Picture this: An honest cop with a team of 20 is out to arrest a corrupt godman with crores of followers. But before they can do so, the word gets out and efforts are made to discourage the men in khaki from arresting this “influential and well-connected” sadhu. First, money – an amount, the cops are told, they can only dream of – is offered. When they turn it down, a few “powerful” people in bureaucracy, politics and business try to dissuade them from arresting the godman. Another refusal leads to countless threats – to the cops and their families. Undeterred by all this “action”, the cops arrest the hypocritical sadhu and ensure that the self-styled godman gets life imprisonment for raping a minor girl at his ashram after a four-year long trial. Today, this “godman” Asaram Bapu aka Asumal Sirumalani Harpalani is lodged in Jodhpur’s Central Jail.
This is what the then DCP Jodhpur (West) Ajay Pal Lamba and his team experienced when they were out to arrest Asaram Bapu in 2013. All this and much more has been documented in a no-holds-barred, first-hand account – Gunning For The Godman: The True Story Behind Asaram Bapu’s Conviction (HarperCollins India; Rs 499; Non-Fiction/ True Crime). Authored by Lamba and his co-author Sanjeev Mathur, the book releases tomorrow (September 5, 2020). Interestingly, this Herculean effort by the super cop, now posted as Additional Commissioner of Police, Jaipur, and his team, will soon come alive on silver screen too. Mathur is the founder of The Book Bakers, a literary agency.
Sharing details of the eventful day when he arrested Asaram Bapu, Lamba says, “It was a part of our strategy to not let anyone know that Jodhpur Police was in the ashram’s campus at Indore to arrest Asaram Bapu. But then the word got out and a large crowd of his followers gathered outside the ashram in no time. We decided on taking him out during night hours as we expected the numbers to go down but the crowd only swelled. At that point, we created a pseudo-perception in the minds of his supporters that after arresting their ‘god’, the Jodhpur Police would exit from the main gate. For this, a huge deployment of Indore police was organised along with anti-riot equipment and other necessary infrastructure. While everyone waited there, we broke the back wall of the campus to make a new way and exited from there with Asaram Bapu.”
While everyone waited at the man entrance, we broke the back wall of the campus to make a new way and exited from there with Asaram Bapu
— Ajay Pal Lamba
During this period, Lamba says, he felt that some of his men were wilting under the pressure being applied from different quarters. “I kept telling them that they should feel the pain the girl had gone through. And that she needed our support. And support from the government machinery. ‘If not for us, who will protect her and her family? I asked them.’ All we needed to do was provide a cover, play a supporting role in their fight for justice,” says Lamba who feels he became stronger and more confident professionally after this case. “I also learnt to strategise better,” he adds. On the personal front, the super cop feels the case made him more humane, more sensitive.
When the final judgement was pronounced in the court, Lamba reminisces that each of his men had tears of joy. “When you are working on sensitive cases like this one, all you want is justice for the aggrieved. If the judgement wouldn’t have come in our favour, it would have broken us down, demotivated us. But it coming in our favour gave us a sense of achievement. Our hard work had borne fruit,” he says.
On when, where and how he met Ajay Pal Lamba, co-author Mathur says, “I met him in end-August 2018 at Jaipur, where he was posted, to discuss the book. The book was the idea of my son, Suhail, co-founder at The Book Bakers. It was conceived after the successful conviction of Asaram Bapu in April 2018. He only contacted Lamba and convinced him to share his story. He then assigned me to write the book so that we could tell Lamba’s heroic story to the world. Suhail then pitched it to HarperCollins India as a commissioned project,” shares Mathur.
The book is truthful and insightful without being bombastic. It is full of fast-paced action and has many twists and turns that shall keep the reader turning the pages
— Sanjeev Mathur
He further adds, “After I met Lamba in Jaipur to hear the first-hand account, we spoke regularly over the phone and formed a great working relationship. He also sent me all the factual as well as technical information over an e-mail. I assimilated it all to design a storyboard, which I developed as a first person narrative, ensuring that I stuck to the facts of the case and did not go overboard in either portraying Asaram Bapu in a bad light, other than what was required to be said in relation to the case, or portray Lamba as Superman. The book is truthful and insightful without being bombastic. It is full of fast-paced action and has many twists and turns that shall keep the reader turning the pages.”
Talking about the motion picture deal, Mathur says, “Yes, the book has been acquired by a major production house, which has made some very hard-hitting, riveting films that have gone on to become major box-office hits. I cannot reveal more at this stage because the producer and director have requested non-disclosure till such time that they announce it themselves.”