Bizarre Stories: Lal Bihari and the Walking Dead
Lal Bihari Mritak is an Indian man who holds the rather rare distinction of having been dead for 18 years before being legally declared alive again. In 1976, Mr. Bihari was declared dead by the government at the behest of his uncle, though he was still alive. The uncle, like any good villain, was motivated by greed. With just a simple bribe, the uncle was able to have his nephew Lal declared dead so he could then assume ownership of his property. Thankfully, he did not see to it that Lal was actually dead, though that seems to be a common fear among people like Lal Bihari. Yes, there is more than one case of a person being declared dead in India, despite the obvious fact that he or she are still living.
Over the course of the 18 years following Mr. Bihari's untimely legal death, he struggled to overturn the declaration. He ran for public office, held his own funeral, fought for widow's compensation for his wife and repeatedly appealed to local officials. These tactics only served to get him beaten on occasion. However, through this process, he also found others like himself. In order to gain support for himself and others, he formed Mritak Sangh -- an association for the dead. The Mritak stands for "dead," which is why Lal had the word added to his name. He was desperate for his plight to be recognized and his living status to be upheld by the law.
In 1994, Lal Bihari Mritak finally got his wish. Strangely, he did not take his land back from his wayward uncle. Even more surprisingly, Lal is one of very few who have lived again after being wrongfully declared dead. There is real resistance to overturning these decisions by officials. That is likely because the plague of the dead in India is caused by corrupt officials who are willing to take a few dollars to end a person's life on paper.
Posted by Michelle Barclay