Meet India’s first officially certified caste-less and religion-less person
Posted on March 1st, 2019

Recently, the Tamil Nadu government issued Sneha a formal certificate that she is a caste and religion less person. Perhaps she is the first one in the country to be formally certified so.

Several decades ago when times were not this modern, my in-laws had named their daughters differently,” Parthibaraja remarked.

Sneha’s two younger sisters have Muslim and Christian names – Mumtaj Suriya and Jennifer.

Meet India’s first officially certified caste-less and religion-less person

My father-in-law PV Anandakrishnan and mother-in-law Manimozhi are both advocates, and belonged to different castes. They were rationalists and Leftists. Sneha was named after a Telangana girl Snehalatha died in police custody,” Parthibaraja told IANS.

The initials before Sneha’s name – MA – denote the first letter of her parents’ names.

My paternal grandfather was a religious person but not his eldest son advocate P.V. Bakthavatchalam who during his college days got attracted towards communism and rationalism. My father too followed his elder brother,” Sneha said.

Sneha receives her caste-less, religion-less certificate from Thiruppattur Tehsildar T.S.Sathiyamurthy

Recalling her childhood days, Sneha said: We grew up in a different environment. Our home was frequented by communist friends of my parents. At home, the books, too, were on communism, rationalism and atheism. My sisters and I imbibed those principles.”

Sneha said during school, she and her two sisters would always answer ‘no caste, no religion’ when their friends or their parents asked about it.

We are staunch atheists. We didn’t waver an inch in our core belief even when one of my sisters was a born thalassemic patient requiring regular blood transfusion. Even when she faced life-threatening ailments we didn’t go in search of any God,” Sneha said.

This upbringing wasn’t just limited to her, her younger sisters Mumtaj Suriya and Jennifer were also given names that belonged to different faiths. Sneha added that this upbringing wasn’t without challenges and taunts, their family would often get asked how they would get the girls married off and how they would avail reservation benefits without a caste certificate or faith in religion. Despite all of it, Sneha followed her parent’s footsteps, she married Professor Parthiba Raja, in a ceremony sans religious and caste based-rituals.

This upbringing wasn’t just limited to her, her younger sisters Mumtaj Suriya and Jennifer were also given names that belonged to different faiths. Sneha added that this upbringing wasn’t without challenges and taunts, their family would often get asked how they would get the girls married off and how they would avail reservation benefits without a caste certificate or faith in religion. Despite all of it, Sneha followed her parent’s footsteps, she married Professor Parthiba Raja, in a ceremony sans religious and caste based-rituals.

The couple has three daughters, Aathira Nazreen, Aathila Irene and Aarifa Jessy who have been named in a manner that transcends religion and caste identities. She may be an outlier in a society that demands Caste certificates almost everywhere, but her strong belief in the ideals of Karl Marx, Dr Ambedkar and Periyar has been the prime motivation.

On realizing that there are certificates for those that follow the caste system, but none for those like Sneha who do not follow either religion or caste.

Sneha’s caste-less and religion-less family

That’s when the quest for a ‘No Caste, No Religion’ Certificate began. In her struggle for the certificate, she was faced with Government officials who claimed that they lacked the power and authority to issue such a certificate.

Sneha said that between 2010-17 she had given 5 requisition letters to seek the Certificate, but all of them went in vain. The scenario changed when she finally applied for a community certificate by following due procedure via the Village Administrative Officer and Tahsildar, while also explaining her objective.

But all of her efforts attained fruition on February 5th when the Tirupattur Tahsildar TS Sathiyamoorthy issued the certificate on 5th February.

I see this certificate as a recognition of the system that we have been following as a family”, she told WION.

However, she also clarifies that they are in no way against the reservation system. She believes that Reservation has been a boon for the oppressed castes. Our battle is against oppression but not caste reservation, she adds.

Speaking about the certificate, her husband Parthiba Raja said, This system of not following religion or caste is what brought us together in life. From a young age she has been fighting this battle, now we are delighted that she has got formal recognition. We have also been getting calls and queries from like-minded people on how they could apply for this certificate”.

He adds, We want a caste-free society that accepts people as they are. We are for social justice. Until we have a truly caste-free society, the oppressed people must assert their caste identity and avail reservations and better opportunities.”

Sneha’s feat has gained more traction after Actor-turned politician Kamal Haasan tweeted out a picture of her and congratulated her. Since then wishes have been pouring in from social media platforms, hailing her revolutionary step. As word spreads about this unique and unprecedented development, many more applicants could follow suit.

One Response to “Meet India’s first officially certified caste-less and religion-less person”

  1. Christie Says:

    Castkess; another Caste.

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