The government of India’s cancellation of the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) in 2022 has left numerous PhD students from minority communities, especially young Muslim women, without critical financial support.
MANF was introduced in 2009 on the recommendation of the 2006 Sachar committee report, headed by former chief justice of the Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar, that studied the educational, social and economic situation of Muslims in India.
MANF provided a five-year fellowship to MPhil and PhD students from six religious minorities including Muslims, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Sikhs. It awarded 1000 scholarships annually, 30 percent of which was reserved for female students. Between 2017-18 and 2018-19, more than half of the MANF scholarship recipients were women.
The minister of minority affairs defended the cancellation of the fellowship in Parliament stating that it overlapped with other schemes. However, the minister didn’t explain the overlap.
Critics say that the cancellation of the scholarship scheme is part of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s anti-minority policies. Other than MANF, the centre also discontinued 21-year old Begum Hazrat Mahal pre-matric scholarships for classes 1 to 8 and stopped the 18-year old Padho Pardesh programme, introduced by the government of India to make overseas education affordable for minority students.
Reporter: Anup Semwal, Nivedya PT
Camera/Edit: Suhail Bhat