Mumbai: From a black marketer of movie tickets to one of the most wanted men in India, dreaded don Chhota Rajan had a roller-coaster ride in the underworld in a crime career spanning decades during which he split with one- time boss Dawood Ibrahiam and survived a near fatal attack.
The arrest of 55-year-old gangster, whose real name is Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhaljee, in Indonesia yesterday marks a significant development in the history of Mumbai's underworld, subject of many a film, and comes as a boost for Indian security agencies which have been tracking him since long.
Rajan started his career in crime by black marketing movie tickets in the metropolis in 1970s and 80s at Sahakar Cinema in Tilak Nagar under the tutelage of Rajan Mahadev Nair alias Bada Rajan who then headed a small gang and worked with Matunga-based underworld don Vardarajan Mudliar.
Born in Tilak Nagar, where his family still resides, it is said poverty and illiteracy forced Chhota Rajan to take up black-marketing of film tickets.
An ambitious Rajan soon graduated from a petty criminal to become the right-hand man of Bada Rajan. In 1983, Bada Rajan was shot dead outside Esplanade Court in South Mumbai by Chandrasekhar Safalika and Abdul Kunju.
The killing of his mentor by rival gang members was avenged by Rajan who tipped off Inspector Emmanuel Amolik who killed Safalika in an encounter.
Further, Kunju was killed by don Rama Naik's men in Shell Colony area of Chembur while playing cricket at the behest of Rajan.
These two killings helped Rajan stamp his name in the underworld. He then came in contact with Dawood who was an established gold smuggler by early 1980s.
Dawood needed a strong man who would look after the gangland activities in Mumbai. He selected Rajan for the job.
When Rajan was working with the Dawood faction, most of the old dons like Mudliar and Naik had ceased to exist in the underworld due to police and political pressures.
Dawood's escape to Dubai in 1984 led Rajan to operate the Dawood faction in the city till 1988, after which he, too, fled to the Gulf city.