Whenever, wherever you move in India, a frequently asked question, what is your caste? Even in any application form whether it belongs to services or a school form, they ask for your rank. We all somewhere down the line criticise it whenever we have to face it. However, the hypocrite in us never speaks out against it because who will spoil and kill their precious time for so-called social issues. It might be because somewhere we all are right as this social issue thing is a pothole which is very deep with infinite depth.
The beauty of this world is that we appreciate the people and forget about them after two weeks. We discuss the issues and forget as soon as we exit the place. But among all of us where we all are busy in criticising and abusing others just for the sake of soothing ourselves, some people in our country are working on these social issues and standing against all these social barriers. Among these people, one of them is Sneha Parthibaraja, a 35 years old lawyer in Tamil Nadu. She crossed all the boundaries by becoming the first woman in the country to acquire an official certificate of ‘no caste, no religion.’
Who Is Sneha, the LAWYER?
The caste system which has been abolished in 1950, is still there in India. Here we still have to fill the column in ‘caste’ and ‘religion’, and sometimes you won’t get the option to keep it empty. A lawyer from Tamil Nadu, got her wings fly as she can now choose not to answer these in any forms as she officially has ‘no caste, no religion.’ For Sneha, the refusal of religion and caste values was inherited from her parents. Her father was born in a family of Marxists, and her mother grew up in a traditional family. The couple decided to raise their child in a different culture where no caste or no religion will spread or overcome her life with any hatred.
On February 5th, Sneha Parthibaraja, a 35-year-old lawyer, won her nine years old battle against this caste and religion form by getting the certificate of ‘No caste, No religion.’ She was brought up in a family who did not believe in any caste or religion or cultural perspectives. All her certificates and documents, including birth and school certificates, have blank against the “caste” and “religion” columns and mention herself always as Indian.
Battle Against Government
“So, this is my lifestyle from the beginning. If this is how we live, then why shouldn’t we get a ‘no caste, no religion’ certificate in place of a community certificate,” Sneha stated in one of her interviews after winning this battle.
A community certificate defines that a person belongs to what minority community like Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, and Other Backward Classes. Community certificate is issued by the State Governments concerned, and it is also known as caste certificate.
It took her nine years to acquire this ‘no caste, no religion’ certificate. She has been writing letters to the Tehsildar, requesting a no-community certificate in the beginning. However, not only she had to face rejection, they were barely interested. After multiple attempts, she applied by employing a procedure they adopted for a community certificate in 2017. The officials didn’t have a choice, but to answer the letter as it was numbered. They initially told her that there was no precedent for it, and raised questions like, ‘what is the use of this certificate’ and ‘we cannot agree to give you one without any particular reason’,”
Fighting the long process and dominant authority, she was able to convince the authorities that she wasn’t going to utilise this certificate for any advantageous purposes, she will neither misuse it nor misguide anyone via the No caste certificate. “By this certificate, I wasn’t going to steal or take away any benefits from anyone else. It is my identity and an acknowledgement of my life,” she says. This explanation convinced the Sub-Collector and Tehsildar of her intentions to get this certificate.
“She wanted to be certified as 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,” said B. PriyankaPankajam, Sub-Collector of Tirupattur, Tamil Nadu.
No one can win anything alone; the support of the dear ones is always the strength of pillar required to any individual. In her pursuit of this certificate, her strength was her husband K. Parthiba Raja, a Tamil professor, who helped her and supported her a lot.
Can other citizen avail this certificate?
Her records have always reflected with no caste or religion. Those who haven’t had a caste or community stated in any of their certificates and documents can follow the procedure. But with those who have the cast suggesting they need to find a different way through the judicial system. Officials like the Sub Collector and Tehsildar don’t have the authority to revoke the certificates they have already given out. They also need the legal procedure for it, as explained by Sneha.
Through the writ, Sneha seeks a judicial or government order. She believes that this will hopefully layout a procedure whereby people who are willing to get a ‘no caste, no religion’ certificate can acquire one. Not everyone can get this certificate. The authorities whom she applied to used their discretionary powers. Not every Tehsildar and Sub Collector will encourage this sort of application.
No doubt caste and religion and this diversity factor is the strongest pillar of our Incredible India, but what if the pillars get rusted? Either you have the option to rebuild them or remove away the disparity. ‘Ways Are Always Two, but Choice is Always for One.’ So you decide either to go this way or that way.
Might be her fight is over but the social battle isn’t over. There is yet a lot to be done, and a lot to be thought and work upon. So decide before the rust eats up the whole pillar.