Published: 12th December 2022
MANF Protests: Delhi police detains over 100 students protesting at Ministry of Education
Students from various universities in Delhi staged a protest at the MoE today, demanding that the government revoke its decision to scrap the MANF for research scholars from minority communities
Protests against the central government's decision to scrap the Maulana Azad National Fellowship have escalated, with the Delhi Police now detaining several students from Shashtri Bhawan, where the students had planned an agitation at the office of the Ministry of Education.
According to sources, students from Dr BR Ambedkar University (AUD), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) and Delhi University (DU) were protesting against the decision to discontinue MANF, which provides scholarships to students from minority communities. Almost 100 of these students were detained by the police at the Mandir Marg Police Station.
Neha, a student of AUD, who was among those detained told Edexlive, "This was a peaceful protest. From the moment we arrived at Shastri Bhawan, the police were violent with us. They started dragging students right from the start. Now, they have detained us at the Mandir Marg Police Station, and we are not being told what the process is next. Since yesterday, members of the Delhi Police have been threatening us with regard to this protest. They are telling us that they will file criminal complaints. Some students have been injured as well." She added that the students were continuing the protest at the police station.
It was in response to a question in the Lok Sabha last week that Minister for Minority Affairs, Smriti Irani said that the MANF will be discontinued from the current academic year 2022-23. In her written statement, Irani said that the scheme was being discontinued because it overlapped with other scholarship schemes.
This, however, is a claim that has been refuted by students and supporters of MANF, who claim that overlap is not possible and that scrapping the scheme denies the right to higher education to a number of students from minority communities. "A number of students protesting today were dependent on that scheme and now their career is in jeopardy. The government has been saying that there is a lack of funds and that they want to private universities and make them self-financing by increasing fee. In the interest of social justice, they should increase the number of scholarships and fellowships, if that is the case. Instead, they have decided to scrap a fellowship as crucial as the MANF, whose beneficiaries come from marginalised backgrounds. This is a catastrophic move, and we demand that it is revoked," Neha told Edexlive.
Shakir, a PhD student from DU, and a recipient of MANF, adds that the discontinuation of the scholarship would put his research in jeopardy. "I will essentially have to stop my research, or rush through it to submit it soon. My academic journey will stop here. There are costs associated with being a research scholar that I cannot bear without this scholarship."
MANF was introduced in 2009 as per the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, which was set up to study the socio-economic conditions of Muslims by then-Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. The scholarship under MANF was provided to students from the minority communities (Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists, Christians, and Jains) who wish to pursue an MPhil or PhD in Indian universities, recognised by the University Grants Commission.