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Chhota Rajan, Whose Nationalism Is Sham

FOR a while there was confusion whether the man the Indonesian police arrested at the Bali airport on Sunday was really the underworld don Chhota Rajan. The confusion perhaps arose more due to incredulity than a mix-up of his face with another criminal wanted by India nicknamed ‘Cyanide Mohan’  who had trapped 20 women in marriage and killed them by administering cyanide to them. Cyanide Mohan looked like Chhota Rajan and was like him hiding in Australia. However, after CBI director Anil Sinha confirmed the captive in Bali was Chhota Rajan the question boiled down to how soon to get him to India. India and Indonesia have an extradition treaty. The extradition treaty and mutual legal assistance treaty between the two nations were signed in 2011 by the then external affairs minister S M Krishna and his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa. The extradition treaty was signed after wide-ranging talks between prime minister Manmohan Singh and the visiting Indonesian president Susilo Yudhoyono.

The extradition treaty was signed as a part of bilateral efforts to intensify counter-terror cooperation. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and India, the third most populous, share common ground as democratic and pluralist societies in fighting terrorism. The two countries are committed by the pact to fight terrorism in all forms and manifestations. Since the signing of the treaty over four years ago, the two countries have improved the sharing of intelligence and enhanced liaison between law enforcement agencies. They also provide assistance to each other in the areas of border and immigration control to stem the flow of terrorists and terrorist-related material, money and people and specific measures against transnational crimes. Chhota Rajan’s arrest at Bali is therefore no accident. The Indonesian authorities swiftly acted on a tip-off from Australian police to detain Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje, alias ‘Chhota Rajan’ as he arrived in the popular resort island of Bali from Sydney. It was red notice from Australian police which meant that the man was wanted for murder. Chhota Rajan is suspected to have carried out 15 to 20 murders in India. Indonesian police were coordinating with Interpol and Indian authorities in order to deport Rajan to India.

The arrest speaks highly of the coordination between the police authorities of Australia, Indonesia and India and sets an example which could be deterrent to criminals who hide in a country while engaged in crimes in other countries. Indian authorities knew Chhota Rajan was hiding in Australia under a different identity. But they could not pinpoint where in Australia he had been hiding. Apart from the Indian authorities and Interpol, Chhota Rajan was also hunted by Dawood Ibrahim who suspected that his former gang member who rose to be a ringleader himself was providing vital information about his whereabouts and activities to the Indian authorities. Chhota Rajan has been living off a legend since 1993 Mumbai serial blasts that he started hating Dawood Ibrahim from then on. Chhota Rajan has tried hard to portray himself as a “Hindu nationalist” who was fighting a do or die war with the “Pakistan-sponsored terrorist” Dawood Ibrahim. At one point, his lieutenants fed stories in the media that he was ready to provide all information and help to the Indian authorities to track down Dawood. There have been strong rumours and stories also of Chhota Rajan’s men nearly succeeding in an attempt to kill Dawood in his sheltered hideout in Karachi. On the other hand, there have been stories of Dawood’s men nearly succeeding in an attempt to kill Chhota Rajan.

There are pieces of evidence to suggest that a few of these attempts were really made by one gang against the other. However, these attempts should be taken more as reflective of gang rivalry rather than a war between a nationalist don and a traitor don. Dons are dons. They have killed numberless people in India. They have lived their lives off illegalities such as contract killings, extortions, money laundering and smuggling of goods and arms. And both Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan continue to indulge in these criminal activities. The Muslims of Mumbai or other parts of India do not look up to Dawood Ibrahim as their leader, protector or brother. He is known as ‘bhai’ in the completely ironical sense. ‘Bhai’ is a word that evokes protection and affection, but associated with Dawood, the term evokes fear and alienation. Likewise, Hindus of Mumbai or other parts of India have never perceived Chhota Rajan as their redeemer, as someone who would always be there to protect them from terrorists –and without breaking any laws. Was Chhota Rajan an apostle of non-violence before the Mumbai serial blasts took place? Did he not order killing of targets indiscriminately purely for the sake of money before 1993? What are his credentials as a fighter for communal amity and social harmony in the city of Mumbai? The Indian authorities must prosecute Chhota Rajan for all his crimes. No sympathy should be shown to him for his sham nationalism.

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