Lal Bihari Yadav ‘Mritak’ : The man who came back from the dead
Corruption and deceit are not unheard of in our country, but in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, grabbing property by legally declaring someone dead is as simple as a thumbprint. Here in the land of the dead, exists a lesser-known society, the ‘Mritak Sangh’, or the association of the living dead, and the force behind it – Lal Bihari Yadav. Who is Lal Bihari? What is the purpose of this association?
Lal Bihari vs the State of UP
On a fateful day in 1977, 22-year-old Lal Bihari Yadav walked into a bank seeking a loan against the property he inherited from his father. He was promptly refused the loan on the grounds - ‘He was dead’. He had been legally declared dead since 30th July 1976. His family had bribed the record keeper to forge a death certificate and transfer a fifth of the land to his uncle’s ownership.
What followed was a long, drawn-out case to regain his identity, a struggle that lasted 18 years. Acrimony, greed and the ability to be bought off denied a living person the Right to Life. This case highlighted five major citations-
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.
18 years and 7 phases later, Lal Bihari regained the title of living in 1994.
How the case unfolded
The case was the first of its kind, and Lal Bihari went to great lengths, attacking several legal loopholes to be identified as a living man. His game plan can be roughly broken down into 7 phases-
Phase 1: Kidnapping
Lal Bihari kidnapped his nephew Baburam whose family bribed authorities to declare him dead. He sent his shirt drenched with animal blood in the hope that the child’s family would register a case against him which would force the authorities to lodge an FIR in his name, giving him a proof of identity. 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.
Phase 2: False riots
He bribed an inspector with Rs. 500 to register a false case of rioting on him. This was a ploy to get noticed by the authorities. But it all went in vain as the police officer refused to do his bidding on becoming aware of the motives.
Phase 3: Widow Pension
Lal Bihari applied 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 acknowledge that he was still alive. This too never came to fruition as the application got rejected on some other technical grounds.
Phase 4: Birth of Lal Bihari Mritak
Almost at the point of giving up, Lal Bihari decide to openly call himself “Mritak”, hoping to bring to light the atrocious situation and reclaim a title that was used to degrade him. Completely taken in with the idea, he also formed the Mritak Sangh, an association of the living dead, aimed to help those in the same state. But there was one problem: it had no members except him.
Phase 5: “Mujhe zinda karo”
Upon hearing that the state assembly was accosted by his misfortune during question hour, he sat on dharnas outside the Assembly. Feeling the need to gain more attention, he later arranged for a visitors pass and stood up from his place while the assembly was in session screaming “Mujhe Zinda Karo” till he was thrown out by the Marshals.
Phase 6: Election Campaign
In another gimmick to grab attention Lal Bihari decided to contest for Lok Sabha elections. He sold his property to be nominated for and contest the 1988 Lok Sabha election from Allahabad against former Prime Minister VP Singh, where to the surprise of many he received around 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.
Phase 7: Rise of the dead
The constant staged scenes by Lal Bihari gained considerable public and media attention, his crusade gained momentum and many more people started to join the ‘Mritak Sangh’. The movement captured news 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, when he was legally resurrected.
The case of the living dead
In 2018 Lal Bihari moved the court once again, with the plea for compensation. The court was asked to decide whether a person who was officially ‘dead’ but is actually neither dead nor injured in an accident is entitled to compensation from the government. The Allahabad high court is now hearing his petition.
“Normally, compensation is paid in cases of death or accident. But this is a unique case and we are seeking compensation citing Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution that deal with the right to equality, life and personal liberty,” said Lal Bihari’s lawyer, KK Pal.
Lal Bihari said: “I am fighting to get a compensation of Rs 25 crore from the state government for those 18 prime years of my life which I lived as ‘dead’ and deprived of my identity. All those years went by just in proving that I am alive.
The story of a small farmer from Azamgarh proving his identity became an inspiration for numerous others who were in the same state. Today, the Sangh has around 20,000 members, and those who thought their fates were sealed by the false death certificate now have the opportunity to hope for retribution. The press recognition also did not end there, his work continues to draw public attention to this land of the legally dead. In 2021 a film by the name of ‘Kaagaz’ was also made to honour his work. Celebrating 28 years of ‘rebirth’, Lal Bihari hopes to remarry his wife in 2022, in an active approach to highlight the continuing problem of the living dead.
~ Devangi Sharma