Published: 11th December 2022
MANF withdrawal: 'Another attack on the minorities,' says AISA; more student bodies join protest
Student organisations in Delhi called a protest at the Ministry of Education against the rollback of the MANF and the Pre-Matric scholarship on December 12
Protests against the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) rollback is gaining momentum as several student organisations join the movement. On Monday, December 12, numerous student bodies called for a demonstration outside the Shashtri Bhawan (Ministry of Education). Student Federation of India (SFI), All India Students' Association (AISA), Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Students’ Union (MSU) and others will be among the organisations protesting on Monday.
"The decision of the Central Government to discontinue the MANF Fellowship is a direct attack on students coming from minority communities. The Students' Federation of India (SFI), student bodies such as the JNU Students' Union and other organisations have unitedly decided to call on the Ministry of Education on Monday to seek answers from the respective Ministry," says Aishe Ghosh, President of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU).
The Delhi State President of AISA, Abhigyan, says, "The logic behind revoking the scholarship itself is fallacious and ridiculous. This is nothing more than another double-edged attack against the minorities of this country." The Union Government cited the lack of proper implementation and overlapping with other scholarships as the reasons behind the withdrawal of MANF.
Why was the fellowship recalled?
The statement released by the government reads, "Since MANF Scheme overlaps with various other fellowship Schemes for higher education being implemented by the Government and minority students are already covered under such Schemes, hence the Government has decided to discontinue the MNAF Scheme from 2022-2023."
MANF is a fellowship programme designed for students from minority communities (Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists, Christians, and Jains) who wish to pursue an MPhil or PhD in Indian universities.
On December 9, students of Hyderabad Central University (HCU) burnt the effigy of Smriti Irani, Minister of Minority Affairs, after her speech at the Lok Sabha on Thursday, December 8, announcing the decision about MANF.
"The intention here is to keep the minorities away from education, for education enables one to question," says Abu Hamza, Vice-President of MSU. Last month the Union Government announced the withdrawal of the Pre-Matric Scholarship for students of minority communities from Class I to VIII. In a statement released by AISA, the student body echoes the words of Abu when they say, "The BJP has unleashed yet another attack on the minorities of the country by dismantling the primary weapon of social mobility — education."
As per reports, MANF was launched by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2009, as a part of carrying out the recommendations of the Sachar Committee that was established by Dr Manmohan Singh, who was the Prime Minister at the time. The role of the committee was to investigate the social-economic conditions of Indian Muslims.
The decision of Irani's ministry to pull back the fellowship on flimsy reasons did not settle well with the student community in the country. "Instead of correcting the gross violation of the programme, it is appalling that the government has completely done away with the fellowship. It is equivalent to saying that since the government can't do it, it won't do it," concludes Abhigyan.
Earlier this year, in June, several MANF recipients protested against the delay in their scholarship; however, the students got no response from the government.