First Indian women certified as caste and religion less citizen

Defying the accustomed norm of identifying one’s social location based on caste and religion, Sneha Parthibaraja from India, a country so deeply rooted in its religious and cultural ethos, has taken a paradoxical step by getting a caste and religion less identity certificate issued.

M.A. Sneha, an advocate from Tirupathur situated in an Indian state of Tamil Nadu, since childhood all the certificates bearing columns of caste and religion remained blank. Her 35 years old tryst ended recently when the Tamil Nadu government issued a formal certificate that she is a caste and religion less person.  Perhaps Sneha is the first one in the country to be formally certified so.

Recalling her childhood days, Sneha said that they grew up in a diverse world of communism, rationalism and atheism. Their home was frequented by communist friends of her parents which supported her sisters and her to imbibe those principles. Her 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. Her father too followed his elder brother.

This upbringing wasn’t just limited to her, her younger sisters Mumtaj Suriya and Jennifer were also given names that belonged to different faiths.  During their school days, when asked by their friends or their parents on caste and religion, they would always respond 'no caste, no religion'.  

They are staunch supporters of atheism. Irrespective of the life threatening ailments faced by one of her sisters, who was a born thalassemic patient, they didn't waver an inch in their core belief. 


Sneha while receiving her no-caste, no-religion centificate 

Their upbringing was not bereft of 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 Parthibaraja who belongs to a religiously inclined family but strongly influenced by the philosophies of Periyar (E.V.Ramasamy, founder of Dravidar Kazhagam) and Dr. Ambedkar. He became an atheist.  Their marriage ceremony took place 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. Talking about her daughters’ marriage, Sneha believes that life partners who are of the same wavelength will automatically come at the right time. Sneha’s strong belief in the ideals of Karl Marx, Dr Ambedkar and Periyar has been the prime motivation.

M A Sneha thinks differently against the established patterns of Indian society 


Parthibaraja, in an interview told that his father-in-law P.V. 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 who died in police custody. The initials before Sneha's name - M.A. - denote the first letter of her parents' names.

Sneha’s struggle for no caste,no religion certificate began 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.  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. Her struggle ended and her efforts attained fruition on February 5th when she was issued the certificate. She sees this certificate as a recognition of the system that they have been following as a family.

Sneha believes that Reservation has been a boon for the oppressed castes. Their battle is against oppression but not caste reservation. They want a caste-free society that accepts people as they are. This revolutionary step is definitely to inspire many like minded people not only in India but worldwide soon.

Image Source: Facebook handle of Sneha

First Published: 06-Mar-2019- 15:38