Bollywood actor Nana Patekar's cook has been on 'dharna' at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi since January 9 to prove that he is alive, sitting with a placard in Hindi which reads: Main zinda hun (I am alive).
Santosh Singh is waging a battle to retrieve his 12.1 acre-land in Chittoni village in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi district that was usurped by his cousins after declaring him dead.
The 32-year-old says that he wrote to President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief Minister Mayawati, the Varanasi district collector and the National Human Rights Commission about the false records, but got no relief. He wanted to move the high court, but could not afford an advocate.
Even though the Delhi Police has given him permission to stage a dharna for just eight hours a day, he virtually spends the whole day on the footpath next to Jantar Mantar with free cups of tea from the street vendors and a blanket to protect from the bitter cold. The only time he takes a break is when he goes to a nearby Gurdwara to have a free meal.
Santosh claims he was out-casted for falling in love and marrying a Dalit girl in Mumbai in 2003 and as it happens in such cases in Uttar Pradesh, the villagers refused to recognise him after cousins got his name removed from the land records as 'dead' to grab his property.
He does not want actor Nana Patekar to get involved in his case, as the actor has already helped him a lot. It was back in 2000 that Nana went to his village to shoot the film Aanch, when the unemployed Santosh approached him for a job. Nana took him as a cook in his house.
Santosh alleges that his cousins keep threatening to have him killed with the help of the police and recalls how they allegedly used police contacts to get him locked up for two days in the Virar jail at Nalasopara in Mumbai. While in jail, he was reportedly tortured by a sub-inspector.
"I can never forget inspector Swarney, who beat me so badly. He even branded my hands with a hot iron and warned me of dire consequences if I continued to protest," he claimed.
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