Notorious godman Asaram Bapu, aka Asumal Sirumalani Harpalani, serves life imprisonment in the Central Jail Jodhpur. He was convicted for the rape of a minor and also has murder charges against him.
Gunning for the Godman is the no-holds-barred, first-hand account of how Ajay Lamba, then DCP Jodhpur (West), landed the case and got a team of dedicated officers together. It is the story of how, foiling the Baba’s many attempts to get away scot-free, they arrested him in a matter of only ten days, and how they assiduously saw the victim and her family through a four-year long trial. This, despite the countless threats to not only the girl and her family, but also to DCP Lamba’s own family and team.
A testimony to unrelenting courage, this story of a dynamic police officer’s pursuit of justice is a lesson for these troubled times.
The media was in a frenzy when the godman Asaram Bapu was accused of raping a minor. Although the details of the trial and the conviction are public news, little was known about how the notorious godman was brought to book. A team led by Ajay Lamba, then DCP Jodhpur (West) arrested the godman within just ten days of filing of the FIR. Gunning for the Godman: The True Story Behind Asaram Bapu’s Conviction by Ajay Lamba with Sanjeev Mathur gives you the inside story.
The book is an extremely detailed account of the investigation. Right from the first complaint by the victim to the final verdict. We are introduced to each team member. Made privy to the exact thought process that went into selecting them. The struggles of the Jodhpur Police team with jurisdictions, legal loopholes, political and departmental pressure. The subtle and not so subtle threats that the team received (and continue to receive). The “regular” transfers to weaken the case. And the tactics used by the defense lawyers.
The book begins with a short biography of Asamaram Bapu. It tracks his beginning as a refugee from Sindh (now in Pakistan) to the godly status. What follows is quite a pageturner and some sections do read like a thriller. The writing style is simple. There are a few conversations that are included verbatim but do not take away from the narrative. Post the verdict, the author also provides minute details of the sections under which the godman was convicted.
I have always felt that policemen do not get the respect they deserve. There are black sheep everywhere, and perhaps more so in the police force. This is true not just in India but globally. But for each bad apple, there are countless men and women risking their lives daily to maintain law and order. Helping deliver justice one criminal at a time. It is refreshing that the author does not glorify the police or attempt to generate empathy.
Tum aisa nahin kar sakte. Tum ko abhi upar se orders aajayenge ki mujhko arrest nahin kar sakte’, (You can do nothing of the sort. You will soon receive orders from your superiors that you cannot arrest me.)
The statement above made by the godman before his arrest is the prime example of his clout at the time. It is no secret that every other individual in India follows some guru or the other. Most often these are self-styled and some hide a sinister gameplan. Not surprising that a lot of godmen have been accused of nefarious activities. And continue to get the support of followers even after being convicted.
Quoting the author, underneath the uniform, there is a human being who has a family. A person who does feel fear. How he or she overcomes it is what builds character. This was a very raw thought.
The book is a fascinating, no-holds-barred account of the high profile investigation. It restores the faith that there still are upright policemen around. The book is a must-read if you enjoy true crimes.
About the author
Ajay Lamba is the Additional Commissioner of Police (Law & Order), Jaipur, Rajasthan. In August 2018, he was awarded the Rajasthan government’s highest police award for his commendable work in the Asaram case.
This review has been written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. I was offered the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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