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A 22 years old person arrives at a bank for loan against his ancestral property that initially belong to his father, is been told that is dead according to records and the land belongs to his uncle. This may sound odd to many but this had happened in one of villages of Azamgarh district, Uttar Pradesh. In 1977, when Lal Bihari (born in 1955) went approached the bank for loan, he has been declared dead over a year by the official sitting there. To regain his identity, Lal Bihari had to fight many odds and finally after 18years of struggle the court gave him his life back on paper. According to the government’s RTI responses to petitions filed by Bihari – the other was in 2008 and indicated that 335 dead people had been declared “alive” – over 500 people have been recognised as living individuals.
In this photograph taken on June 22, 2015, Indian activist and founder of the “Mritak Singh” organisation (association of the dead) Lal Bihari Mritak works in the organisation’s office in the Azamgarh district of the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Acrimony and greed led members of same family declaring the other person dead so as to acquire the land and unscrupulous work by the lekpal (low-level bureaucrat) in maintaining the record books devoid a living person of Right to Life. This case brought into five major citation, those are, The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993;The Indian Penal Code; Article 21 in The Constitution Of India 1949;Section 36 in The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993;Section 14 in The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
The plot of the whole story can be narrated in steps, as Lal Bihari took 18 years to get his identity back.
Lal Bihari approaches his birthplace Khalilabad for residence, income and caste certificates as He needed them to get a bank loan for his handloom business. On his arrival at the tehsildar’s office, he came to know that he has been dead since 30th July, 1976. His relatives had bribed the khatuni (record keeper) to declare him dead on the official papers and transfer one-fifths of the land to them. Shocked and shattered with the news, he started a new phase of life, which was regaining his identity.
Lal Bihari kidnapped his nephew and sent his shirt drenched with animals blood available at butcher’s shop. But he let the child go to his parents when didn’t register any case against him. If nephew’s parents would have registered a case against him then he would had a proof of his identity. After his nephew returned home, an article appeared in a regional newspaper called Swatantra Bharat and after hearing upon the news an MLA raised a question in the UP Assembly.
Lal Bihari got married at a young age, and applied for a widow pension for his wife hoping the government would rectify the mistake upon seeing him alive, but this also went in vain.
At this point Lal Bihari started to give when a politician named Shyam Lal appeared as a Guru to him and advised him to openly call him “Mritak”, as the passerby made fun of his identity and cracked joke on his situation. This idea appealed him so much so that he started the Mritak Sangh, an association of the living dead. But there was one problem: it had no members except him.
As the drama spurred at the Assembly, Lal Bihari sat on dharnas outside the Assemby in Lucknow. And finally got a visitor pass to enter the assembly, and heroically stood up from his place and sang the slogan of “Mujhe zinda karo” while the assembly was in session. He had to be thrown out of the assembly. He even bribed a police officer with 500 Rupees to register a case against him but it went into vain.
Lal Bihari sold his property to contest the 1988 Lok Sabha election from Allahabad against former Prime Minister VP Singh.Surprising even himself, he got about 1,600 votes. In 1989, he filed nomination papers against Rajiv Gandhi in Amethi and then promptly filed an application for countermanding the election, as he was dead. It was not countermanded, of course, but he got written about. In 1994, finally he was declared alive and got his identity back.
Now Mritak Sangh is a popular community, which helps other people like Lal Bihari to earn justice who have been declared dead by the family members in lure of property.