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Now, the Centre aiming at 'minority-free' India?

Now, the Centre aiming at minority-free India?

Smriti Irani,  Minister of Women & Child Development and Minister of Minority Affairs (file photo)

Congress leader and Member of Parliament from Kerala T.N. Pratapan raised a question in the Lok Sabha yesterday about the fellowship to minority community in the country. The question was on the status of Maulana Azad National Fellowship which has been stalled for months; he raised it to bring the matter to the attention of Parliament. However, the callous reply by the minister in charge of the department, Smriti Irani stunned everyone: the central government has decided not to continue the project from the current academic year. The fellowship named after Maulana Azad was introduced by the second UPA government for M.Phil and Ph.D. scholars from the minority communities doing regular full-time programmes in various universities of the country. The scheme, which was a major support for education of hundreds of minority students, was frozen without any warning. The Centre justifies this drastic withdrawal with the explanation that the central government has introduced some other financial assistance schemes for research students for which minority students can also apply. In her reply speech, the minister has said by implication that the minority students were getting double benefit and it has been eliminated with the cancellation of Azad Fellowship.

In a sense, there is no big surprise in this action by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. This is just another reflection of the basic attitude of the Hindutva government towards the minority groups of the country. The Maulana Azad Fellowship, implemented following the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, started off with great expectations. It had continued without any major hurdles till the time of Covid. It is estimated that over the last seven years more than Rs.730 crore has been spent on 6722 research students. However, no student has received any assistance through this scheme for ten months. Pointing this out, the students individually and collectively sent many complaints to the ministry which however brought no response. As a result, many students are unable to pursue research. It was at this stage that the matter was raised in Parliament and the Minister informed that the scheme itself has been abolished. Every minority student often reaches higher institutions for research studies after overcoming many political, economic and social barriers. Their survival on those campuses depends on fellowships like these. Therefore, the decision the central government is nothing short of insult to the thousands of students pursuing their studies through many challenges.

Another similar move came from Smriti Irani's ministry last week. The pre-matric scholarship for minority school students was also withdrawn. Earlier, the scholarship was available for students of classes 1 to 10; now only students of classes 9 and 10 are eligible. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin and others wrote letters to the Prime Minister but to no avail. The minister also confirmed the matter of curtailing the scholarship in the parliament yesterday. These actions can be seen as a continuation of various attacks by the Modi-led Hindutva government against the country's minorities. The fact that minorities, especially Muslims, are facing challenges at many levels under a regime characterized by the politics of marginalisation is not just a mere study report of any international human rights organization, but the everyday experience of present India. If one manages to somehow overcome these challenges and reach the mainstream, the ruling class is guarded by a rabble of hysterical mob who pounce on him. The very existence of minorities is also being questioned. In Parliament, there is not even a single Muslim MP on the ruling side. Needless to say there is no Muslim minister. Najma Heptulla, who used to handle the minority department in the first Modi government, said the very day after assuming office that Muslims are not a minority. What she stated then is now being implemented by that ministry in various ways. Various student organizations have come forward against the central action. Democrats are left with no choice but to keep protesting.

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TAGS:Smriti Irani minority research fellowships Maulana Azad NationalFellowship TN Pratapan's query in Parliament BJP-led govt anti-minority policies 
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