Perhaps this is the beginning of shedding the attire of rigid religious and cultural norms and embracing free-thinking, at least in Kerala.
More than 1.24 lakh students in Kerala have declared that they have no caste or religion while taking admissions in schools. Education Minister C Raveendranath in the Assembly, stated that parents of 1,24,147 students – from Class I to higher secondary classes – have left the space for religion and caste blank while admitting them to school in 2017-18.
Without a doubt, this is the most inspiring and positive news that we may have read in a very long time, given the highly polarised nature of society presently.
The rationalists and leftists claim it is an indication of a rise of new and progressive thinkers while old-school nationalists rebuke it as a statistical abnormality.
The minister’s revelation was in reply to a question by Vamanapuram MLA D K Murali. “This is a happy news. Our country provides for the freedom to live without joining any religion or caste. I didn’t know that a significant number has utilised that freedom,” he said.
The Left legislator feels that a young free-thinking and secular generation is on the rise, who wants to give freedom of religion to their children. “I congratulate these parents who have a positive outlook in grooming children. Let the children select their own religion or remain religion-less after they become mature enough,” he said.
The development is a mark that people are shedding old-school processes and are batting for inclusion and diversity from all sections of the society. Of late, India has witnessed a surge in fascism, a ‘meaningless’ form of nationalism, caste-based division, religion-based division and radicalism. While far-right and fascists are trying to divide the society using religion as a tool, undermining the social values of the society, this news comes as a breath of fresh air to many who are working towards building a casteless and religion-less society.
While caste remains a reality in Kerala, this is a welcome sign from young parents who are trying to bridge this divide. Kerala has always been a highly casteist society. Lower-caste people register their caste to avail government benefits. Everyone knows who is Nair and who is a Namboothiri.
Activist Civic Chandran in a Facebook post also countered the hype around the statistics, by asking the government to reveal how many new admissions in schools had ‘tails’ of the upper castes. “It should also be made clear how many students got admissions with caste tails such as ‘Nair’, ‘Varma’, ‘Panicker’ and ‘Warrier’,” he wrote.