Student organisations called the Union government’s recent rollback of Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) a ’blatant injustice’ and urged immediate reimplementation of MANF, a scholarship for students from minority communities.
The Union government has decided to discontinue the MANF) from this academic year, Union Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani told Lok Sabha on Thursday. The MANF was launched during the UPA regime as part of implementing the Sachar Committee recommendations.
The Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) Scheme offered integrated five year fellowships in the form of financial assistance to students from minority communities – Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, and Jain – to pursue pursue regular and full time M.Phil. and Ph.D courses from Indian universities.
“The continuous attack on access to education of minorities shows the callous attitude of the present government, whose hollow rhetoric of ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’ has been unmasked in the broad daylight,” said Fawaz Shaheen, National Secretary of Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO).
Shaheen said: ”The rollback of pre-matric scholarship and Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) shows the state’s blatant disregard for educational equity and washing its hands of key domains such as education. There’s an urgent need for condemnation and mobilization of conscientious citizens against this onslaught on education and the dignity of minorities.”
“This attempt by the Union Government to discontinue the MANF scheme must be staunchly resisted by all those who seek to democratise India’s educational system,” said central executive committee of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI).
“This misguided step by the Union Government comes on the back of a series of severe delays in the disbursal of the fellowship, with scholars recently reporting backlogs of over nine months. Coming in the immediate wake of the immense distress faced by researchers owing to the lack of systemic and institutional support during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, the anxiety of unpaid bills and mounting backlogs of expenses owing to the above stated delay had already caused a large number of scholars and researchers from minority communities to put a pause on their research activities. This is pertinent since for many such individuals, the MANF scheme provides a lifeline for the families of scholars as well,” read the SFI’s statement.
“This past year has already witnessed attempts by the Sangh Parivar to deny the very fundamental right to education to young muslim women and to establish an aggressive majoritarian cultural nationalism by usurping spaces of education. The decision to discontinue the MANF, under whatever guise such a decision might come, must be necessarily seen as a further effort in this direction – to deny access to education, and to ensure that higher education continues to remain the exclusive enclaves of the privileged few,” it said.
Girls Islamic Organisation (GIO) has urged Union government to reverse the decision immediately and reinstate the scholarship at the earliest.
“By eliminating minority scholarships, a concerted effort is being made to institutionally exclude socially backward communities from the education sector. The previous action of the Central Government to revoke pre-matric scholarships for students up to class 8 is also part of the same discrimination agenda,” said Samar Ali, general secretary of Girls Islamic Organisation (GIO).
“This is disclosed right after the decision to deny the pre-matric scholarships for minority students. The BJ government is overturning post-Sachar committee welfare schemes,” said Shamseer Ibrahim, national president of Fraternity Movement.
Ibrahim urged the student community to raise the voice against these “unjust anti-minority policies of the government.”
Students’ Union of Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai demanded the withdrawal of Union government’s decision to discontinue MANF.
“The implication of the decision to revoke MANF, a scholarship for students from minority communities this academic year, will result in the exclusion of the already under-represented minority communities in academic spaces. Recently the Union government also disclosed its decision to revoke Pre-matric scholarships for SC, ST, and OBC categories from classes 1st to 8th. The series of anti-minority decisions, including the rollback of Pre matric scholarship and Maulana Azad National Fellowship, taken by the Central government, shows its least interest in the educational emancipation of students from marginalised backgrounds,” read the statement.
Muslim Students Federation national president PV Ahamed Saju said MSF national committee will hold nationwide protest on 15 December against Union government’s decision to discontinue various minority students’ scholarships.”
“The BJP government has once again made public its ingrained attitude against minorities and the idea of public education,” said Ambedkar Students’ Association, University of Hyderabad.
“This fellowship, which remained the only financial lifeline for Buddhist, Christian, Jain, Muslim, Sikh and Parsi students who are already grossly under-represented in India’s public universities, has been scrapped for citing overlaps with other fellowships. The reason could not be more frivolous and insincere as it fails to recognise the multiple axes of disadvantages that students face. This is a grave injustice to minority students who face an uphill battle to gain higher education in an increasingly hostile society. No longer able to maintain the public universities of India as agraharas, frightened as it is by diversity and critical thinking, the BJP government is leaving no stone unturned to make higher education inaccessible and unaffordable for the majority of marginalised students. The same Smriti Irani was responsible for the Institutional murder of Rohit vemula when she was minister for MHRD is now killing the hopes of minority students who aspire to enter into higher educational institutions. The struggle against the scrapping of MANF, which begins today, is a struggle for the democratisation of public education, and ASA invites all like-minded individuals to join it,” read the statement of ASA.