Walking down the street of the Jantar Mantar road, in the middle of protests ranging from the farmers’ agitation, army veterans demanding OROP, the disciples of Rampal and the Asha workers, a man stands with a placard tied around his neck saying ‘Dead Man Alive’. My friend Sameer told me that this man was really famous and had been covered by media houses like the DailyMail, India Today, The Times of India, Telegraph, Mid-Day, etc.
But, how did this dead man make it to the headlines?
Santosh Murat Singh from Chittoni village, Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh became the first ‘dead man’ to file his nomination for India’s presidential election just to prove that he is alive. He moves around the Jantar Mantar road talking to other protesters and the police. However, he’s been certified ‘dead’ by the UP state government. When he questioned the verdict, he found a shocking answer.
After requesting Nana Patekar for a job, Santosh became his cook and moved to Mumbai where he fell in love with a Dalit girl. As he hailed from an upper caste, his family members disowned him and removed his name from the land records thereby declaring him to be dead. On being asked about the cause of death, the government said that a missing body was found in the Mumbai train blasts and claimed that it was Santosh’s.
In 2003, he was informed that his last rites were conducted in his village. His cousins, Ajay Singh and Narayan Singh took away the ownership of his land by allegedly bribing the local authorities and declaring Santosh dead. Till 2012, Santosh tried his best to get back the ownership of that land but he could not.
He has been in this protest for the last five years. In the year 2012, the Delhi Police even issued challan (fine) to him. He has also stayed in Tihar jail for 15 days. Then, participated in India’s presidential race and has received an invitation from “Bigg Boss”. So who is doing all this? “How can a dead man be protesting for the last five years? How can a dead man run for presidential race? How can a dead man go to Tihar Jail? And most significantly, how can a dead man give an interview?” He questions.
He continues, “Narendra Modi is the MP from Varanasi and he also happens to be the Prime Minister (PM) of India. If a PM can be too busy to hear citizens’ woes but as an MP, he must have enough time for his constituency. Like me, there are 50,000 men who are declared dead on papers. This fight is also for them so that they too can get their life back on government papers.”
With the intervention of Akhilesh Yadav, the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, a FIR was lodged at the Hazaratganj Police Station. The case went to District Sessions Court. After five or six hearings, the lawyer asked for his fee. But due to a financial crisis, he failed to pay. Therefore the case got stalled. Santosh even offered his kidney to Sushma Swaraj and in return asked the Union Government to solve his problem and give back his life on government papers. But all in vain.
Several national and international media covered Santosh’s story. In mainstream films like “Jolly LLB 2”, we saw a similar case where a poor man was declared dead on paper and struggled to prove that he is alive. In real world too, this menace exists and a living man has to bear the brunt of injustice by carrying a death certificate for the rest of his life.