Gora's descendents continue his battle for space for non-believers in census
Decades have passed since Goparaju Ramachandra Rao, popularly called Gora, fought for a place in the sun for atheists. But his fight for justice for the non-believers continues by his grandchildren.
Born in an orthodox Telugu Brahmin family, Gora dedicated his life to propagating ‘positive atheism'. Members of the lineage continue the trend and call themselves rationalists, humanists, atheists or free thinkers. Gora took strong exception to the non-inclusion of the ‘atheist' as an option in the census columns.
In a conversation with The Hindu , his son Lavanam says: “In a secular set-up, we are being forced to be prisoners in the cells of caste and religion. Please allow us to be humans. The atheists' slogan is Jai Insaan (hail human being). We want to rely on the power of being humans.”
Refusing to be categorised under any caste or religion, Gora's descendents, his grandchildren in particular, strongly oppose the current pattern followed by enumerators involved in census work. The latter reject their demand citing, ‘software limitations'. A prominent atheist leader, Mr. Lavanam is planning to file a writ petition in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, seeking the court's intervention “to educate our enumerators to understand secularism.”
Referring to the caste-based census, he agrees that there is a need to identify the population of Dalits and other weaker sections to introduce welfare schemes for their uplift.
“But why should we be denied our identity in the census? I am sure there are many others like us who have moved beyond caste and religion and want to be known as humanists and rationalists. Let there be additional columns of ‘no religion' and ‘no caste' for people like us,” he said.
Mr. Lavanam said Gora had opposed when his grandsons — Vazeer and Gram — were categorised as ‘Muslim' and ‘Christian' by the enumerators based on their names. “Unless we move beyond religion and caste, we cannot become human beings because most of the violence is inflicted on society in the name of religion and caste.” Expressing indignation at the ‘restrictive software', Mr. Lavanam suggested that one be put in place to accommodate ‘this powerful' section which cries for its own identity.