The Association of the Dead Fighting for the Living

by K-Berens

The Association of the Dead seeks to help people who have wrongly been declared dead to once again live in the light of the living.

Uttar Pradesh Mritak Sangh, otherwise known as The Association of the Dead, is a group based in India that works to regain the rights of individuals who have been falsely declared legally dead.

The region of Uttar Pradesh, a Northern province of India, is home to over 200 million people and is listed as India’s most populous area. Many people living in the area have engaged in the bribery of officials to list a landowner as deceased in order to take over ownership of their land.

Because these arrangements are mostly under the table, there is a long, complicated process to reclaim the land and undo government documents in order to say that you are alive. Most people who commit the bribery in the first place often go unpunished, and people who have to convince the government that they are in fact alive often want to bring the growing problem out publicly in order to prevent it happening to other people.

The Association of the Dead was founded by Lal Bihari, a farmer from the province who was legally “dead” from 1976 to 1994. He found out he was considered “dead” after attempting to apply for a bank loan, and eventually the pieces of the story came together – his uncle had engaged in bribery of the government to list Bihari as dead, in order for him to assume his property rights.

Bihari’s fight to bring his situation into the public eye has been interesting. He added the word “mritak”, meaning dead, to his name, organized his own funeral and called upon the government for his “widow” to receive compensation. To prove he was alive, he ran in an election in 1989, but that still did not reverse his “deadness”.

For eighteen years Bihari had struggled with the government to recognize him as alive not dead, and in the process discovered around 100 people who were in the same situation as him. He formed the Association, which today has around 20 thousand members, of those, only four people have been able to reverse the government’s registration of their death.

Bihari’s story won him the lg Nobel Peace Award in 2003. He was able to obtain a passport for the event from the government, but he could not receive the award personally because the United States government would not let him into the country.

 

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