!

Earlier, Rajan had got an Indian passport in the name of Mohan Kumar in July 2008 in Australia. Before that he had been living in Sydney under another alias, a fact confirmed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in September 2015. The AFP also stated that Rajan had been in discussions with Indian authorities, the latter revelation making it clear that Rajan probably wanted to return to India.

Thus, Rajan could well have worked for India in the past and in the present these linkages could well be continuing though more as a mirror to the past than anything else. Detractors have been quick to point out that Rajan has several cases of murder against him and is wanted by the Mumbai police. Therefore, any link with him would be unethical. The problem is that intelligence agencies the world over, including the CIA and KGB, have used criminals and mafia men to achieve their goals. Therefore, it is not surprising that Ajit Doval, currently India’s National Security Advisor, was found in the company of Vicky Malhotra and another sharp shooter in July 2005.

At the end of the day, Chhota Rajan finds himself back in India and all his cases have been handed over to the CBI, thus taking care of his apprehension that elements in the Mumbai police might act against him.

But why bring him back to India at this juncture? Does it have something to do with the current political dispensation and the NSA? If indeed, the plan was to bring Rajan back to India for his own safety, why did New Delhi choose this moment? That is a mystery and will remain one for some time. However, one could speculate that Rajan himself may have wanted to return to India. The other angle being suggested is that New Delhi has re-energised plans to get to Dawood Ibrahim currently resident in Pakistan and that is why intelligence agencies wanted Rajan back in India, to enable them to get all the information required to get at Dawood.

The information Rajan will share may be outdated, but would still be useful to the agencies. One such lead could well be on Vicky Malhotra, once a Rajan man. Malhotra jumped bail in 2005 and went abroad. It is believed he is now in India and it is just possible that Rajan might be able to provie some leads to Malhotra’s location. Incidentally, he is currently involved in criminal and terror activities in Mumbai.

As Chhota Rajan explores his new surroundings in Tihar jail, questions continue to be asked about his links with Indian intelligence. More important, the issue of his sudden appearance on the scene raises more questions as all these years he seemed content living in Australia. Ajit Doval may well know the answers, but there is no reason for him to spill the beans, for he can blithely claim that he has signed the Official Secrets Act and cannot reveal information that would prejudice national security!

Summary

  • From Dawood henchman to bitter enemy, Chhota Rajan’s arrest in the Indonesian island of Bali has stirred intense speculation
  • It is believed his return to India could be part of an elaborate plan to kill or capture Dawood who lives in Pakistan
  • Chhota Rajan’s links to Indian intelligence agencies have long been speculated upon, after all fire is fought with fire
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