From selling movie tickets in black, becoming a petty criminal in the lower-middle class locality of Tilak Nagar in Mumbai, learning the nuances of crime under a local don Rajan Mahadev Nair alias Bada Rajan and being in and out of D-company, Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhalje alias Chhota Rajan has come a long way in the world of organized crime.
The arrest of Chhota Rajan in Indonesia on Sunday marks a significant development in the history of Mumbai's underworld, and comes as a boost for Indian security agencies that have been tracking him since long.
Rajan soon became the right-hand man of Bada Rajan. However, in 1983, Bada Rajan was shot dead outside Esplanade Court in South Mumbai by Abdul Kunju and Chandrasekhar Safalika.
The killing of Bada Rajan by rival gang was avenged by Rajan who tipped off Inspector Emmanuel Amolik who killed Safalika in an encounter. Don Rama Naik's men killed Kunju in Shell Colony area of Chembur while playing cricket at the behest of Rajan.
Chhota Rajan came in contact with Dawood who was an established gold smuggler by early 1980s. When Rajan was working with Dawood, most of the old dons such as Naik and Mudliar had ceased to exist in the underworld due to political and police pressures. Moreover, Dawood's escape to Dubai in 1984 led Rajan to operate the Dawood faction in Mumbai till 1988, after which he also fled to Dubai.
The Mumbai bomb blasts on March 12, 1993, in which Dawood was one of the plotters, not only shook the entire city and the country but also changed equations in the gangland. Rajan split with Dawood, fearing he would be killed by Dawood, and then began a new phase of what later became famous rivalry between the two.
By then Chhota Shakeel, the current Man Friday of Dawood, gained prominence in D-Company hierarchy and replaced Rajan. Rajan, along with his associates, fled from Dubai and vowed to eliminate Dawood and his gang-members. He started killing the 1993 bomb blasts accused and established himself as a 'Hindu' don.
Chhota Shakeel planned an attack on Rajan in Sept 2000 who was then in Bangkok. His men tracked Rajan in a hotel and fired at him. He was hit by bullets, but he made a daring escape through the hotel's roof.