Lal Bihari “Mritak” is a native of Amilo, in Azamgarh district, Uttar Pradesh, who was born in 1955.
In 1975, Lal Bihari went to Revenue office in district headquarters, Azamgarh to get an Identity Proof. He was in for a rather rude shock! Officially he was dead in the Government records. Apparently, his Uncle had bribed the officials to have him declared dead officially, so he could get the ownership of just less an acre of Bihari’s ancestral land at Khalilabad.
He went ahead and formed the Mritak Sangh (Uttar Pradesh Association of Dead People), in the Azamgarh district. Interestingly, he found 100 other people like him – alive and kicking but officially dead – who joined his organization. The membership of his organization has now grown to 20,000 from all over India!
Is it tough to declare a living man dead? Well, not in India it seems. It takes just Rs 300.
Showing a living person as dead is not tough. The victim is usually someone who has been absent from the village on work or, like Lal Bihari, whose mother took him away after the father’s death. Relatives bribe the lekhpal, who notes it on the khatauni (record of those who cultivate and occupy land in a village) that the person is dead and the land is transferred. Kanungos, naib tahsildars and tahsildars, who check the notings, are often in collusion. “The price of my death was Rs 300,” says Lal Bihari. After he discovered he had ‘died’, Lal Bihari went to a lawyer, who said, “A dead man has come to me,” and laughed. Neighbours would mock him—“Look, there goes the ghost.” He felt humiliated. Since a court case could take decades, he visited various government departments. He beseeched and quarreled with officials. He filed complaints. In vain. “The enquiry would be conducted by the very officials who had listed me as dead,” he says. (link)
In fact an NRI had left India for US in 1967 – Miami – realized in 1999 that he had been long declared dead and his land had already been sold off!
It took him 19 years to get himself declared Alive! For that, he has had to do so many strange and weird things to draw attention to himself and the fact that he is alive!
Over the years Bihari tried to attract attention to his situation by various means. He organized his own funeral and demanded widow’s compensation for his wife. In 1980 he added the word “mritak” (“dead”) to his name and signed his letters “late Lal Bihari”. He stood for election against Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 and lost, to prove that he is alive. In 1994 he managed to have his official death annulled after a long legal struggle. (link)
Until now, only 4 “dead people” have been able to annul their own deaths from this Sangh.
Featured Image Credit: Open Magazine (shows Lal Bihari with his family members who had declared him dead).