Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, better known as Chhota Rajan, is an Indian gangster who was once the right hand of the infamous Indian criminal Dawood Ibrahim. As of 2021, he is serving life imprisonment at Tihar Jail in New Delhi.
Chhota Rajan was born on Tuesday, 13 January 1959 (age 62 years; as of 2021) in the Tilaknagar area of Chembur, Mumbai. His zodiac sign is Capricorn. He did his schooling at Mumbai’s Amchi Shala Marathi Medium school. He was a loner and a frontbencher in his school days. In childhood, Rajan was hardly interested in studies and left his school after clearing class 11. He then began doing petty jobs to earn his living. When he was in his teens, he started selling movie tickets in black outside Shankar Cinema in Mumbai.
Height (approx.): 5′ 6″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Family & Caste
Parents & Siblings
Chhota Rajan is the son of Sadasiv Sakharam Nikalje (peon) and Laxmibai Sadavshiv Nikalje. His mother died at the age of 88 in 2014 in Mumbai. He has three brothers and two sisters named Sunita Chavan and Malini Sakpal. His younger brother, Deepak Nikalje, is associated with the Republican Party of India.
Wife & Children
Chhota Rajan is married to Nikita Baid. The couple has three daughters, Ankita Nikalje, Nikita Nikalje, and Khushi Nikalje.
Stepping into the world of Crime
When Rajan was still a teenager, he started selling movie tickets in black outside the Shankar Cinema in Mumbai. Once, while Rajan was selling movie tickets in black, the Mumbai police lathi-charged outside the cinema to clamp down on black marketing. As a constable hit him with a stick, it enraged Rajan, and he immediately snatched the stick from him and started beating him. This was Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhalje’s first encounter with the police. Many policemen got injured during the incident. Subsequently, Rajendra was arrested by the police. By the time Sadashiv was released on bail from the jail, many gangs of miscreants in Mumbai had kept an eye on him. Soon, he joined gangster Rajan Nair, i.e., Bada Rajan’s gang, and entered the world of crime.
Rajan started by committing petty crimes in Chembur, Mumbai. After joining hands with Bada Rajan, Rajendra started getting involved in crimes like smuggling, extortion, and drug trafficking. While Rajendra continued with his business of black-marketing movie tickets, Bada Rajan’s rival Sanjeeva Devadiga (who ran a country-made liquor shop near the Sahakar Cinema and was also into the business of black-marketing of tickets) tried to oust him from the business. Reportedly, Devadiga’s men used to keep a few movie tickets for themselves, after selling the tickets in black. They often took their seats in the midst of women and teased them during the shows. This led to a clash between Bada Rajan’s group and Devadiga’s group. Occasional fights were common between the boys of the two groups. During one such brawl, Chhota Rajan, along with a group of boys, was booked under the controversial Maintenance of Internal Security Act (Misa) in 1975. He was arrested and sentenced to prison for two years. Chhota Rajan came out of jail as a hardened criminal.
The Rise of Chhota Rajan
According to some sources, in 1982, Bada Rajan’s enemy the Pathan brothers with the help of Abdul Kunju got Bada Rajan killed outside the court. After Bada Rajan’s murder, the gang was in hands of Rajendra and soon received the name ‘Chhota Rajan.’ Rajan pledged to avenge the death of his gang leader Bada Rajan. Kunju when came to know about the motive of Chotta Rajan, he surrendered to the Crime Branch in 1983 to escape Rajan. In April 1984, when police took Kunju to a hospital for treatment, Rajan started firing at him. However, Kunju survived. After the incident, Dawood called Rajan to meet him and offered him to join his (Dawood’s) gang and he agreed. He soon traced Kunju and shot him dead at a cricket ground in Mumbai.
Becoming the Right-Hand of Dawood
Chhota Rajan impressed Dawood by his daring nature and honesty. In 1987, Dawood sent Rajan to Dubai to take up an assignment, which he completed successfully. As a part of Dawood’s group, Rajan used to take extortion from builders and rich people in Mumbai.
Slowly, Dawood started having faith in Rajan and their friendship grew manifold. Dawood started involving Rajan in his every decision and Rajan rose to be his right hand. Their growing friendship pricked Chhota Shakeel and he formed a team that consisted of Sharad Shetty, Sunil Rawat, and Shakeel himself. Together, they provoked Dawood against Rajan.
Split with Dawood
From 1984 to 1993, Rajan and Dawood were considered a lethal combination in Mumbai’s underworld. However, after the Mumbai serial blasts in 1993, the duo fell out. At that time, Rajan framed an independent gang that frequently clashed with Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Company.
Reportedly, the main reason behind their split was the murder of Ibrahim Parkar, husband of Dawood’s sister, Haseena Parkar, by Arun Gawli’s gang. Dawood wanted Rajan to avenge the murder of Ibrahim, but Rajan didn’t take his order seriously and kept carrying out his normal operations. This gave Chhota Shakeel a chance to take Rajan’s place. Shakeel assured Dawood to take his revenge, successfully completed the operation, and became a reason for the Dawood-Rajan split.
Dawood’s Attempt to Assassinate Chhota Rajan
Since Rajan’s split with Dawood, there were occasional gang wars between the two. In September 2000, while Rajendra was attending a party in a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Dawood sent Chhota Shakeel to kill him. Before Shakeel reached the hotel, Chhota Rajan got a call, informing him about the assassination. Rajan soon reached the Indian Embassy and met an officer there. Within a few hours, he was sent to Kathmandu and from there to Malaysia.
The failed assassination attempt proved to be heavy for Dawood. In 2001, Rajan shot dead two of Dawood’s associates, Vinod and Sunil Soans, in Mumbai. While their deaths didn’t affect Dawood much, in January 2003, Rajan’s gang members gunned down Sharad, the chief finance manager, and money laundering agent of Dawood Ibrahim at the India Club in Dubai. It was a huge defeat for Dawood as the murder was attempted at a location that Dawood considered his operational backyard and the financial and monetary information of the crime syndicate operations managed by Sharad was never fully recovered by Dawood. Soon, Rajan left Dubai and went to Australia. After living in Australia for seven years, Chhota Rajan moved to Bali, Indonesia, on a fake passport (the name on the passport was of Mohan Kumar).
Murdering the Crime Journalist Jyotirmoy Dey
In June 2011, Chhota Rajan hired a contract killer for Rs. 5 lakh to attempt the murder of the senior crime reporter Jyotirmoy Dey in Mumbai. Reportedly, he ordered the killing as he was irked by his portrayal as a small-time crook in a book that J Dey was planning to write.
Arrest and Conviction
In 2015, Rajan was captured in Bali, Indonesia, after Australian police stated that he had travelled to Bali with an Indian fake passport by the name of Mohan Kumar. Reportedly, he was clearing the immigration when the authorities asked him to reveal his name. Rajan immediately gave his original name ‘Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje’ and then corrected himself and said, Mohan Kumar. This created doubt in the minds of the authorities and they carried out an identification process.
During the process 11 out of 18 points of his fingerprints matched with the identity of Rajendra, confirming that he was Chhota Rajan. He was then deported to India on 6 November 2015.
In India, Rajan was sentenced to seven years of rigorous imprisonment n 2017 in the fake passport case by a special CBI court in New Delhi. In 2018, he was held guilty in journalist J. Dey’s murder case and was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Maharashtra MCOCA court.
- Besides Chhota Rajan, Rajendra is also popularly known as Nana, a name given to him by the Gujarati Builders.
- Rajan was often bullied by his classmates in his school days. Once one of his classmates splashed ink on his shirt and he approached his teacher to complain about it. While he was in class 8, some of his classmates locked him in the school bathroom.
- Chhota Rajan was inspired by Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, and Vardha Bhai to step into the world of crime.
- As of 2021, he is facing trials in over 70 cases of murder, extortion, and drug smuggling.
- Reportedly, in the ’90s, Rajan’s earnings were around Rs. 80 lakhs per month. He was also the owner of around 122 unknown hotels and pubs in Mumbai.
- In 2002, Vivek Oberoi‘s character of ‘Chandu’ in the film “Company” also had a resemblance to Rajaan’s life.
- In 2021, Chhota Rajan, who was serving life imprisonment in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, was tested positive for COVID-19 on 22 April 2021. Subsequently, he was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) owing to poor health conditions. Rajan recovered from COVID-19 and was taken back to the Tihar Jail on 5 May 2021. While he was admitted to the hospital, there were rumours of his demise due to COVID-19.