Page last updated at 11:46 GMT, Friday, 20 January 2006

Chilly welcome for Indian 'ghost'

By Faisal Mohammad Ali
BBC News, Bhopal

Raju Raghuvanshi's house in Mandla, Madhya Pradesh
Relatives say they were surprised to see Mr Raghuvanshi

An Indian man is being refused entry to his house - because his family say he is a spirit come back to haunt them.

Raju Raghuvanshi was greeted with cries of "ghost" and neighbours locking doors when he returned from a short spell in jail to his village in Madhya Pradesh.

He had fallen ill in prison and was taken to hospital. Relatives heard he had died and performed his last rites.

Now, unable to convince them he is alive and well, he is staying nearby and has asked the police for help.

I have now to prove that I am alive - but I will have them punished
Raju Raghuvanshi

Mr Raghuvanshi told the BBC his cousins had denied him entry to his house in the village of Katra, in Mandla district about 300km (200 miles) from state capital Bhopal, despite his protests.

They even dismissed his pleas that he could not be a spirit because his feet were properly attached to his body and not turned backwards, a characteristic which locals ascribe to ghosts.

The 45-year-old said his cousins insisted they had performed his last rites as required and so he should not come back to haunt them.

Exaggerated rumour

Mr Raghuvanshi, who is unmarried with no living parents or brothers, has had to move to the nearby village of Bamni while he struggles to convince his cousins to let him come home.

Map showing Mandla district in India's Madhya Pradesh state

"I have now to prove that I am alive," he said. "But I will have them punished."

Mr Raghuvanshi has turned to the police for help has now filed a case for defamation against his family.

His lawyer, Maonhar Soni, said the refusal of relatives to accept that his client is alive could also be because of Mr Raghuvanshi's property and the few acres of land that he owns.

The rumour that he had died and been cremated started when he fell ill and was transferred from prison to a hospital in another town for treatment, police chief NV Vayangankar said.

Ganeshi, the wife one of Mr Raghuvanshi's cousins, said that when they heard of his death they had informed the village elders, who had told them to carry out the rituals immediately.

"Later on he turned up and we were surprised to see him," she said.

Rural India remains deeply traditional and many believe that a dead man's spirit will not rest until the last rites are performed.

In this case, the last rites have happened and it is not clear what proof the villagers need to accept that Mr Raghuvanshi is alive.

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