Ayodhya City Mayor Rishikesh Upadhyay, sitting MLA from the district’s Sadar constituency Ved Prakash Gupta and former legislator from Milkipur constituency Gorakhnath Baba are among the 40 persons named by the Ayodhya Development Authority (ADA) as “illegal colonisers” of land plots and building infrastructure in such land.
The list, released on Saturday, is signed by Ajay Bharti, Lekhpal, Ayodhya Development Authority. ADA Vice Chairman Vishal Singh Sunday told news agency Press Trust of India, “The list of 40 people who illegally bought land and got construction work done in the authority area was released Saturday night.”
When contacted, Singh told The Indian Express, “Enquiry has to be conducted about persons behind. List is premature and has been purposefully leaked, it seems. It’s wrong.”
Gupta and Upadhyay were among more than a dozen buyers of land parcels investigated by The Indian Express on December 22 last year. They included local MLAs, close relatives of bureaucrats who have or were serving in Ayodhya then, and local revenue officials whose job was to authenticate land transactions.
The Indian Express investigation in December last on politicians and kin of officials who bought land in Ayodhya after the Supreme Court verdict clearing construction of Ram Temple. While Gupta’s nephew Tarun Mittal bought 5,174 sq m in Barhata Manjha on November 21, 2019, for Rs 1.15 crore, 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. Upadhyay had bought 1,480 sq m on September 18, 2019, for Rs 30 lakh.
The Uttar Pradesh government had set up a one-member committee to inquire into the land transactions by public representatives and government officials, but the findings of the report submitted to the government in January this year, are not yet in public domain.
When contacted, Ved Prakash Gupta said, “The Lekhpal has no power to issue such a list. I have no role in any land deals.” City Mayor Upadhyay said, “Such lists are released after proper investigation only. We have no role in any such illegal land deals.”
A week ago, on July 31, Ayodhya MP Lallu Singh, also from the BJP, had written to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath demanding a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the illegal sale and purchase of land by land-mafia in areas from Jamthara to Golaghat in Ayodhya which are among doob kshetra (submerged areas). In his letter, he said, “Such is the influence of the land-mafia that in connivance with officials/ employees posted earlier, by forging documents and by misleading people, land was listed in their names. Business of land-mafia is flourishing on the lands between Jamthara Ghat and Golaghat.” Singh declined to comment when contacted.
There was a rush to purchase land in Ayodhya particularly after the November 9, 2019, verdict of the Supreme Court. The Ayodhya Development Authority had in July end demolished construction undertaken by buyers of small land pieces in Majha Jamthara area.
Sources told The Indian Express that the report submitted by the one-man committee following The Indian Express investigation is with the Department of Revenue. An application under the RTI Act, seeking a copy of the inquiry report has not elicited a response. A second appeal is pending for hearing with the UP State Information Commission.