The caste system may have been legally abolished in 1950, but if you live in India, the box for you to fill in 'caste' and 'religion' is still present in a lot of forms. Some of these boxes on forms are also compulsory, and you do not always have the option of leaving them empty.
The closest option you get is 'Choose not to say' or 'Other' as an answer to these boxes.
A woman from Tamil Nadu, however, can now choose to not answer these on any forms as she officially has 'no caste, no religion.'
On February 5th, Sneha Parthibaraja, a 35-year-old lawyer from Vellore became the first person in the country to win the right to not have any caste or religion associated with her identity after a 9-year-old court battle.
Sneha was brought up in a family which neither believed in any caste nor religion. All her certificates, including birth and school certificates, have nil or are blank against the “caste” and “religion” columns. “They mention me as an Indian,” she told The Hindu.
Sneha mentions that with every form that she filled, the mandated enclosure of community certificate made her realize she had to get an identity 'that was sans caste and religion.'
Parthibaraja began her fight in 2010 but all her attempts remained futile, as officials usually turned down on the basis of there being no precedent in the country.
Finally, in 2017 Sneha submitted her last application and explained her stand to officials. She said that she didn't want to avail any government schemes or restrictions, and hence, her request should be granted.
On February 5th, Sub-Collector, Tirupattur, B. Priyanka Pankajam finally decided to give her the ‘no caste, no religion’ identity certificate. “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.
Kamal Hassan and others congratulated her on Twitter for finally having no caste or religion attached to her identity.
தமிழ்மகள் சிநேகாவிற்கு என் மனமார்ந்த வாழ்த்துக்கள். மதம் மாறுவதை விட மனம் மாறுவதே சிறப்பு. வா மகளே வா, புது யுகம் படைப்போம். சாதியற்ற உலகம் சாத்தியமில்லை என இனியும் அடம் பிடிப்போர்க்கும் இடம் ஒதுக்கீடு செய்வோம். மக்கள் நீதியே மய்யம் கொள்ளும். நாளை நமதே, நிச்சயம் நமதே! pic.twitter.com/w1a22F2GRh — Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) February 13, 2019
Dear Sneha, 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
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
Incredible Step.. we too will get! https://t.co/oW0YV1VSU0 — Mallik.G.N (@mallikgn) February 14, 2019