How would you feel when you go to a bank for a loan and the officer there tells you that according to his records you have been dead for over a year now? Certainly, India’s corrupt bureaucracy never stops to surprise us. The exact incident mentioned above happened to a farmer Lal Bihari from Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh in 1976.
Lal Bihari, who thought of owning a handloom business, needed a loan for the same and he was shocked when the village Lekhpal told him about his death. His land had been devolved to his cousins. In spite of him standing in Lekhpal office in person, the official didn’t take any measures to rectify the blunder. He was made a laughing stock by the society who took pleasure in his plight. But, all those mocking and humiliations made him more determined to make himself alive again.
He took several extreme and desperate steps to be recognized as a person living:
1. Kidnapped his cousin
Lal Bihari kidnapped his cousin Baburam whose family bribed authorities to declare him dead. This was an unusual exercise but rampant in those days as it was easy to declare a person dead by colluding with authorities. After the official declaration all the moveable and immovable assets were transferred to the legal heirs.
Lal Bihari, not being a seasoned kidnapper, didn’t know what to do. So, he went to watch movie with Baburam every day. When the child’s family didn’t file a police complaint, Lal Bihari returned Baburam to his family.
2. Registered a false case with police for rioting
He bribed an inspector to register a false case of rioting on him. This was a ploy to get noticed by the authorities. But, when the inspector got to know his motives, he returned the bribe.
3. Applied for widow pension
Lal Bihari came up with a brilliant idea to apply for widow pension for his wife, since he was dead in the eyes of the law. He thought that while rejecting his wife’s application for widow pension, the authorities would admit that the husband is still alive. Though, the application was rejected but on some other technical grounds.
4. Protested in Uttar Pradesh Assembly, Lucknow
When Mr. Lal Bihari heard that a question was raised in state assembly on his misfortune during question hour, he decided for a full-fledged protest in front of the assembly. Later, he realized that protest inside the assembly will get more limelight. Hence, he arranged for a visitor’s pass and screamed “Mujhe Zinda Karo” till he was thrown out by the Marshals.
5. Fought election against India’s two Prime ministers
In another gimmick to grab attention and let the eyeballs rolling, Lal Bihari decided to contest for Lok Sabha elections. He had the audacity and desperation to sell off his property and file nomination against Rajiv Gandhi (Amethi) and later against V. P. Singh. His audacity got him the attention of a few media groups who started writing about him.
6. Founded “Mritak Sangh”: The association of dead
To gather momentum to his crusade against illegal land grabbing scam by declaring the owner dead, Lal Bihari searched for people who suffered his fate. The group was christened as “Mritak Sangh” which grabbed newspaper headlines for days. Regular reports regarding this illegal practice of land grabbing had authorities in a fix.
His struggle and perseverance paid off when in 1994, the Tehsildar ordered an inquiry. His resurrection became an inspiration for numerous others who followed him. Even today, the head office of “Mritak Sangh” operates in the premises of Mr. Bihari’s household. The Sangh has around 20000 members as of date.