Ayodhya City Mayor Rishikesh Upadhyay, incumbent MP for Sadar district district Ved Prakash Gupta and former Milkipur constituency legislator Gorakhnath Baba are among the 40 nominees by the Ayodhya Development Authority (ADA) as “illegal colonizers” of land and building infrastructure in such land.
The list, released on Saturday, is signed by Ajay Bharti, Lekhpal, Ayodhya Development Authority. ADA Deputy Chairman Vishal Singh told the Press Trust of India news agency on Sunday: “The list of 40 people who illegally purchased land and had construction work carried out in the area of the authority was published on Saturday evening”.
When contacted, Singh told the Indian Express: “There needs to be an investigation into the people behind it. The list is premature and was deliberately leaked, it seems. It’s wrong.”
Gupta and Upadhyay were among more than a dozen land plot buyers investigated by The Indian Express on December 22 last year. Among them were local MPs, close relatives of bureaucrats then working or serving in Ayodhya, and local tax officials whose job it was to authenticate land transactions.
Indian Express’ investigation last December into politicians and relatives of government officials who bought land in Ayodhya after the Supreme Court verdict authorizing the construction of the Temple of Ram. While Gupta’s nephew, Tarun Mittal bought 5174 sq m from Barhata Manjha on November 21, 2019, for Rs 1.15 crore, on December 29, 2020 he bought 14,860 sq m from Maheshpur (Gonda) alongside the other side of the Saryu River, almost 5 km from the temple site, for Rs 4 crore. Upadhyay had purchased 1,480 sqm on September 18, 2019, for Rs 30 lakh.
The Uttar Pradesh government had set up a one-member commission to investigate land transactions by public officials and government officialsbut the conclusions of the report submitted to the government in January this yearare not yet in the public domain.
Contacted, Ved Prakash Gupta said: “The Lekhpal does not have the power to publish such a list. I have no role in land transactions. The city’s mayor, Upadhyay, said, “These lists are released only after proper investigation. We have no role in such illegal land deals.
A week ago, on July 31, Ayodhya MP Lallu Singh, also from the BJP, wrote to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asking for an investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the sale and illegal purchase of land by the land mafia in areas from Jamthara to Golaghat to Ayodhya which are among doob kshetra (submerged areas). In his letter, he said, “The influence of the land mafia is such that in collusion with officials/employees posted earlier, falsifying documents and deceiving people, land has been registered in their names. Land mafia business is booming in the lands between Jamthara Ghat and Golaghat. Singh declined to comment when contacted.
There has been a rush to buy land in Ayodhya, especially after the Supreme Court verdict on November 9, 2019. The Ayodhya Development Authority had demolished constructions undertaken by small land buyers in late July in the Majha Jamthara region.
Sources told the Indian Express that the report submitted by the one-man committee following the Indian Express investigation was with the Department of Revenue. A request under the RTI Act for a copy of the investigation report did not elicit a response. A second appeal is pending hearing with the UP State Information Commission.