The Centre’s decision to put an end to the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) drew sharp criticism from students.
An initiative of the Ministry of Minority Affairs, the MANF was discontinued and Union Minister for Minority Affairs Smriti Irani stated in the Parliament on Thursday that this was so, given the overlap with other existing schemes.
Students of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) in Hyderabad staged a demonstration against the decision on Friday at the varsity campus. They described the move as “discriminatory” and said that it would pose a hindrance for students from minority communities to access education.
Former MANUU student body president Umar Farooq Quadri accused the Centre of creating hindrances for students to become PhD scholars. He maintained that this was a direct obstruction of the knowledge process and societal building.
“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 off key domains such as education. There’s an urgent need for condemnation and mobilisation of conscientious citizens against this onslaught on education and the dignity of minorities,” Talha Manna from MANUU’s Students Islamic Organisation unit said.
Osama Naseem, a research scholar, urged the Centre to formulate a common fellowship programme for all PhD scholars in case there is an overlap.
The plans to discontinue the MANF, as well as the pre-matric scholarship, come across as a double whammy for minorities given that the Centre announced last month that it would stop the pre-matric scholarship for minorities as well. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi, during the Gujarat Assembly election campaign, had criticised the move and alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party could not stand those from marginalised communities getting an education.
Each year, Telangana sees around 1.65 lakh registrations for the pre-matric scholarship, out of which around 65,000 are beneficiaries.