- Wikimedia Commons
Indonesian police have arrested one of India’s most wanted gangsters, sought in more than two dozen murder cases, on the resort island of Bali, Indian federal police said on Monday, ending a two-decade-long international manhunt.
Rajendra Nikalje, 55, widely known as Chhota Rajan, has been on Interpol’s wanted list since 1995 for running a crime syndicate that engaged in extortion, arms smuggling, and contract killing.
Nikalje, a career criminal who got his start petty theif, became a prominent gangster under the tutelige of Bada Rajan in the 1980s, according to a profile from The Indian Express. After the death of Bada, Nikalje took his place in the criminal organization and assumed the alias “Chhota Rajan.”
Nikalje was then a top aide to Dawood Ibrahim, a terrorist who carried out India’s deadliest bombing, which killed at least 250 people and wounded more than 700 in Mumbai in 1993.
At that point, Nikalje broke with Ibrahim, and positioned himself as a “patriotic” gangster, who worked with authorities to track down Ibrahim, according to The Indian Express. Since then, Nikalje has been plagued by assassination attempts from his former boss-turned-rival.
In 2000, Ibrahim’s shooters almost killed Nikalje in a hospital in Bangkok, but he escaped. Earlier this year, Ibrahim sent sharpshooters to Newcastle, Australia, where Nikalje was staying, to kill him, but he escaped again after being reportedly tipped off by Indian authorities.
After two decades on the run, and with poor health, Nikalje constantly feared for his life. He got in touch with Indian authorities, whom he reportedly has deep ties with and had planned to give himself up, according to The Indian Express.
“We tracked Chhota Rajan’s movements closely and informed the police in Indonesia and Australia,” said Anil Sinha, director of the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Indian capital. “Eventually the Indonesian police managed to arrest him. We are making arrangements to bring him to India and pursue all criminal cases against him.”
Gangsters like Nikalje, who operated in the financial capital, Mumbai, have long drawn attention in India, with their exploits featuring in Bollywood films and newspaper articles.
- Thomson Reuters
His arrest comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government ratchets up diplomatic pressure on neighbor and arch-rival Pakistan to hand over his former partner and underworld boss, Dawood Ibrahim, suspected of militant links.
Indian authorities say they have shared evidence of Ibrahim’s whereabouts with Pakistan, which rejects India’s claim that he is living there.