Lucknow, Feb. 17: A foot soldier of the Ayodhya movement, Ramnarayan Das, 65, who had alleged a threat to his life from a section of BJP leaders, was murdered yesterday.
The priest was mobbed by at least 12 assailants who rained blows on him with lathis and rifle butts till he collapsed, bleeding. He died later in hospital.
Ramnarayan feared for his life because he had admitted to police that he, along with others, had brought down the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, at the behest of senior BJP leaders.
The priest was also alleged to be involved in the removal of Ram Lalla’s idol from the disputed site. A case is pending against him and four others. The idol of Ram Lalla installed in 1949 had been removed a few days before the demolition.
The original chief priest, Lal Das, had been ousted in the late eighties because he was against the hysteria kicked up by the Sangh parivar for demolition of the Babri Masjid. He was replaced by two priests ' Satyendra Das and Ramnarayan.
Preliminary investigations by the police revealed that Ramnarayan was having a running battle with a mahant of Ram Ballabh Kunj in Ayodhya over a piece of land valued at Rs 51 lakh.
“It is possible that this dispute might have led to the murder but the way he was killed reflected a revenge motive. We are probing all angles of the case,” a senior police officer said.
The priest was a crucial witness in the criminal case relating to the Babri demolition, in which the BJP’s L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi and expelled leader Uma Bharti were accused.
After the Ayodhya demolition case was split ' the trial of eight senior leaders was delinked from that of ordinary kar sevaks ' paving the way for Advani’s acquittal, Ramnarayan and five others had alleged that the demolition plot was hatched at the behest of the BJP leaders and hence the case involving them should not be dealt with separately.
Aloke Sinha, principal secretary, home, said: “The latest godman’s killing in Ayodhya is being investigated thoroughly. His past antecedents and connection with the Ayodhya case would be looked into. But the dispute over land is believed to be a primary reason for the murder.”