The matter may snowball into a major issue in coming elections
By Abdul Bari Masoud
The ongoing construction work of the Ram temple on the site of the Babri Masjid, which was demolished on December 6, 1992 by Hindutva fanatics and extremists mobilised by the Saffron conglomerate, is marred by frequent allegations of corruption, embezzlement and irregularities. Opposition parties have alleged that the money from the Ram Mandir Trust is being (mis)used primarily to benefit government officials, BJP and RSS members who have been in the forefront of the so-called Ram Janmabhoomi movement.
The latest in a series of alleged scams related to the proposed Mandir construction is the allegations of irregularity in the purchase of land at Ayodhya by the Ram Temple Trust.
There is a clear transaction in the land purchase deal, in which a piece of land that was sold to a specific person in 2017 was subsequently sold in two parts by that person. The first part, which covered 10,000 square meters, was sold to the Ram Mandir Trust for Rs. 8 crore. The second part, which was 12,000 square meters, was sold 19 minutes later. The Trust members allegedly sold one section of it, 10,000 square meters, at 6 o’clock, and 19 minutes later, they sold the second part of the same land, slightly larger part, to one Ravi Mohan Tiwari for Rs. 2 crores. And within 5 minutes of that, it is sold to the Trust from 2 crores to 18.5 crores, that means, they have made a profit of Rs 16.5 crores within 5 minutes. This is happening repeatedly in other transactions. Who is making the profit?
Anil Mishra, Mayor of Ayodhya and a Trustee, who has been the Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, and the Mayor Rishikesh Upadhyay are the witnesses to the sale deeds.
DALITS’ LAND GRABBED
It is all known that the land allotted to Dalits in Uttar Pradesh cannot be bought by anyone from the general category. Despite this rider, the land of the Dalits around the Ram temple was allegedly grabbed by some officers and sold directly or indirectly to the Trust.
Basically, what’s going on is that BJP members, including office bearers and workers, and the RSS, some trustees, and some high-ranking BJP officials, are buying and selling land in the Ram Mandir vicinity to profit themselves, and they’re allegedly doing it using the Trust money.
The money from the Ram Mandir Trust is being basically misused to benefit government officials and members of the BJP and the RSS, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi told reporters at a presser in New Delhi.
“People from all over India have donated money to this Trust. I have been to the houses of people in UP, where women have told me that even some of the money that they had saved, out of that they have given to the Trust and it is being obviously, blatantly misused and there is wholesale corruption happening, revealed Priyanka Gandhi, who is also in-charge of UP Congress Committee affairs.
After a hue and cry over the murky dealings, the UP government led by Yogi Adityanath reportedly announced that an investigation into the matter will be conducted.
But who is doing the enquiry – an officer of the level of the District Magistrate! It is a matter of fact that the Mandir Trust was established by an order of the Supreme Court; therefore, it is pretty obvious that the investigation should be conducted at the Supreme Court level.
In response to a question concerning the Government’s announcement of an inquiry into the Ram Mandir land matter, Priyanka Gandhi quipped, “How can a government probe itself?” If the accusation is levelled at a government, how can they decide to investigate and determine who is correct and who is incorrect on their own? That is the entire point I am trying to make. The thing is that all of these are government officials, including the statement I made the other day, which was the first to the government, and you can’t just order a small little investigation at whatever level you want and it is obvious that an officer of that DM rank cannot examine the Mayor of Ayodhya and say, “We ordered an investigation, the matter is over.”
Besides Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)and the Samajwadi Party (SP) also accused the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust of corruption in the land acquisition deal. AAP leader and MP Sanjay Singh and SP leader Pawan Pandey held separate press briefings where they levelled the corruption charges.
Singh stated that two people, Sultan Ansari and Ravi Mohan Tiwari, paid Rs 2 crore for a plot of land worth Rs 5.8 crore. He claims the site was then sold to the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust for Rs 18.5 crore a few minutes later. According to Pandey, the land is 12,080 square meters in size.
According to Singh, the stamp paper for the second sale was purchased at 5.11 p.m., while the stamp paper for the first deal was purchased at 5.22 p.m. “Before any land is purchased in any Trust, a proposal must be passed,” he explained. “How did the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust pass the proposal and buy the land in about five minutes?”
HOW THEY MINT THE MONEY
First, the BJP made crores of rupees by selling pricey land to the Ram Mandir Trust. The whole world saw how a plot of land for Rs 2 crore was sold to the Ram Mandir Trust for Rs 18 crore in 5 minutes, and donations worth crores of rupees meant to build a grand temple were misappropriated. A piece of land worth 20 lakhs was sold to Ram Mandir Trust for 2.5 crores.
In just 79 days, a 1200% profit was made, and the Ram Mandir Trust’s donations of thousands and crores of Indian rupees were misappropriated. The land which has been kept by the Adityanath administration at collector rate of Rs 4,000 per square meter was sold to Ram Mandir Nirman Trust at the collector rate of Rs 28,000 per square meter.
The second aspect of these shadowy deals is more shocking – not only private property but also government property was sold to the Ram Mandir Trust by private people and money was earned.
And now the sensational third revelation that has come to light is a matter of greater concern – it is alleged that the properties surrounding the temple in Ram Mandir Ayodhya Nagari were acquired by BJP MLAs, BJP Mayor, BJP commission members, BJP Information Commissioner, and top officials of Adityanath administration at throwaway prices.
It would not be out of place to mention here that before the Ram Mandir Trust was formed, Vishwa Hindu Parishad allegedly collected huge donations in the name of Ram temple. This money is still unaccounted for. When then Income Tax Commissioner Vishwa Bandhu Gupta issued notice to VHP to file accounts of donations received to raise Ram temple at Ayodhya, he was transferred.
MP Sanjay Singh said, “No one can imagine somebody doing something wrong in his [Ram’s] name as the Ram Mandir Trust defrauded citizens by collecting money in the name of the Hindu god Ram.” He demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi launch an investigation by the CBI or the Enforcement Directorate into the alleged malfeasance.
While the Congress sought a Supreme Court-monitored probe into allegations of irregularity in the purchase of land at Ayodhya by the trust.
Addressing a virtual press conference, Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala called the land purchase a “big scam” that used funds collected from devotees and asked the Prime Minister to answer whether those behind the land deals had his protection.
“The Chief Justice and the Supreme Court must take cognisance of the matter and order a court-monitored probe into the charges,” Surjewala said. The top court should also get an audit done for all the donations and funds received and spent by the Trust for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, he demanded.
Hitting out at the opposition, Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma said that when all the obstructions for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya were cleared, the Opposition started a nonsensical hue and cry. Some people do not leave any opportunity to defame the Ram Janmabhoomi, Sharma said.
But the exposure of corruption may become a major election issue in the coming assembly elections of UP and other states. MP Dr. Amee Yajnik told Radiance that BJP had throttled any debate on the Ayodhya corruption issue in the winter session of Parliament. When the leader of Opposition Mapanna Mallikarjun Kharge tried to raise the matter in Rajya Sabha on the last day of the session, the Chairman abruptly adjourned the session sine die. She said the Congress will make it an election issue.
It is to recall that the Supreme Court in November 2019 ruled that the demolition of Babri Masjid was unconstitutional and a criminal act and no temple existed beneath the demolished mosque but strangely handed over the Masjid land to those who were involved in this criminal act, via a government-run trust for the construction of a Ram temple. Prime Minister Modi laid the foundation stone for the temple in August 2020.