India has taken a big risk by arresting Chhota Rajan

Knowing the level of corruption in our prisons, it might be foolish to expect that the underworld don could be given foolproof security when he is finally sent to jail.

 |  4-minute read |   29-10-2015
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The first indication that Chhota Rajan's arrest in Bali might have been the result of a three-nation cooperation came from Gurjit Singh, India's ambassador to Indonesia who told a national daily on October 27: "It is obvious that such an arrest was possible due to the deep cooperation between the security agencies of India, Indonesia and Australia." It is not clear whether he knew about this personally or was authorised to speak publicly as local missions are never informed about any such secret intelligence cooperation.

Earlier, the Indian media went on announcing that Chhota Rajan's arrest in Bali was a stage-managed operation by the cuntry's intelligence agencies. They quoted unnamed intelligence sources that this was done for two reasons: first, the don wanted to surrender and return home owing to failing health; second, Indian agencies felt that he could give more details about Dawood Ibrahim if he was brought to the country. To justify the first conclusion, our media said that Chhota Rajan "looked happy" at his arrest. He was also found travelling with very light baggage. Since then Chhota Rajan has denied that he wanted to surrender.

So what is the reason for his arrest? Was it done accidentally in the normal course as a result of our revised "red corner notice"? Or was it "arranged" by our intelligence agencies to compel him to return to India?

Also read: Is Chhota Rajan's arrest a deal to nab Dawood? India, don't cheer just yet

That Chhota Rajan was in touch with our intelligence agencies was publicly known on July 11, 2005 when a Mumbai Police team was surprised to find a retired intelligence chief in the company of Chhota Rajan's key henchman Vickey Malhotra in New Delhi. This delicate relationship was further confirmed by former Union home secretary RK Singh to a TV channel on August 23, 2015 when he said that the former NDA government had planned a covert operation to "take down" Dawood. Singh had by then joined the BJP. He said that the then government had enlisted the services of the members of Chhota Rajan's gang who "were being trained at a secret location outside Maharashtra".

What could be the reason for the Indian intelligence agencies taking keen interest in bringing Chhota Rajan to the country now, when their target was all along Dawood? The media had assessed that he might be able to divulge more details about Dawood's activities. Was it because he was not found cooperating with them from foreign locations? What more information could he give us on Dawood when he has been on the run all these years from Dawood's wrath?

Also read: Geeta is back, but what about Dawood?

To me, our intelligence agencies are taking a very big risk if they are responsible for bringing Rajan back to India. Knowing the level of corruption in our prisons, it might be foolish to expect that Chhota Rajan could be given foolproof security when he is finally sent to jail. He is involved in about 72 cases of crime according to the Mumbai Police. He could be kept in police custody only for a limited period. After that he will have to be sent to the magisterial custody and produced frequently at the concerned courts. In between, he will have to be sent for medical treatment also. That is where he will be most vulnerable.

Another risk is legal action by Chhota Rajan's victims' families. I hope our intelligence agencies have read about the 84-year-old James "Whitey" Bulger, whose "Winter Hill Gang" had terrorised South Boston waterfront for years even while he was an FBI informer. He went into hiding in 1995 when Boston Police arraigned him for murder. Later it known that he had committed 19 cases of murder and 32 counts of racketeering and extortion even when he was an FBI informer. After his arrest in 2011, the FBI is facing 20 suits by Bulger's victims' families, each for multi-million dollar compensation, since they hold the FBI responsible for his crimes for not supervising his work as an informer. Could we not expect such a thing happening in India when there is confirmed evidence that Chhota Rajan was committing murders and extortion even as an intelligence agent?

Considering all the above facts it is my conclusion that Chhota Rajan was arrested accidentally in Bali and our intelligence agencies are struggling to reach the best solution to an otherwise messy situation.


Vappala Balachandran Vappala Balachandran @vappala_bal

The writer is a former special secretary at the Cabinet Secretariat, and also member of the high level committee which enquired into the police performance during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

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