Bana baba lands in trouble

The forest department today took possession of the ashram of a self-styled spiritual leader, Bana baba, at Darshanibanta on the Konark-Kakatpur road - which was set up by allegedly encroaching on the Balukhand sanctuary.

By SANDIP BAL and VIKASH SHARMA
  • Published 6.09.15
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Bana 

Bhubaneswar/Cuttack, Sept. 5: The forest department today took possession of the ashram of a self-styled spiritual leader, Bana baba, at Darshanibanta on the Konark-Kakatpur road - which was set up by allegedly encroaching on the Balukhand sanctuary.

The authorities today barricaded the land with barbed wire fence, as Bana and his followers left the ashram last night.

On August 31, the forest department had issued notice on Bana, asking him to vacate the area within four days. "The ashram had encroached on around 19.6 acres of forestland. We fenced our land this morning to avoid any further encroachment," said Chitta Ranjan Mishra, divisional forest officer of Puri.

His ashram at Konark. Picture by Sarat Patra and Telegraph picture

The Puri district administration had warned Bana of legal actions if he and his followers did not vacate it within the stipulated time. Local people recently alleged that Bana had encroached on government land and the forestland to set up his ashram. Following such complaints, the forest department measured the land yesterday. There were also allegations that Bana had forcibly grabbed land from Godhanpada villagers to set up a crematorium and build mansion-like structures for his ashram.

Puri sub-collector Madhusudan Das, who was on the spot this morning, said Bana had encroached on the revenue and the sanctuary land. Sources said he had encroached on around 31 decimals belonging to the revenue department.

Das said: "We will discuss with the government about what to do with the buildings constructed by Bana on the encroached land."

Police personnel were deployed in the area to maintain law and order during the operation.

In another development, the crime branch today started second round of interrogation of the self-proclaimed spiritual leader, Surendra Mishra alias Sura, and his two sons Trilochan and Biranchi. The Judicial Magistrate First Class court, Bhubaneswar, yesterday granted the crime branch to take the trio on a three-day remand.

The police arrested Sura, who heads the Trahi Achyuta Ashram at Jhinti Sasan, and his two sons on August 31 after local people had staged protest against him causing violence on the ashram premises.

During the investigation, the crime branch found huge amount of cash, gold and other valuables from the ashram. Besides, there were allegations that Sura was encroaching on government land.

The crime branch today found vital leads in connection with Sura's vast empire. A senior official said that so far 300-odd land documents had been seized during a search conducted at the Achyuta Ashram today.

Additional director-general of police (crime branch) B.K. Sharma said all the land documents recovered from the ashram would be scrutinised to ascertain the exact value.

Sharma said Sura had created a wide network and chain of ashrams in various parts of the country, including Bengal, Bihar and Mumbai. Apart from this, the crime branch has also got credible information about one such ashram functioning in Nepal.

Besides, various samities were set up in such parts of the country and efforts are on to establish the financial link between the groups and the main ashram on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar.

Besides, a crime branch team has left for Mumbai to investigate illegal money transactions at Sura's ashram there. A team today visited the Trahi Achyuta Ashram again and searched inside two other temples where they found cash and gold jewellery.

A crime branch official said two criminals, who were earlier arrested from Trahi Achyuta Ashram on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar were sent from the Samastipur ashram. The criminals from Bihar's Samastipur, Abhay Singh and Manjeet Saha, who were staying in the ashram, were arrested on August 21.