Jaipur, Sep 1 (PTI) Self-styled 'godman' Asaram, sentenced to life in prison for raping a teenager, bragged about his political connections while being taken into custody and told an officer he would receive orders from his superiors to not carry out the arrest, says an IPS officer who led the investigation.
The 79-year-old was arrested in August 2013 and convicted almost five years later in April 2018 on charges of raping a teen student of his ashram.
'Taking Asaram Bapu into custody was a challenging task and the toughest part of the entire course of the case. Despite all odds, it was done,” Ajay Pal Lamba, who was posted as Deputy Commissioner of Police-West in Jodhpur in 2013, told PTI.
Lamba has penned his experience of the case in a book titled “Gunning for the GODMAN - The true story behind Asaram Bapu's conviction”, recalling the hardship and challenges he and his team faced during the investigation and the trial.
The book, co-authored by Sanjeev Mathur and published by HarperCollins Publishers, will be released virtually on September 5.
Lamba said he, his team members, witnesses and even lawyers received threats during the investigation and trial.
Asaram was arrested by a team from the Jodhpur police from his ashram in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, on August 31, 2013 and taken to Jodhpur via Delhi by air.
According to Lamba, it was while the team was talking to Asaram in his ashram before his arrest that he boasted about his political connections and told a police officer, “Soon you will receive orders from your superiors that you cannot arrest me.” However, Asaram panicked when the officer switched off his mobile phone in front of him, Lamba, a 2005-batch IPS office presently posted as Additional Commissioner of Police in Jaipur, recounted.
Two members of the investigation team were deputed to stay at the ashram as Asaram's followers to collect evidence. 'It was discovered that he had some kind of sex addiction and demanded a new nubile girl every night,” Lamba writes in the book, referring to the claim of some individuals associated with Asaram.
The girls were made to believe by Asaram's aides that they were sick and must 'surrender' to him if they wanted to be cured, he said. It is claimed that members of Asaram's ashram management, especially the matron of the Chhindwara ashram, Shilpi, were always on the lookout for underage and attractive girls studying or staying at the ashram who could be brainwashed into believing that the accused was 'god incarnate and that they were his chosen ones'. “The girls were made to feel inadequate or sick, and convinced that their cure lay with Baba Asaram. They were told that they must surrender to him totally if they wanted to be remedied of their ills,” Lamba said. He said the young girls, usually from poor families, were either 'paid off' later or threatened with dire consequences if they say a word about their ordeal. “There was parental pressure too. They were, therefore, not in favour of taking any legal action against the accused,” he said in the book.
Lamba narrated in detail his experience of questioning Asaram when he was brought to Jodhpur and lodged in a police guest house. “’Baba, tu yeh bata ki yeh sab kya kar dala tune. Jaldi bata.' I asked him in a gruff voice, with contempt in my eyes. (Baba, you tell me why you did all this. Tell me quickly) What he said in response astounded me. 'Galti kar di… galti kar di maine (I committed a mistake… I committed a mistake'.” “That was exactly where I wanted him. My plan had succeeded. I knew that it would now be easy to make him confess to his crime and to corroborate the allegations against him,” the officer said in the book.
Lamba said he meticulously selected every single member in his team, those with expertise in areas such as forensic science, legal matters and interrogation. They comprised both young and experienced officers with high integrity and reliability to be able to take the case to a logical conclusion. He claimed that Gujarat police, which was investigating the case against Asaram's son Narayan Sai, had revealed that an accused in that case planned to kill woman officer Chanchal by blowing up her vehicle with an IED. “In the wake of such disclosures, Chanchal had to be provided additional armed guards round the clock even when she was later transferred to Bhilwara district,” he said. The officer told PTI that he held regular media briefings to make sure that no speculative news was generated. This proved to be a crucial factor, particularly during his arrest. “I decided to write the book to give a first-hand account of the investigation and the challenges in the high-profile case. It tells about the importance of planning, teamwork, leadership qualities which are essential to execute a task,” he said.
Asaram was sentenced to life in jail till natural death by a Jodhpur court on April 25, 2018. The court awarded 20 years imprisonment to two co-accused, including Chhindwara ashram matron Shilpi, and acquitted two others, Shiva and Prakash.
The teenaged victim from Shahajahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, who was studying at Asaram ashram, had accused him of raping her on the night of August 15, 2013. An FIR was lodged with a police station in Delhi and was transferred to Jodhpur for investigation. PTI SDA RT MIN MIN