NEW DELHI – Hundreds of students from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), Delhi University (DU) and other institutions held a protest outside the Ministry of Education premises here on Monday demanding restoration of the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) for minorities.
The protesting students were immediately detained and were taken to the Mandir Marg police station from where they were released later, Neha, a student activist, told Clarion India.
The protest call was given by All India Students’ Association (AISA) demanding the rollback of the Centre’s recent decision to scrap the fellowship for minority students.
As soon as the students were detained, AISA appealed to all right-thinking people to speak up against the detention.
“We the students of JNU, Jamia, DU and AUD have been picked up by the Delhi Police from Shashtri Bhawan for protesting the unjust revocation of the Maulana Azad National Fellowship for Minority students. We are being taken to Mandir Marg Police Station and are being threatened with criminal cases by Delhi Police. We request our teachers, MPs and others to speak up against this illegal detention and harassment,” the AISA message read.
AISA described the scrapping of the fellowship as an “attack on education and minorities. MANF was to ensure financial security and assistance for the religious minorities of the country to assist them to continue higher education. According to the Sachar Committee recommendations of 2006, the government was advised to “provide different types of affirmative action to three main Muslim groups”.
MANF, launched in 2009, was a step towards incrementing access to education for minority students.
“The BJP has unleashed yet another attack on the minorities of the country by dismantling a primary weapon of social mobility — education,” said AISA.
On Thursday, Union Minister for Minority Affairs Smriti Irani announced in the Lok Sabha that the government has decided to discontinue the Maulana Azad National Fellowship for minorities effective the current academic year. According to the government, MANF overlaps various other scholarships for higher education.
The MANF was launched during the UPA regime in compliance with a part of the recommendations made by Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee in its report on the status of minorities.
Several student groups have condemned the move calling it an attack on education and minorities.
The Azad United Students Federation (AUSF), MANUU, Hyderabad, said, “The Modi Government is neglecting the education sector, especially the educational infrastructure of minority communities. We urge the student community to resist the discrimination.”
The Students’ Union of Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences has also come down heavily on the Centre’s move. It called it a “grave injustice to marginalised communities.”
The Students Federation of India (SFI) has called it ‘an attack against educational rights of students coming from minority backgrounds’.