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‘Better to die than join with Dawood’


Posted: Jan 30, 2005 at 0058 hrs IST

The brief phone call appears to be an effort made by Rajan—the Mumbai Police alone have at least 17 counts of murder against him—to end whispers of a rapproachment with one-time friend Dawood, now believed to be in hiding either in the Gulf or Pakistan.

The whispers come after Rajan’s incarcerated lieutenant D K Rao was seen talking to Dawood’s younger brother, Iqbal Kaskar, when the duo were in the same police van heading for court proceedings.

Born Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhalje, the son of a factory worker from Satara, Rajan’s unique selling proposition in the murky mafia world is ‘patriotism’, a word he’s used to motivate his men and surreptitiously curry favour with Indian intelligence agencies since he broke away from Dawood in 1993.

Key lieutenants and frontline shooters of Rajan’s gang—now badly decimated by the Mumbai Police—greet each other with a ‘Jai Hind’ salutation and bombing suspects are atop their hit lists (seven accused named in the 1993 serial Mumbai bombings were systematically assassinated by Rajan’s gang).

Rajan’s whereabouts are a mystery, though he’s supposed to be in the Gulf.

His younger brother, film producer Deepak Nikhalje (he made the film Vaastav) unsuccessfully fought the 2004 Maharashtra assembly elections from the Chembur constituency.

Dawood’s right-hand man, Chhota Shakeel, counters Rajan’s rhetoric as sham, dubbing the patriotism propaganda as no more than a motivational tool.

Rajan took over the reigns of his Tilak Nagar gang after mentor Rajan Nair, alias Bada Rajan, was gunned down outside an Esplanade court in 1982. Soon, he linked up with Dawood and rose to become his second-in-command after escaping to Dubai in 1987.

Rajan broke away from Dawood after the 1993 bombings, claiming he could not countenance his comrade’s ‘‘anti-national’’ activities.

In 2000, Rajan survived an attempt on his life— dramatically escaping from a hospital room while in Bangkok police custody—masterminded by Shakeel.

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