He stopped sending his daughter to school for a while, asked his wife not to step out of their house as he had been receiving threat calls and letters. By the time he was shifted to another department, he received as many as 2,000 threatening letters and hundreds of phone calls.
Despite all hurdles, senior police officer Ajay Pal Lamba, who was in-charge of the investigation in the rape case against self-styled godman Asaram, remained undeterred.
On Wednesday, a Jodhpur court held Asaram guilty of raping a teenage girl in his ashram five years ago and sent him to jail for life, the second case of a powerful spiritual leader being convicted of a sexual offence in less than a year after Gurmeet Ram Rahim last August.
Special judge Madhusudan Sharma's verdict, which comes as the debate over sexual violence, particularly the rape of minors, intensifies across the country, was read out in the Jodhpur Central Jail where 77-year-old Asaram has been kept for over four years.
Hindustan Times reported
that Lamba, then deputy commissioner of police (DCP), Jodhpur West, was handed over the most high profile case in his career on August 20, 2013. In the following years he saw killings of witnesses, relentless media coverage and then the threats to cops by Asaram’s followers.
“The letters carried abuses and threatened they would kill my family if anything happened to Asaram. My phone would not stop ringing and I stopped receiving calls from unknown numbers. The letters stopped only when I shifted to Udaipur,” Lamba, now the superintendent of police (anti-corruption bureau) in Jodhpur, told the newspaper.
While recalling how he and his team managed to arrest Asaram, Lambha told The Times of India
on August 31, he sent a team having five police officers and six commandos to his aashram in Indore (Madhya Pradesh). But they didn’t know his whereabouts.
“Simultaneously, we held a press conference in Jodhpur to bluff that he was on our radar. This irked Asaram and he suddenly appeared at Bhopal airport in the afternoon of August 31, 2013. We shared the info with the media persons, who started chasing him. Asaram, without knowing about our team’s presence in the city, reached his Indore ashram,” he said.
He was then arrested from the ashram.
He, however, told the newspaper that on August 21, 2013, when a team of Delhi police along with victim girl reached his police station to lodge a complaint against Asaram, he initially didn’t believe her.
Lamba also told News18
that the most crucial part of evidence in the case was the statement by the victim. The evidence matched with the statement of the victim thus strengthening the case against Asaram. This became the basis on which Asaram was arrested and proved a major success for the Jodhpur police.
Asaram was arrested in Indore and brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013. He has under judicial custody since September 2, 2013.
Soon after the verdict, Lamba hailed the judgment in a Facebook post: "Finally truth prevailed. Justice delivered in Asharam Bapu case with conviction of accused Asharam in a case of sexual assault on a minor girl during the night of Independence day of 2013. Judgement is a landmark in criminal jurisprudence in the country. It is heartening to witness that if the law of land is implemented impartially, then even weakest can afford to take on the mights of most influential person like Asharam. Kudoes to the whole team who was associated with me in taking this case to its logical conclusion in the most efficient and professional manner despite all odds. Thanks to colleagues, seniors and all members of the team whose support meant a lot for me in the entire phase of this case. My gratitude to all well wishers who stand for the cause directly or indirectly by contributing in own ways. Thanks to one and all. God bless the victim and family. Jai Hind...."
Asaram is also facing a rape case in Surat in Gujarat in which the Supreme Court earlier this month gave five weeks time to the prosecution to complete the trial.
Asaram unsuccessfully moved 12 bail applications, of which six were rejected by the trial court, three by the Rajasthan high court and three by the Supreme Court.
(With PTI inputs)