For any member of a marginalised community in India, a "caste certificate" is a crucial document, which allows them to access rights that are guaranteed to them under the law. The certificate, issued by the government, serves as proof that an individual belongs to a particular group, such as a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe. This allows them to avail of opportunities such as reservations in employment, and in the case of students, reservations in education, and scholarships.
But on the ground, the process of applying for and procuring these certificates is often so harrowing and difficult that it ends up marginalising these students and their families even further.
They are made to visit government offices for years on end. They are made to chase down long-lost documents to serve as proof of their origins. In some cases, they are even asked to demonstrate their knowledge of their community's traditional activities, such as pig rearing and snake charming, even if they themselves have no links to these activities.
This week, in Common Ground, Johanna Deeksha talks to students from several states, and their families, to understand how their efforts to procure these certificates has left them anguished. You can read the story here.