Land in Ayodhya, after the November 9, 2019 Supreme Court verdict cleared construction of the Ram temple, is prime real estate.
While the official Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust — set up in February 2020 — has so far acquired nearly 70 acres, private buyers are also rushing in anticipating hefty gains as the project gathers momentum. Even officialdom is hoping to cash in.
The buyers include local MLAs, close relatives of bureaucrats who have or are serving in Ayodhya, and local revenue officials whose job is to authenticate land transactions, an investigation by The Indian Express has found.
From an MLA, Mayor, and a member of the state OBC Commission who bought land in their own name to relatives of the Divisional Commissioner, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Circle Officer of Police, State Information Commissioner — in 14 cases, records investigated by The Indian Express show, families of these officials bought land after the apex court verdict, all within a 5-km radius of the Ram temple site.
One set of these transactions raises questions of conflict of interest given that the seller, in five cases, the Maharshi Ramayan Vidyapeeth Trust (MRVT), is under scrutiny — for alleged irregularities in purchase of land from Dalit villagers — by the very same officials whose relatives bought the land.
The Indian Express investigated land records, visited plot sites, spoke to officials and buyers in Ayodhya to piece together the following list:
1. M P Agrawal, Divisional Commissioner, Ayodhya (since November 2019)
His father-in-law Keshav Prasad Agrawal bought 2,530 sq m in Barhata Manjha on December 10, 2020 for Rs 31 lakh from MRVT; his brother-in-law Anand Vardhan bought 1,260 sq m in the same village the same day for Rs 15.50 lakh from MRVT. Significantly, company records show that the Commissioner’s wife is a partner in her father’s firm, Helmand Contractors and Builders LLP.
Comment: M P Agrawal said he does “not remember anything” and did not respond to a questionnaire. His father-in-law Keshav Prasad Agrawal said, “Yes, I purchased this land since I plan to stay in Ayodhya post-retirement. Mr M P Agrawal has no role in this.”
2. Purushottam Das Gupta, Chief Revenue Officer of Ayodhya between July 20, 2018, and September 10, 2021. Now he is Additional District Magistrate (Executive) in Gorakhpur
His brother-in-law Atul Gupta’s wife Tripti Gupta, in partnership with one Amar Jeet Yadav, bought 1,130 sq m in Barhata Manjha on October 12, 2021, for Rs 21.88 lakh from MRVT.
Comment: Purushottam Das Gupta said he had no role in the inquiry against MRVT and he had not purchased any land in his name. Said Atul Gupta: “I bought the land because it was available at a cheaper rate. I did not take (Purushottam’s) help.”
3. Indra Pratap Tiwari, MLA, Gosaiganj, Ayodhya District
He bought 2,593 sq m in Barhata Manjha on November 18, 2019, for Rs 30 lakh from MRVT.
On March 16, 2021, his brother-in-law Rajesh Kumar Mishra, along with one Raghavacharya, bought 6320 sq m in Barhata Majha for Rs 47.40 lakh from Sooraj Das.
Comment: Said Rajesh Mishra: “I purchased these plots from my savings. I have nothing to do with (MLA) Tiwari ji.” On November 18, 2019, a trust linked to the MLA, Maan Sharda Sewa Trust, bought 9,860 sq m in Barhata Manjha from MRVT for Rs 73.95 lakh.
4. Deepak Kumar, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) between July 26, 2020, and March 30, 2021. Now DIG, Aligarh
His wife’s sister Mahima Thakur bought 1,020 sq m in Barhata Manjha on September 1, 2021, for Rs 19.75 lakh from MRVT.
Comment: Deepak Kumar said: “No land was purchased by any of my relatives during my posting in Ayodhya. No money was paid by me, my wife or my father for any land there. My co-brother (Mahima Thakur’s husband) is from Kushinagar and now lives in Bengaluru. He told me they have bought land in Ayodhya after selling their land in Kushinagar. I have no role and relation with this purchase.”
5. Umadhar Dwivedi, Retired IAS officer of UP cadre, lives in Lucknow
He bought 1,680 sq m in Barhata Manjha on October 23, 2021, for Rs 39.04 lakh from MRVT.
Comment: “I am not aware if any case against them is pending. I have not taken any help from the district administration in this deal.”
6. Ved Prakash Gupta, MLA (Ayodhya)
His nephew Tarun Mittal bought 5,174 sq m in Barhata Manjha on November 21, 2019, for Rs 1.15 crore from Renu Singh and Seema Soni. On December 29, 2020, he bought 14,860 sq m in next-door Maheshpur (Gonda) across the river Saryu, nearly 5 km from the temple site, for Rs 4 crore from Jagdamba Singh and Jadunandan Singh.
Comment: Said MLA Gupta: “I have not purchased even a small piece of land in Ayodhya in the last over four years of my tenure as MLA. But as MLA of Ayodhya, I keep inviting people from across the country to come and visit and purchase land in Ayodhya.”
Said father of Tarun Mittal, his brother Chandra Prakash Gupta: “We have a cowshed on the plot, there are nearly 20 cows for now. In Maheshpur, four-five people have bought land jointly.”
7. Rishikesh Upadhyay, Mayor, Ayodhya
He bought 1,480 sq m on September 18, 2019, two months before the verdict, for Rs 30 lakh from one Harish Kumar.
On July 9, 2018, as Manager, Paramhans Shikshan Prashikshan Mahavidyalay, he acquired 2,530 sq m in Kazipur Chitavan in Ayodhya from one Ramesh as “donation”. The value of land in official records is Rs 1.01 crore.
Comment: Upadhyay said: “I had earlier sold my own land, later bought it again (from Harish Kumar). In Kazipur Chitavan, the land purchase is for my college which is being run there since 2006.”
8. Ayush Chaudhary, Former Sub Divisional Magistrate, Ayodhya, now in Kanpur
On May 28, 2020, Chaudhary’s cousin Shobhita Rani bought 5,350 sq m in Birauli in Ayodhya for Rs 17.66 lakh from Asharam. On November 28, 2019, Aarav Disha Kamla Foundation, run by Shobhita Rani, bought 1,130 sq m in Malikpur in Ayodhya for Rs 7.24 lakh from Dinesh Kumar.
Comment: While Ayush Chaudhary said he has no links to Rani or the foundation, Rani’s husband Ram Janm Verma said: “Ayush is my wife’s cousin, we have established the foundation.”
9. Arvind Chaurasia, Circle Officer, Provincial Police Service officer, now in Meerut
On June 21, 2021, his father-in-law Santosh Kumar Chaurasia bought 126.48 sq m for Rs 4 lakh in Rampur Halwara Uparhar village in Ayodhya from Bhupesh Kumar. On September 21, 2021, his mother-in-law Ranjana Chaurasia bought 279.73 sq m in Karkhana for Rs 20 lakh from one Bhagirathi.
Comment: Said Arvind Chaurasia: “My father-in-law is associated with religious activities. They want to establish an Ashram in Ayodhya. They want to settle there after retirement of my mother-in-law who is a teacher.”
10. Harshvardhan Shahi, State Information Commissioner
On November 18, 2021, his wife Sangeeta Shahi and their son Saharsh Kumar Shahi bought 929.85 sq m in Sarairasi Manjha in Ayodhya, for Rs 15.82 lakh from one Indra Prakash Singh.
Comment: When contacted, Harshvardhan Shahi said: “I want to live in Ayodhya. I have bought this land for residential purposes. I will build a home there for my family.”
11. Balram Maurya, Member, State OBC Commission
He bought 9,375 sq m on February 28, 2020, in Maheshpur, Gonda, for Rs 50 lakh from Jagdamba and Triveni Singh.
Comment: Said Maurya: “I want to build a hotel there on this land after other buyers around build. I have to arrange money from banks.”
12. Badri Upadhyay, Lekhpal of Ganja village (recently transferred).
On March 8, 2021, his father Vashisth Narain Upadhyay bought 116 sq m for Rs 3.50 lakh in Ganja from one Shyam Sundar. A lekhpal is a revenue official who authenticates land transactions.
Comment: Said Badri Upadhyay: “There is no conflict of interest. I have money and I can buy land anywhere.”
13. Sudhanshu Ranjan, Kanoongo of Ganja village. Kanoongo is a revenue official who supervises the work of lekhpals
On March 8, 2021, Ranjan’s wife Aditi Sriwastav bought 270 sq meter in Ganja for Rs 7.50 lakh.
Comment: Sudhanshu Ranjan denied any purchase. His wife said: “Sudhanshu is my husband. You can talk to him about this land deal.”
14. Dinesh Ojha (peshkar) of Bhan Singh, Assistant Record Officer hearing cases against MRVT.
On March 15, 2021, his daughter Shweta Ojha bought 2542 sq m in Tihura Manjha – this village also falls under Bhan Singh’s purview — for Rs 5 lakh from Mahrajdeen.
Comment: Dinesh Ojha said: “This land is not disputed and is not in my name.”