In India, caste and religion determine everything. Well, most things.
But on Feb 5, a Tamil Nadu woman, A Snegha Parthibaraja, became what revenue officials in the state call the first Indian to be issued a ‘no caste-no religion’ certificate.
According to a report filed by Serena Josephine M for The Hindu, Sneha’s parents too had always left the two columns of caste and religion blank in application forms. But it was their daughter, Sneha, who took the step to make this part of her identity ‘official’.
You have actuated a long dormant desire among Indians. Let’s discard what never belonged to us. Let’s caste away Caste. From this point, a better tomorrow will be more accessible. Bravo daughter. Lead India forward. https://t.co/tdjngFiHWl
— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) February 13, 2019
35-year-old Sneha, an advocate and resident of Tirupattur, a town in Vellore district in Tamil Nadu, received the certificate from Tirupattur tahsildar T.S. Sathiyamoorthy. She’d been trying for the certificate since the year 2010.
According to her, this step is towards social change.
Meanwhile, revenue officials said that this could be the first time that such a certificate was issued in the country.
Well done Sneha. Now to see if the Courts uphold the validity of the Certificate. Hopefully they will. https://t.co/bbtxbTsMIw
— Sumanth Raman (@sumanthraman) February 14, 2019
“All my certificates have nil or are blank against the ‘caste’ and ‘religion’ columns. This includes my birth certificate and school certificates. They mention me as an Indian. But I started to realise that every application form I filled mandated enclosure of community certificate. So, I had to obtain a self-affidavit. It was only then that it occurred to me that I needed an identity that was sans caste and religion,” she said as quoted by The Hindu.
“When people who believe in caste and religion have certificates, why not issue certificates to people like us?” she asked.
Sneha’s quest for a caste-less and religion-less identity began in 2010.
“I started to apply for a [no religion, no caste] certificate in 2010, but officials kept rejecting it for some reason. Some said there was no precedent in the country. It was in 2017 that I began to stand by ground and explained [my stand] to officials. I justified my stand, saying they should look into my request as I had availed no government schemes or reservation,” the daily quoted her as saying.
Sub-Collector of Tirupattur, B Priyanka Pankajam gave the green signal to Sneha’s request.
“She wanted to be certified as [belonging to] no caste and no religion. We had to check if her assertions were true. We verified all her school and college documents and found the two columns blank. So, though we found no precedent, we decided to go ahead and certify her as it will not affect anybody or take away another person’s opportunity,” she said.
Sneha’s husband, K. Parthiba Raja, a Tamil professor, said they left the ‘caste’ and ‘religion’ columns blank in the school application forms for their three daughters.