Tuesday, November 29, 2022

When the Don Speaks…

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Chhota Rajan may not only reveal information about Dawood, but could throw light on his police and political connections. Will this information be placed in public domain to serve vested interests?

By Ajith Pillai

When Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhalje alias Chhota Ra-jan was arrested in Bali and brought back to India on November 5, it attracted much media attention. The 55-year-old underworld don had been on the run for the last 27 years and is the accused in over 70 cases of drug smuggling, murder, extortion and kidnapping in Delhi and Mumbai. His eventual arrest was seen as significant bec-ause he was the number two to Dawood Ibrahim for well over a decade and has insider information about the infamous D Com-pany, said to be directly involved in the 1993 Bombay blasts.

But is that all there is to Chhota Rajan? According to insiders in the Mumbai police, the information he has could well be leveraged by those in power. His depositions to the CBI and other investigating agencies, if made public, could embarrass opposition leaders as well as law enforcement officials, who were not kindly disposed to Rajan and his men.

1993 Mumbai-Blastsnew
The Bombay blasts of 1993 brought into focus the criminal politician nexus in the country

“If press reports quoting CBI sources are to be believed, then Rajan has threatened to name politicians and officers on Dawood’s payroll. He may not have evidence to back up his claims and which will stand in a court of law, but if names are revealed, it would be extremely embarrassing. He has great nuisance value,” a former crime branch official of the Mumbai police told India Legal.

It was after the 1993 Bombay blasts that Chhota Rajan parted ways with Dawood. Much of Rajan’s damaging information about Dawood’s political links would date back to the period before that—from the mid-80s to the early 90s. That was when the latter was seen as a parallel force in India’s commercial capital, manipulating the system and compromising the police at will. Poli-ticians approached the D Company for financial favours (including money transfers through hawala) and muscle support. Simi-larly, the film industry welcomed the underworld with open arms and Dawood & Co emerged as major financiers for many Bollywood productions.

NN Vohra (1)n
NN Vohra, former bureaucrat, current governor, J&K

Such was the underworld’s hold over the system that in the aftermath of the ’93 Bombay blasts, the Congress government at the center appointed the NN Vohra Committee to look into the criminal-politician nexus. It submitted its report in 1995 and this was tabled in parliament. But some of the annexures attached to the report were held back, as they contained what was described as “sensitive information”. These included an IB input submitted to the Committee, which contained the names of politicians with underworld links and included Congress leaders who currently hold senior positions in the party and some who later joined the NCP.

When a section of the media published details which were there in the annexure, it was taken to court. The media was forced to withdraw the story, as the IB refused to acknowledge that it had filed such an input and the government denied the existence of the annexure. Sources say Rajan could now fill in details of various transactions that took place between select politicians and D Company operatives. This could be exploited politically.

Also, Rajan, after he broke off from Dawood, launched himself as the patriotic “Hindu don” who was ready to take on Dawood Ibrahim. In his new avatar, he forged links with sections of the Shiv Sena. There is much speculation in political circles in Maharashtra whether some of his association with members of that party will surface. More importantly, would it be used to restrain the belligerence of the Sena, which has been sharply critical of the BJP government in Maharashtra even though it is an alliance partner?

As for the Mumbai police, it is an open secret that some of its officers had links with the D Company in the 80s. But in the post ’93 blasts period, there was a clear divide between those who switched allegiance to Chhota Rajan and those who remained in the Dawood camp. According to a senior police official, Rajan would target those who acted against him and his allegations, if leaked to the media by those interrogating him, could be damaging even if they were baseless.

YC Pawar, former joint commissioner, Mumbai police

Two senior retired police officers have openly said that Chhota Rajan may not have anything new to offer by way of evidence against Dawood Ibrahim. Former joint commissioner of police, Mumbai, YC Pawar, famous for having hounded gangster Vardarajan Mudaliar out of Mumbai, has pointed out that any fresh evidence on Dawood may not be forthcoming from Rajan. Also, he says that his interrogation is not likely to help bring back the elusive don who now operates from Pakistan under state protection and patronage.

joginder singh (1)n
Joginder Singh, former director, CBI

Joginder Singh, ex-director of the CBI, candidly observed on TV that much of what Rajan knows about Dawood’s operations is already contained in the dossiers that India frequently sends to Pakistan to secure the don’s arrest and deportation. Apparently, Rajan has been in constant touch with the Indian intelligence and his inputs have been put on record by the agencies.

According to reports, so closely did he work with Indian intelligence that in 2005, two of his men were used by IB to carry out a plot to kill Dawood in Karachi during the wedding of his daughter Mahrook to cricketer Javed Miandad’s son. Vicky Malhotra and Farid Tanasha, the two operatives of the Rajan gang, were in Delhi preparing to leave for their mission to Karachi when they were picked up by a Mumbai crime branch team. At the time of their arrest, they were in the company of a senior IB official who is currently someone prominent in the national security apparatus. Rajan claimed that the plot was thwarted at the behest of Dawood Ibrahim by the Mumbai police.

The incident is being informally cited as one of the key reasons why all the cases against Chhota Rajan have been transferred to the CBI. According to insiders, the Mumbai police has been kept out of the investigations because the center wants to have a grip on it. Both the opposition parties in Maharashtra—the Congress and the NCP—have objected to the Mumbai police being marginalized. “Why now is he (Rajan) being taken to New Delhi? What is their strategy? All major cases, including journalist Jyotirmoy Dey killing and the Pakmodia Street firing, shall be handled by the CBI. Do they doubt our police’s capabilities? It is demoralizing the Mumbai police force,” Nawab Malik, the

NCP spokesperson, told the media. Similar objections have been raised by the state Congress.
One has to wait to see how the Rajan story plays out in the next few weeks. But there is a lot more that he knows about the D Company and its friends, including politicians, than meets the eye. He is also pliable enough to make revelations that suit his interrogators. Will that be one of the collateral benefits of bringing him back to India?

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