Published: 24th March 2017
Hyderabad couple's online petition to strike religion off application forms gathers steam
As the government is prepping to answer Rao's petition in the Telangana HC to do away with the religion column in forms, his online petition is going viral
Do you have the freedom to not reveal your caste and religion when doing something as basic as filling your kids' school applications? A Hyderabadi couple certainly thinks so. After years of petitioning the MHRD and other government departments to try to get the religion part of application forms removed, they've started an online petition on change.org that's garnered over 2,381 signatures already.
DV Ramakrishna Rao and his wife S Clarance Krupalini, who started the petition has also approached the Telangana High Court in this regard — asking for a No Religion/No Caste option to also be included on all forms — a petition that the bench has taken seriously enough to ask the state and central government to respond to, in two weeks.
Support in these communal times
Ramakrishna and Clarance's petition on Change.org is gaining momentum rapidly. "We are very happy with the kind of response the petition has received. A lot of people from civil society have also lauded us for highlighting a small, but significant aspect," he shares. While criticism has been minimal, the biggest blow they'd received was when MHRD responded to their letter saying it was for the state to look into. "A government that is supposed to work for the citizen was trying to wash its hands off the issue," he recalls. Influenced by Nehru and Ambedkar, Ramakrishna, a Marxist, adds that they are neither the first nor the last to raise these questions.
All for Rationality: DV Ramakrishna Rao and S Clarance Krupalini with their children
'My kids can choose what religion they want to belong to'
The couple, that claims to have overcome caste and religion barriers by marrying outside both, believes in raising "rational" children. "When they become an adult, they can decide for themselves which religion they want to ascribe to or to not believe in," says D Ramakrishna, who is a self-proclaimed atheist while his wife, Clarance, is a Christian.
Though the application forms of most private, upmarket schools (available on their websites) don't ask for the child's religion to be mentioned, Rao insists that printed forms are rife with this demand. "In 2010 when we were trying to get our younger daughter admitted to school, the school insisted that we 'disclose' our religion. We went to the court then and now again the problem has arisen when my elder daughter has to appear for her class X exams," says Rao, adding that their fight is not with schools but with the government's policies.
In 2010 when we were trying to get our younger daughter admitted to school, the school insisted that we 'disclose' our religion. We went to the court then and now again the problem has arisen when my elder daughter has to appear for her class X exams.
DV Ramakrishna Rao, Petitioner
Atheism doesn't fall under the 'Other' category
Though a lot of people use 'Not Applicable' or 'Others' in forms that have made religion a mandatory field, the couple says it beats the purpose of being an atheist if one has to tick the 'other' box. "If one has a right to follow one's religion, there should also be a right not to follow it," he explains. Having said this, the couple added that they visit and greet their relatives during festivals. "Being a non-believer does not mean we are opposed to social interaction," he says.
When you're fighting the system and breaking rules that families and kids take for granted, your children are often caught in the crossfire. Like Rao's daughter was, when her teacher kept asking her which religion she followed, "My younger daughter, now in class VI, told her teacher that non-religion meant believing not in good or bad, but in living with love and harmony." That's deep for someone that young.