LUCKNOW, India (AP) — As far as the government is concerned, they’re dead — and they’re not at all happy about it. Calling themselves “the Living Dead,” two dozen people held a last rites Hindu ceremony outside the State Assembly to draw attention to their plight. All say unscrupulous relatives fraudulently had them declared dead in order to steal their property. They’ve been struggling for years to get the government to rectify their official standing.
“My son produced a fake death certificate to revenue officials and grabbed my 12 acres of property. The government still refuses to recognize me as alive,” said Rashida Bibi, 62, who was declared dead in 1993.
“I have been certified a living person by my village head but still the revenue officials refuse to recognize me as alive,” she said.
India’s bureaucrats are notorious for doing little work, and corruption is rampant. Many officials and clerks refuse to accept a claim or even talk to a petitioner without receiving a bribe.
The “living dead,” having been cheated out of their property, cannot afford to pay bribes or even legitimate fees to get their cases dealt with.
Lal Bihari, president of the Association of the Living Dead, estimated 35,000 people in Uttar Pradesh state have been wrongly certified as dead.
“We have knocked on doors of government officials and police. No one is ready to recognize us as living persons because revenue records declare us dead,” he said during the protest Wednesday.
Bihari was declared dead by an uncle 18 years ago, but despite numerous public protests has been unable to get the decision reversed.