Tuesday, October 27, 2015



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By S Hussain Zaidi, Mumbai Mirror | Oct 27, 2015, 12.21 AM IST

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After falling out with Dawood Ibrahim, Rajan carefully cultivated image of 'patriotic gangster' for survival.

Chhota Rajan is a survivor. From being nearly bumped off at a yacht party that he was invited to in 1993 by Chhota Shakeel to the brazen attempt on his life in September 2000 in Bangkok, the gangster from Chembur knows how to get out of a sticky situation. It is this survival instinct, rather than any newfound love for India, that made Rajan get into a strategic deal with the authorities.

Till early nineties, Dawood Ibrahim and Rajan were thick as thieves. Rajan worshipped Dawood. He had risen from being a black-marketer of tickets at Chembur's Sahakar cinema in the late eighties to Dawood's right-hand man. And none of Dawood's lieutenants liked the proximity and trust that the two shared.

Cracks began to appear between the two in July 1992 with the daylight murder of Ibrahim Parkar in Nagpada by Arun Gawli's men. Ibrahim was Dawood's brother-in-law; husband to Haseena Parkar, the sister that Dawood used to dote on. Dawood had a sprawling empire, unmatched muscle and fire power; yet the hit on Parkar was not avenged. Rajan was the eyes and ears of Dawood at the time, but he did nothing - instead of planning a counter hit, Rajan was enjoying life with wine, women and song. The seeds of mistrust between Dawood and Rajan had been sown.

Dawood's trusted lieutenants, Chhota Shakeel and Sunil Sawant, smelled blood. They tried to convince Dawood that they could take out Gawli's men and avenge his brother-in-law's death. In the process, they would discredit Rajan as well. An elaborate plan was drawn up.

Taking out his enemies while they were under police protection was a fetish of sorts for Dawood. In order to avenge his brother Sabir Kaskar's murder, Dawood had ordered a hit on Amirzada in the sessions court in 1983.

September 6, 1992, witnessed the most daring operation in Mumbai gangland's history. Sawant and his men stormed into JJ Hospital to finish of Gawli's men, Shailesh Haldankar and Bipin Shere. The two were under police protection but the posse of constables could do nothing. While Haldankar died, Shere escaped. Three policemen were also killed in the operation. Dawood had sent out the first in a series of messages.

With the hit, Dawood had managed to prove a point to his rivals, placated his sister and sought solace in the fact that at least his brother-in-law's killers were eliminated. Rajan had forgotten the age old adage in the Mumbai mafia: 'keep your friends close and your enemies closer'. Dawood promoted Shakeel and Sawant as his number two and three. The alienation of Rajan had begun.

One fine evening in 1993, Rajan was on his way to the yacht party organized by Shakeel. Chhota Shakeel and his cronies had plotted to kill him and dump the body in the sea. Just in the nick of time, Rajan got an alert about the impending attack and changed his plans. He also realized that Shakeel could have never taken the decision to bump him off unilaterally. The plan had to have Dawood's blessings.

Rajan then reportedly fell on Dawood's feet and asked for forgiveness. Dawood agreed to give him one last chance to prove his loyalty.

The opportunity came soon after. After the blasts of 1993, Dawood was getting a lot of bad press. The carefully cultivated image, thanks to the generous portrayals in Bollywood, had taken a massive beating.

The man at the forefront of whipping Dawood was then Shiv Sena supremo, the late Bal Thackeray, who was lashing out at him through the party mouthpiece, Saamna. The tide was turning against Dawood and his men. Rajan realized that if he wanted to save himself, he should his boss's image. Audaciously, and unexpectedly, Rajan stooped to the level of a telephone operator and began calling and shooting faxes to various newspaper offices. Through their offices, he asked Thackeray to mind his political business and also told him that Dawood did not need a certificate of patriotism from the Sena chief.
And it worked.

In those days, nobody had the guts to take on Thackeray. Rajan's temerity earned him brownie points with Dawood. Perhaps this also managed to ward off the proverbial Damocles' sword hanging over his neck. Dawood might have given him a second chance but his lieutenants were in no mood to forgive and forget.

Rajan had tried his best to appease Dawood and reclaim his position as his Man Friday, but in vain. By 1994, he realized he could be bumped off in Dubai. The only recourse left for him was to escape and save his life.

Rajan sought help from the Indian Embassy. Since Rajan's passport was in the custody of a kafeel (local sponsor), he got another passport made in a jiffy and in the process sold his loyalty to the intelligence agencies. The association was to prove mutually beneficial in the time to come.

Once Rajan survived, he decided to get back at Dawood. However, Rajan's main objective was to destroy Shakeel's stronghold on the gang and show the men who was boss. With confusion in the ranks, most hitmen in Mumbai and Bengaluru could be easily made to switch their allegiance to Rajan as he was leading the pack until recently and the transfer of oath of fealty seemed easier.

So with some of his trusted aides like Sadhu Shetty, Avdhoot Bonde and Vilas Mane, Rajan launched a violent assault on Shakeel's men in Mumbai. And a parallel assault on Dawood's empire in Dubai. This resulted in Dawood relocating to Karachi from Dubai.

Due to his proximity to Dawood, Rajan knew most of his loyalists in Bollywood, construction czars and other businessmen. Rajan systematically began targeting them.

Rajan had seen the power of public opinion once; and he wanted to capitalize on it. Overnight, he became a self-proclaimed patriotic don and started floating stories that Dawood was a traitor and anti-India as he had orchestrated the serial blasts of 1993. For some, this worked and caused a vertical split in the gang and its sympathizers.

To drive his point home, Rajan started picking out serial blasts accused who had been granted bail by the TADA court. The message was loud and clear - people who had committed a crime against the country would not be spared.

In fact, 1998 turned out to be Mumbai's most violent year, when over 100 shootouts were reported in the city.

The animosity between Dawood and Rajan had scaled such heights that Dawood's other rivalries -- with the Pathan syndicate or with Arun Gawli --paled in comparison.

Rajan could have successfully continued and may have even succeeded in his quest until he got almost killed on September 15, 2000, in an assault on him in Bangkok by Shakeel's men.