Chhota Rajan

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Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje
Chotta Rajan
Born Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Occupation Smuggler, mobster
Spouse(s) Sujata Nikalje[1]

Chotta Rajan (Little Rajan also known as "NANA") is the boss of a major crime syndicate based in India. He was a former key aide and lieutenant of Dawood Ibrahim. Starting as a petty thief and bootlegger working for Rajan Nair, also known as Bada Rajan (Big Rajan), Chhota Rajan took over the reins of Bada Rajan's gang after Bada Rajan's murder. Later, he was affiliated with and operated at the behest of Dawood in Mumbai and eventually fled India to Dubai in 1988. He is wanted for many criminal cases that include extortion, murder, smuggling, drug trafficking and film finance. His brother is said to produce films financed by Rajan. He is also wanted in 17 murder cases and several more attempted murders.

He parted ways with Dawood Ibrahim in 1996 after the bombings. A group within the Indian organised crime syndicate D-Company led by Sautya, Chhota Shakeel and Sharad Shetty had started to resent the growing clout and influence of Rajan. They had started planting stories against him to Ibrahim. Rajan, increasingly became suspicious and insecure of the developments taking place within the gang and began fearing for his life. This led him to request the Indian officials to help him flee Dubai and settle down in another country under a different identity, in return for information about Syndicates. The more popular known fact of their split centres on Ibrahim's involvement in the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts and Rajan's opposition to that, mainly on communal grounds.

Criminal career[edit]

Born into a Marathi family in Mumbai, Rajan Nikalaje grew up in the lower middle class locality of Tilaknagar in Chembur,[1] a suburb in central Mumbai. He started his criminal career by scalping cinema tickets at Sahakar cinema in the 1980s.[2][3]

Then he met mentor Bada Rajan and Yadagiri of Hyderabad under whom he learned the tricks of the trade. Once Bada Rajan was killed, Nikalje received the throne and the title—Chhota Rajan. For a short period, Dawood Ibrahim, Rajan and Arun Gawli worked together. Then Gawli's elder brother Papa Gawli was murdered over a drug deal and a rift formed. Rajan went to Dubai—his family is still here apart from his wife in 1989 to attend the wedding of Noora, Dawood's brother. He never returned. After the 1993 Bombay bombings, Dawood and Rajan fell out. There were even reports that he tipped off the Research and Analysis Wing about Dawood's network. The Dawood-Rajan party was over, the messy end coming in September 2000, with Shakeel's attack on Rajan in his Bangkok hotel room.[4]

Split with Dawood[edit]

After the split, Rajan formed his own gang. Reports of bloody shootouts between Rajan and Dawood's hoodlums have been common since the split.In 1994, Rajan lured one of Dawood's favourite "narco-terrorist" Phillu Khan alias Bakhtiyar Ahmed Khan- to a hotel room in Bangkok, where he was tortured to death, having been betrayed by his closest aide and sidekick Mangesh "Mangya" Pawar.

Both Phillu and Mangya were involved in the 1993 blasts as Police had filed cases on 15 March 1993[5] alleging their involvement in the blasts.

Assassination attempt[edit]

In September 2000, Dawood tracked down Rajan in Bangkok. Sharad Shetty, used his links with Mumbai-based hotelier Vinod Shetty and A Mishra to track down Rajan in Bangkok,[6] Dawood's aide Chhota Shakeel then led the hit. Posing as a pizza delivery men they gunned down the trusted Rajan hitman Rohit Varma and his wife.[6] However their aim of killing Rajan failed, with Rajan making a dare-devil escape through the hotel's roof and fire-escape. He then recovered in a hospital and slipped away to evade capture.[7]

Dawood Ibrahim confirmed the attack on telephone to, saying Rajan tried to escape by jumping out of the window of the first-floor room where he was attacked. He, however, broke his back in the fall and was taken to hospital.[8]

This failed assassination attempt proved costly for Dawood. Chhota 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 of Rajan's whereabouts.[6]

While the killings of Vinod Shetty and Sunil Soans did not significantly disrupt D-Company, on 19 January 2003, Chhota Rajan's associates then gunned down Sharad Shetty – Dawood's chief finance manager and money-laundering agent – at the India Club in Dubai.[6] This brazen killing was an emblematic of the shift of power between Dawood and Rajan. Not only was the execution in a very public setting, it was at a location that Dawood considered his operational backyard. Intelligence reports have suggested that Sharad Shetty's death was a crippling blow to D-Company, since much financial and monetary information of the crime syndicate operations managed by Sharad Shetty was never fully recovered by Dawood.[6]

Personal life[edit]

The couple has three daughters; Ankita Nikalje, Nikita Nikalje and Khushi Nikalje The younger one is doing graduation and the elder got married.

Contrary to popular belief, Chhota Rajan was not addressed as 'Nana' by friends and colleagues.

In Cinema[edit]

A 2002 film, Company had a character Chandu having some resemblances of Chhota Rajan with real-life Dawood Ibrahim gang. Also, the 1999 film Vaastav: The Reality, starring Sanjay Dutt was loosely based on Rajan's life.


  1. ^ a b C Unnikrishna (11 July 2011). "ED may attach properties of Chhota Rajan's wife". The Times of India (Mumbai). Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  2. ^ "Rajan's Ganpati show-of-strength diminishes". Times of India. 23 August 2003. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "Gawli tops in murders, Chhota Rajan in moolah". Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  4. ^[dead link]
  5. ^ "1993: Information from". Retrieved 8 August 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Paying the piper". TheWeek. 2 February 2003. Archived from the original on 16 March 2007. 
  7. ^ "Shetty helped injured Rajan get out of hospital: police". Hindustan Times. 17 August 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  8. ^ Bhatt, Sheela (15 September 2000). "Chhota Rajan shot dead in Bangkok". Bombay (now Mumbai), India: Retrieved 1 June 2012.