31 October, 2020

In UP's Azamgarh, 'Living Dead' Have A Long Legal Battle To Fight

Legally dead due to clerical error or greedy relatives, thousands live in limbo in Azamgarh.

I’M Alive
Baijnath, long dead, asserts his existence (left); Dhiraji Devi and her identity cards that mean little next to a death certificate (right)
Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
In UP's Azamgarh, 'Living Dead' Have A Long Legal Battle To Fight

Baijnath grins broadly when you ask him if he’s still alive. You must be saving a lot on food bills? The grin nearly stretches from ear to ear. Even in legal death, he cannot fail to see the humour in his situation. In Azamgarh, paying res­pects to the dead will elicit a pleasant thank you in response—from the dead. No, not from the beyond. And no, Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks, hasn’t relocated from Africa. Nor is it a script for a B-grade flick. But of course, legal death means you’re in for a life of horror.

Wait…legal death? Yes. On paper, it’s a kind of limbo—a trishanku state between those still breathing and those who have attained nirvana. De facto, you’re alive—so, sorry, no, not much savings on the overheads. But de jure, you’re dead meat. And the sheer effort it takes to get yourself dec­lared alive is anything but funny. Not to speak of the implications of failing.



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