Student bodies term rollback of minority scholarship ‘blatant injustice’

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Student organisations across India have called upon Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party 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 Indian government recently decided to discontinue the MANF from this academic year, Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani told Lok Sabha. 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 regular and full time MPhil and PhD 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 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,” he said.

Girls Islamic Organisation (GIO) has urged the Indian 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 GIO general secretary, Samar Ali.

“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.

Students’ Union of Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai demanded the withdrawal of 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 the 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.

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