Meet Sneha, the woman without caste and religion

Sneha with her certificate deeming her a 'casteless, religionless' person

Mobile phones at the house of M A Sneha, a lawyer by profession, haven’t stopped ringing since Wednesday evening ever since the news of the 35-year-old woman bearing the fruits of her years-long labour to get a certificate that she neither belongs to a caste nor religion was made public.
Sneha, who hails from Tirupattur in Vellore district of Tamil Nadu, says her eyes swelled when she received the ‘no caste, no religion’ certificate from Tirupattur Tahsildar T S Sathiyamoorthy on February 5.
Sneha and her Tamil professor-husband Parthiba Raja have been flooded with calls since Wednesday evening – many congratulating the lawyer for achieving the feat and some seeking to know the process of getting a similar certificate.
“I see it as an achievement of one of the foremost goals of my life – the fulfilment of the thought which was nurtured in me and my sisters by my parents that all humans are one and there is no caste and religion. The struggle was not easy but today when I hold the certificate in my hand, I just feel proud,” the mother of three girl children told DH.
Sneha is probably the first woman in the country to get such a certificate. Her father had made it a point to get names of different faiths to his daughters – his other daughters bear the name Mumtaj and Jennifer. The lawyer said people belonging to dominant castes should take a cue from her struggle and work towards a society that is equal for all.
At the same breath, Sneha also clarified that she was not against reservation. “I want to clarify that I am not against reservation. I support reservation policy and feel that the backward communities should have reservation for the upliftment. My struggle should not be seen as something against reservation,” she said.
“By declaring that I neither have caste nor religion, I don’t snatch the rights of anyone. I appeal to people fighting for the rights of the downtrodden to understand this and help further the society’s cause,” she said.  
Sneha-Parthiba Raja couple have three girl children – all of them sport names that are identified with different faiths. For instance, their elder daughter’s name is Aadhirai Nasreen – a combination of Buddhist and Muslim name.
“The idea behind it is to create awareness about a casteless, religionless society. When someone hears her name, the first question they ask is whether your parents are Muslim. When they say no and narrate the story behind her name, the awareness is created,” Raja said. Next step, according to him, is to apply for similar certificates for Sneha’s sisters Mumtaj and Jennifer.
Sneha has become a Rockstar overnight – actor-politician Kamal Haasan, actor-activist Rohini and actor Sathyaraj, who donned the role of social reformer Periyar in the Dravidian legend’s biopic, have hailed the woman’s struggle. “You have actuated a long-dormant desire among Indians. Let’s discard what never belonged to us. Let’s caste away caste,” Kamal Haasan wrote on Twitter.
The feat was not achieved without a struggle – Sneha was turned away several times, but only after 2017 there were some positive signs. “Finally, I got the certificate. We just asked the officers to give us a certificate in the same format of issuing a caste certificate. Just that for me I wanted them to mention that I don’t belong to any caste,” Sneha said.
Raja said he saw his wife’s no caste, no religion certificate as the “important positive step” in their fight. “Let the debate start at least now. The response has been very encouraging, and several people are asking us the procedure on how to get such a certificate,” Raja said.
Sneha is also happy that the news has been received positively on social media. “I am happy at the way things are moving. Many are taking to social media to congratulate me and I see this as a way of my idea reaching lakhs of people,” she said.

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Meet Sneha, the woman without caste and religion


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