When he was a baby, a fortune-teller scried into Amit Lodha’s future and declared that he would make a big splash in the world of crime. For years, his poor mother lived with the fear that her son would become a crime lord. Lodha did enter the world of crime but as a nemesis of Bihar’s ganglords. The IPS officer’s exploits in the badlands of Bihar play out in the latest Netflix series Khakee: The Bihar Chapter.
Khakee is the latest in the Singham genre where tough cops are lauded and lionised. Written by Neeraj Pandey and directed by Bhav Dhulia, Khakee draws from Lodha’s second novel, Bihar Diaries, where he takes on a local don. Netflix describes this hotly anticipated series as the story of a “righteous cop” pursuing a “merciless criminal” and facing a “moral battle mired in corruption”. The series is set amid a clash of police, politicians, and criminals in Bihar at the turn of the century between 2000 and 2006. But for Lodha, the Inspector General of the State Crime Records Bureau, it’s just another day in office.
In Bihar, where the lines between good and evil are shaky, this IPS officer lives in a black-and-white world. Going by the trailers, Khakee pits the two worlds against each other with all the melodrama and angst it can muster. Played by a dapper Karan Tacker, Lodha’s character is young, ambitious, and honest. He believes in the badge.
The worst time of Bihar, steeped in criminality and corrupt politics, is now OTT’s golden opportunity. Lodha tracked down and arrested Ashok Mahto, the ‘Gabbar Singh of Sheikhpura’, who, along with sharpshooter Pintu Mahto, reportedly killed 15 people over two nights in May 2006, according to Lodha. The officer also received the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry in 2008 for arresting nine Naxalites in Rampur.
“Amit Lodha’s book is written in the form of a simple diary. Yet, the incidents described in it were so powerful that it was a lot of fun to weave and transform them into a story,” said scriptwriter Uma Shankar Singh who grew up in the Saharsa district of Bihar. While he has taken creative liberties with the script, the source material — the classic ‘chor-police’ drama — is retained.
Lodha is yet to watch Khakee, but the incidents shown in it are those that he has lived and re-lived everywhere he was posted— Patna to Begusarai and Sheikhpura to Muzaffarpur.
Now, he has another high-profile case on his hands. He recently exposed IPS officer Aditya Kumar’s alleged ties with Bihar’s liquor mafia. Kumar is absconding with Lodha hot on his heels.
An IPS officer from the 1997 batch, he was allotted the Bihar cadre, but at the time, he had no idea just how bad things were. “It was thousands of kilometres away from my janmabhoomi (birthplace) in Rajasthan, but as a young officer, I was filled with wonder about what I could do in my karmaboomi (workplace),” he says.
“Being an IPS officer when you are young is like offering valuables to a blind man,” he adds.
Not a typical cop
Bihar in the 1990s was struggling with rising crime rates — theft, kidnapping, murder. Students and youth were fleeing the state in search of better higher education opportunities.
“Even elites like doctors, engineers, businessmen were hesitant to visit Bihar. They were scared because nobody knew when they or any member of their family would get kidnapped or worse still, shot at,” Lodha says.
In this bleak landscape of India’s Wild West, no one gave Lodha a second glance. His slender, five-foot-eight-inch-tall frame did not fit the mould of a typical tough cop either.
But Lodha became a household name with the arrest of Ashok and Pintu Mahto. The latter was wanted in 30 cases of murder and kidnapping and also had a hand in the infamous Nawada jailbreak of 2002. He and his accomplices killed two policemen while escaping.
And then they killed 15 people in a small village in Sheikhpura in 2006. Nitish Kumar had been elected chief minister a little over a year before the incident. Under his government, Lodha was transferred from Nalanda to Sheikhpura, and as its new Superintendent of Police, he was tasked with ending the Mahto gang’s reign of terror.
“There was a war-like atmosphere in Sheikhpura. They had killed a sitting MLA and MP and a block development officer,” recalls Lodha. It took him three months to track down the gang.
“To nab Ashok Mahto, I had to think like a criminal. What was he thinking? What would his next move be? I read his cases and studied how he committed crime. And on 13 August, we arrested him,” he says.
While Bihar Diaries draws from these experiences, Lodha fictionalised the names of the villains and other characters. Writing the script for Khakee, Uma Shankar, too, added creative fictional layers to these events.
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Getting to the core of the crime
When BSF assistant commandant Raghavendra Mishra started working with Lodha, he was a jaded cop with 22 years of experience. He thought there was nothing more to see or do. “What I learnt from 2016 to 2021 under Lodha, I never did in all the previous years put together,” says Mishra.
Lodha is always the first to reach the crime spot. His colleagues attribute his success to his quick responsiveness to phone calls — be it at home or in the office. At a time when WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter were non-existent, Lodha went out of his way to be accessible to everyone, including his peers and informers.
This worked to his benefit in the high-tension situation in Bihar. When he was posted as Superintendent of Police in Nalanda, 24 years ago, kidnappings were a routine affair.
“One day, a rickshaw puller and a Bihari doctor who had come from abroad, were kidnapped around the same time. The entire department was under tremendous pressure,” he recalls.
Lodha kept wondering why someone would kidnap a rickshaw puller when gangs usually targeted wealthy professionals and businessmen.
“That’s when I received a call on my landline,” he says. It was an informer reporting some suspicious activity by a group. Lodha took down the details and the location, assembled a team, and quickly reached the spot. It was 3 am. They surrounded a place, and after two to three rounds of shooting, the gang surrendered.
When the police went inside, Lodha found a man in a crumpled suit and tie. The distraught man — the doctor — clung to him and started weeping terribly. Although the rickshaw puller was also rescued the same day, newspapers headlines only said: ‘Rescuing Dr Saheb’.
His name may cause ripples of fear among criminals, but for Bihar’s police personnel, he is a respected figure.
“He can’t be compared with anyone else. He is peerless. He is an honest, truthful as well as a public officer,” says Bihar’s former Director General of Police S.K. Bhardwaj who was Lodha’s boss during that time.
K.K. Sharma, former Director General, Border Security Force (BSF), says Lodha was an “asset” when he was with him in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. “He innovated new systems of border guarding by using technology and implemented all welfare schemes very diligently, particularly the financial literacy programme,” says Sharma.
He used his software engineering skills to help develop the mobile app for the Bharat Ke Veer fund, launched in 2017 for the CAPF personnel killed in action by the Ministry of Home Affairs. So far, the portal has disbursed more than Rs 76 crore to the beneficiaries. Although proficient at it, Lodha soon realised that software engineering wasn’t the path for him.
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Anxieties at IIT Delhi
As a student at St. Xavier’s College, Jaipur, he was an introvert who excelled in squash and maths. Engineering seemed a natural career choice. Lodha aced the competitive Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and got a seat at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi.
He soon found himself struggling with the course at IIT. Lodha’s grades dropped as a result of poor focus. Then there was an inferiority complex too in an institution full of excellent students.
“I used to like everyone very much except myself. I was depressed and becoming submissive…I thought I was the ugliest person out there. My personality was also not good,” says Lodha.
He hovered at the periphery of his friend circles. “My friends saw me as a ‘nice chap’, but no one wanted to take me anywhere with them. People liked me, but I was not ‘special’,” he says. Although he played squash competitively, he claimed that the tournaments were a disaster.
“I became suicidal and considered myself unlucky,” he adds.
He somehow completed the four-year course, graduated, and returned home to Jaipur, but did not try finding a job. “Instead, I locked myself up in a room. There was neither a fixed time for waking up nor for sleeping. Every attempt made by my family to get me out failed miserably,” Lodha says.
Finally, encouraged by his friends, he got out of his limbo and sat for the civil services examination. It came as no surprise to his friends and family when he was selected to be an IPS officer.
The khaki uniform and badge revived Lodha’s flagging spirit. It injected a sense of purpose into him. And that marked the doom of Bihar’s crimelords.
“I never looked back,” he says.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)