Chhota Rajan

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Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje
Chotta Rajan
Born Ashti, Maharashtra
Nationality Indian
Occupation Smuggler, mobster
Criminal status Arrested in 2015
Spouse(s) Sujata Nikalje[1]
Children Khushi Nikalje, Ankita Nikalje, Nikita Nikalje

Chotta Rajan (Little Rajan) 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. Chhota Rajan was arrested in Bali by Indonesian police on 25 October 2015.[2] He was extradited to India on 6 November after 27 years on the run and is currently awaiting trial in CBI custody. [3]

Criminal career[edit]

Born into a Marathi Buddhist family in Mumbai, Rajan Nikalaje (Devanagari: 'राजन निकाळजे') grew up in the middle class locality of Tilak Nagar in Chembur,[1] a suburb in central Mumbai. He started his criminal career by scalping cinema tickets at Sahakar cinema in the 1980s.[4][5]

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 assassinated 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.

On 26 October 2015, Rajan was arrested in Bali.[6] Acting on a tip-off from Australian police, Indonesian authorities detained Nikalje alias Chota Rajan on Sunday as he arrived in Bali from Sydney.

CBI director Anil Sinha confirmed the arrest saying, “Bali Police arrested Chhota Rajan yesterday at CBI’s request made through Interpol."[7]

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.[citation needed]

Both Phillu and Mangya were involved in the 1993 blasts as Police had filed cases on 15 March 1993[8] 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,[9] Dawood's aide Chhota Shakeel then led the hit. Posing as a pizza delivery man they gunned down the trusted Rajan hitman Rohit Varma and his wife.[9] 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.[10]

Dawood Ibrahim confirmed the attack on the 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.[11]

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.[9]

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.[9] This brazen killing was 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.[9]

Personal life[edit]

The couple has three daughters; Ankita Nikalje, Nikita Nikalje and Khushi Nikalje. His younger brother Deepak Nikalje is associated with Republican Party of India of MP Ramdas Athawale.[citation needed]

Chhota Rajan was addressed as 'Nana' by friends and colleagues.[citation needed]

In Cinema[edit]

2002 Bollywood film, Company had a character Chandu, essayed by actor Vivek Oberoi, 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.[citation needed]


On 25 October 2015, Chota Rajan was captured in Bali, Indonesia where Indian authorities will be contacting Interpol for deporting him back to India. The capture took place due to a tip off by Australian police stating that Rajan had travelled to Bali with an Indian passport by the name Mohan Kumar. According to CBI sources, the underworld don was standing in a queue at the airport when the immigration authorities asked him to step aside and reveal his name. To this the gangster first gave his original name Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, and then immediately corrected himself to say Mohan Kumar, the name mentioned on his passport. This alerted the authorities and they started questioning him. The authorities then started the identification process with the help of fingerprint tests. 11 out of 18 points of finger print samples given in the Red Corner notice matched with his samples.

The fingerprint test confirmed that the man in question was indeed Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, alias Chhota Rajan, and not Mohan Kumar, the name mentioned on the passport. The Indonesian police and Australian police jointly worked to bring about the arrest.[citation needed] Rajan was eventually extradited to India twelve days later, on 6 November, and is currently in CBI custody, awaiting trial.


  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. ^ "Chhota Rajan arrested in Indonesia after decades on the run". DNA. 26 October 2015. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Rajan's Ganpati show-of-strength diminishes". Times of India. 23 August 2003. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "Gawli tops in murders, Chhota Rajan in moolah". Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  6. ^ "Chhota Rajan arrested in Indonesia after decades on the run". Mint (newspaper). 
  7. ^ Maxim (26 October 2015). "Underworld don Chhota Rajan arrested". IndToday. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  8. ^ "1993: Information from". Retrieved 8 August 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "Paying the piper". TheWeek. 2 February 2003. Archived from the original on 16 March 2007. 
  10. ^ "Shetty helped injured Rajan get out of hospital: police". Hindustan Times. 17 August 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  11. ^ Bhatt, Sheela (15 September 2000). "Chhota Rajan shot dead in Bangkok". Bombay (now Mumbai), India: Retrieved 1 June 2012.