UP orders investigation into Ayodhya temple land deals after exposé
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered a probe into land dealings in Ayodhya near the Ram temple The probe was prompted after The Indian Express published an investigative report. Adityanath has demanded a report with necessary documents in the next five-seven days. "An officer of the rank of Special Secretary has been asked to conduct the probe," sources to TIE.
Why does it matter?
According to the TIE report, at least 15 of the purchasers are linked to officials investigating the seller for alleged irregularities in land transfers from Dalit locals. The Maharshi Ramayan Vidyapeeth Trust (MRVT) is at the center of this web of transactions. The MRVT had purchased nearly 52,000 sqm of land for Rs. 6.38 lakh. It is currently valued between Rs. 4.25-9.58 crore.
Which officials are involved in the land deals?
MP Agrawal, the current Divisional Commissioner of Ayodhya. Purushottam Das Gupta, who served as Ayodhya's Chief Revenue Officer from July 20, 2018, to September 10, 2021. Deepak Kumar, who served as the Deputy Inspector General of Police from July 26, 2020, to March 30, 2021.
What is the role of MRVT?
The MRVT purchased large portions of land in villages adjacent to Ayodhya in the early 1990s, with the help of Ronghai, a Dalit employee. Non-Dalits are legally not allowed to purchase agricultural land owned by Dalits (if the land is smaller than 3.5 bigha). Ronghai reportedly "donated" everything to MRVT in June 1996, using an unauthorized donation document.
Land illegally transferred: Former landowner's complaint
In September 2019, a complaint was filed with the Board of Revenue by Mahadev—one of the Dalit residents whose land was purchased by Ronghai and "donated" to MRVT. Reportedly, he received Rs. 1.02 lakh for approximately 3,035 sqm. He claimed the land was "illegally transferred" to a non-Dalit. On the Board of Revenue's order, the Ayodhya Divisional Commissioner then set up a two-member committee.
Complaint approved by officials; court case filed
The panel's inquiry report was approved by District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha in October 2020. Jha recommended action against MRVT and other government officials involved. In August 2021, a case was filed in Assistant Record Officer (ARO) Bhan Singh's court in Ayodhya seeking corrections to the 1996 order. It also sought the "return the land in question to the state government."
Other officials directly/indirectly involved:
Ayodhya Mayor Rishikesh Upadhyay and Ayodhya city MLA Ved Prakash Gupta. Gosaiganj MLA Indra Pratap Tiwari (now disqualified), State Information Commissioner Harshvardhan Shahi, and the then District Magistrate Anuj Jha. OBC Commission Member Balram Maurya and former Sub Divisional Magistrate Ayush Chaudhary. Retired IAS officer of UP cadre Umadhar Dwivedi and Provincial Police Service officer, Arvind Chaurasia.