A woman in Tamil Nadu’s Tirupattur has been issued a certificate saying she does not belong to any caste or religion, after a nine-year battle, The Times of India reported on Thursday. According to media reports, this is the first time in the country that such a certificate has been issued.

MA Sneha, a lawyer by profession, was brought up in a family that did not believe in caste or religion. She said she had first applied for a certificate in 2010, but officials had rejected it saying there was no such precedent in the country. “When people who believe in caste and religion have certificates, why not issue certificates to people like us?” she asked, while speaking to The Hindu.

Sneha said all her certificates, including birth and school certificates, have nil or are blank against the “caste” and “religion” columns. “They mention me as an Indian,” she told The Hindu. “But I started to realise that every application form I filled mandated enclosure of community certificate. So, I had to obtain a self-affidavit. It was only then that it occurred to me that I needed an identity that was sans caste and religion.”

Sneha and her husband, author Parthiba Raja, have left the caste and religion columns blank in the school application forms of their three children.

On February 5, Sneha received the certificate from Tirupattur tahsildar TS Sathiyamoorthy. Tirupattur sub-collector Priyanka Pankajam said when Sneha made the request, her documents were verified. “We verified all her school and college documents and found the two columns blank,” Pankajam told The Hindu. “So, though we have no precedent, we decided to go ahead and certify her as it will not affect anybody or take away another person’s opportunity.”

However, speaking to The Times of India, Pankajam refused to specify under which rule this certificate was issued.

Actor Kamal Haasan praised Sneha for her struggle to receive the certificate. “You have actuated a long dormant desire among Indians,” Haasan said on Twitter. “Let’s discard what never belonged to us. Let’s caste [cast] away Caste. From this point, a better tomorrow will be more accessible. Bravo daughter. Lead India forward.”