Secular school certificate
Image Credit: Twitter/Times of India

Dubai: This week, a man in the Indian state of Gujarat, finally won his battle, to get a “secular” school certificate for his daughter, one that does not mention religion or caste. On Monday, the father Rajveer Pravinchandra Upadhyay received his daughter’s certificate, a photo of which went viral on Twitter. Indian tweeps say that this is perhaps one of the first instances that a school-leaving certificate in the country, does not identify a person based on their caste or creed. Praising Upadhyay’s effort, many said this was an important victory.

According to Indian news reports, Upadhyay, an auto rickshaw driver in Ahmedabad wanted to ensure that his daughter Akanksha's school-leaving certificate does not mention either her caste, religion or community. Apparently, in a lone battle that he waged against the system, he had to make innumerable representations, and applications, to the Ahmedabad district collector, and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.

The 36-year-old father fought relentlessly so that his 13-year-old daughter's school paid heed, and she received the certificate that left the religion and caste columns blank.

Twitter user @deepaktrek posted: “This should be the way forward.”

And, @kumarmanish9 tweeted: “He has set better example than many so called celebrities.”

Along with his daily job, Upadhyay is also currently pursuing his Masters in Clinical Psychology from a university in India. Reportedly, he said that a lot of research went behind his arguments that he put forth, while sending out the representations.

"After considering the representations, the school authorities agreed. I have also put an application addressed to the Chief Minister and District Collector stating that we don't want the surname or father's name to be mentioned either. I feel these things come in the way of equality and give rise to discrimination. The same petition has been pending in the High Court for the past few years. The school application, however, was granted in a matter of two days. The school co-operated immensely," said Upadhyay, according to a news report on the Times of India website.

"According to a Supreme Court judgement in the case of Dr Ramesh Yeshwant vs Shri Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte on December 11, 1995, there is no religion called Hinduism but it is a way of life, which implies that Hindu cannot be written as a religion on any certificate. My mind is troubled by the prevailing racism, regionalism, communalism and all sorts of discrimination in India. This needs to change and we should always remember that animals, plants and other living beings apart from humans do not need any religion, caste to live. So we shouldn't write Hindu under the religion category, which was one of the grounds for my argument," he said.

He cited another example of a Tamil Nadu lawyer, identified as Sneha, without a surname or family name. Upadhyay stressed in his applications that in 2019 Sneha had persuaded the state's authorities to remove her caste and religion from all her government documents. "As per the Indian Constitution, I have the fundamental right to be secular, and I do not need any religion or caste to live my life," he said.

Last year, Upadhyay had also filed a plea in the Gujarat High Court, seeking to get the status of an atheist and his name changed to 'RV155677820' — which was a combination of two letters from his first name and his enrolment number mentioned on his school-leaving certificate. That battle is still ongoing.