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MA Sneha comes from an atheist family, and does not believe in having a caste or religion. She recently got a no-caste, no-religion certificate, something that we should have more of.
Have you heard about an Indian woman who fought for a certificate saying she belongs to no religion nor any caste? Does this sound like a pointless waste of time and energy for a victory on paper? I believe it’s a way to draw attention to the anomaly of what we say about caste in India and how we behave.
Caste, and the segregation of work, rights, and duties on the basis of the family you’re born into is the ugly thread woven into the fabric of all interactions in India.
Couples are murdered for marrying outside their caste, people are segregated based on their caste, reservations for jobs and in colleges and schools have sprung up for downtrodden castes, and now even for upper castes who can’t get jobs because of all the reservations. Upper caste men rape women of a different caste to “teach the menfolk” of that caste a lesson. Does that make any sense at all? That convoluted thinking makes sense only to the patriarchy that believes they own the women of their caste who cannot be ‘used’ by men of another caste! It has become ridiculous and unbearable.
Government forms sport boxes to be filled in stating your caste and religion, thereby making a mockery of the country’s claim to being secular! Why you want to know my caste or my religion? How is my caste anyone else’s business?
This information is required apparently to allow you to avail of all the reservations you are eligible for by ‘virtue’ of your caste.
The fact that it took MA Sneha the woman who fought for a No Caste, No Religion Certificate 9 years to fight for this piece of paper shows the extent to which caste is a prime building block of Indian life. It’s beyond anyone’s comprehension that things like caste or the religion you were born into should be of relevance!
Interestingly, people defend the caste system as way to measure the progress of a group of people as though there aren’t other ways of measuring progress. Another argument that made little sense was that the caste system gives people of the same caste a rallying point, leaders from their caste who can fight on their behalf. Should we not rally under leaders who have the same ideals as we do rather than because we belong to the same caste?
The certificate is a small beginning. Perhaps it will get people thinking about caste, their caste, whether they’re availing of benefits by virtue of their upper caste names, their family privilege or by reservations given because of historical (and still prevailing) lower caste restrictions. In a nation that talks about equality and equal rights why do we need to still care about people’s caste?
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: YouTube
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A freelance journalist and teacher, Kalpana is a feminist, an animal rights activist, passionate about
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