Santosh Singh is dead in official records — dead because he married a Dalit girl in 2002, when his relatives, angry at his decision, got him declared deceased and snatched his property. Fourteen years later, his wife has left him because she can no longer handle the stress of living with a dead man.
“I fought the whole world for her and lost all I had. If she leaves me now what will I do?” asked Singh, over phone from Mumbai. A cook, who used to work for actor Nana Patekar once, Singh belongs to Uttar Pradesh and married a Dalit girl in Maharashtra in 2002. His relatives were furious because of the inter-caste marriage and filed an affidavit in a UP court saying Singh had gone “missing” after a bomb blast in Mumbai. They got him declared “dead” and grabbed his land. Singh claims that he had 12.5 acres of land in his village, Khatauni near Lucknow.
“I lost my parents and a brother before I came to Mumbai in 2000. But this city gave me so much love. I met my wife here. My cousins and other people in the village wanted to get rid of me after I married her. They got me declared dead. I went to Delhi in 2012 and spent two years at Jantar Mantar to make my voice heard that I am still alive. I returned to Mumbai in 2014 after I got a voter card thanks to UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. I was hoping that my life would be normal now,” said Singh.
But that did not end his woes.
“I have a voter card but I am not alive in all the records and hence I am not entitled even to a ration card. I don’t want to be called a dead person anymore. I am alive. I want to live a normal life with my son. This system has been unjust to me,” Singh rued.
He said that his wife has been describing herself as the “widow of a living husband” and has taken a lover. “If she wants to leave, how can I blame her? I could not even get my son admitted to a school because I did not have any identity proof. It was only after I pleaded with the school authorities that they agreed to admit my child,” said Singh. He further said, “I have been attacked four-five times over the last one year.”
Singh said he could not be sure who attacked him, but based on the kind of threats he received, he deduced that apart from his village people, his wife’s lover could have sent men to attack him. Singh suspects that his wife had known the other man for a long time. “She has threatened to lodge a complaint against me in the police station, accusing me of misbehaving with her. She does not even allow me to meet my son alone because she suspects that I will take him away.” Singh was reluctant to divulge where his wife and son currently lived.
“I don’t know what to do anymore. I’ll sit at Jantar Mantar once again,” he said.