India : the land of the living dead

Hindu men performing a funeral ritual. Ujjain, India.

To defend his cause, Lal Bihari has been many times in police stations and government offices but to no avail. Finally he decided to contest elections to draw attention to his problem. In 1976, he has been declared officially dead.

“I myself had gone to government officials to tell them I was alive. I went to police stations, to revenue courts and even met politicians with the only request to recognize me as a living person”, Lal Bihari says. He was declared dead by revenue officials at Azamgarh, 300 kms southeast of Lucknow, the capital of the state of Uttar pradesh, an overcrowded region where acquiring land is not easy and laws are seldom respected. His uncle connived with revenue officials to grab his property. He discovered his administrative status as dead when he went to officials to try to find out how his uncle had managed to get 16 acres of his land transferred into his uncle name.

Lal Bihari employed many ways to get his name back on official records, notably by picking fights so that the police would file a complaint against him ensuring his name would enter police files. And it took 18 years before the government recognized he was still alive. In 1994. He was then 33.

Lal Bihari, who still adds late (“mritak”) before his name, is now fighting an even tougher battle : getting a life for an estimated 40.000 “dead” people in his home state. He founded the “mritak sangh”, the Association of the Dead, in 2002 to restore the dignity of so many people and to seek compensation from the state for maintaining false records. But the fight is not easy, the process is long before the death certificate be annulled. The victims are facing the same corruption and indifference that led to their plight in the first case. And deprived of their possessions, they have no longer any resources for legal action…or for paying bribes !

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1 Response to India : the land of the living dead

  1. Pingback: India : the land of the living dead | Home Far Away From Home

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