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Ram Mandir land 'scam': Seers divided over deal, suggest adopting Kashi-like 'transparent' model

07:14 PM Jun 18, 2021 | Rashmi Sharma

Lucknow: More skeletons are tumbling out of the land deals made for the expansion of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. With eyebrows raised over these deals, the Shri Ram Janambhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust may rethink over the process of taking fresh lands for the expansion of temple. The trust may adopt the Kashi (Varanasi) model for acquiring land.

It may be mentioned that after the controversy over purchase of 12,080 square meter land for the temple last week, another similar case has been brought to light. This time the trust purchased similar land at a more prominent place in Ayodhya for just Rs 8 crore. Interestingly, this second deal too was made on the same day (March 18) this year and the original owners were the same. Not only this, the witnesses on this deal too are the same. While one witness in this deal is trust member Anil Mishra, another is Ayodhya Mayor Rishikesh Uppadhya.

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As per the documents, on March 18, Ram Mandir trust got a 10,370 square meter piece of land registered in its name from Kusum Pathak and Harish Pathak and an amount of Rs 8 crore was paid for it. While this land is adjacent to the main road leading to the proposed Ram temple, another piece of land in the remote area was purchased on the same day but for Rs 18.50 crores. This land too was originally owned by Harish Pathak and Kusum Pathak who had an agreement of sale with property dealers Ravi Mohan Tiwari and Sultan Ansari. The 12,080 square meter land was sold twice on the same day but at a much-escalated price. While the original owner sold the land to property dealers, Ravi Mohan Tiwari and Sultan Ansari for Rs 2 crore the later sold it to the temple trust for Rs 18.50 crore in few minutes on the same day.

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The opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh including Aam Adami Party (AAP), Samajwadi Party and Congress raised fingers over the deal accusing the trust of misappropriating the money given by the donors. However, the trust denied all these allegations and issued clarification in this regard thrice. The trust had stated that the land was purchased at a price much less than the market rate and no irregularities were committed. It even said to sue the leaders of AAP and Samajwadi Party for misrepresenting facts and misleading devotees.

AAP Rajya Sabha member and in charge of UP, Sanjay Singh, once again reiterated that a proper enquiry should be conducted in the land deals made by the trust. He said that as per the norms income tax department should be apprised about any land deal above Rs 50 lakh in UP but it was not done here in case of Ayodhya temple case.

The Kashi model of land deal:

In Varanasi, the state government too had made several such deals during the execution of the Kashi-Vishwanath corridor project. For this, a model was adopted under which a valuation committee comprising of officials of revenue department and engineers was formed. This committee was entrusted with the task of finalizing the rate of the land to be purchased for the corridor project. Now the trust at Ayodhya too may adopt this model in order to bring transparency in the land deals.

Seers divided over land deal:

Seers in Ayodhya and outside are divided over the issue of irregularities in the land deals made for the expansion of Ram Mandir. While Swami Avimukteshwaranand, who is close to Shankaracharya Swaroopanand, has accused the temple trust of misusing donor’s money for self-interest. Another seer and former MP Ram Vilas Vedanti said that none could raise finger on the honesty and integrity of trust general secretary Champat Rai. He, however, advocated for a Kashi-like model in Ayodhya land deals too.

One of the petitioners in the Ram Mandir case Mahant Dharam Das of Nirvani Akhada said that funds collected from devotees of Lord Ram should be used properly.

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