The central government, which has made politics of extermination its hallmark, continues its bulldozer style vigorously against minority students in the country. On the one hand, while textbooks are being politicised, various plans are underway to push the remaining minority students out of classrooms. The new method of elimination is to deny educational scholarships that have greatly helped historically disadvantaged minorities in the field of education. Most recently, the Modi government is poised to block funding by imposing bureaucracy on four minority scholarship schemes. The Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme, Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme, Merit-cum -Means Scholarship for Professional-Technical Courses, and Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship are currently being held in red tape.

A total of 18.18 lakh applications were received for the academic year 2022-23 for these four scholarships. Of these, 11.65 lakh applications (about 64%) have been blocked by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs. When we consider that the ministry has even rejected applications for the renewal of currently received scholarships, one is convinced that this is not just a technical issue. Moreover, when we know that this crackdown is on applications approved by central government agencies, doubts are raised as to whether this is a real conspiracy.

This is not the first time that scholarships for minority students have been abolished. A few months ago, the Maulana Azad fellowship, established by the second UPA government for M.Phil and PhD students from the minority community studying regularly in various universities across the country, was discontinued. The Minister of Minority Affairs Smriti Irani informed that the project was frozen only when Pratapan MLA raised a question in the Lok Sabha to know the status of the scholarship that was blocked for months and to bring it to the attention of the ministry. The reason given by the Minister for cancelling the Azad Fellowship was that minority students can also apply for other scholarships designed by the government for research students.

The Azad Fellowship was an excellent scheme implemented based on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee. It was one of the most effective financial aid schemes for minority students who overcame all odds and got a chance for higher education. The project continued until 2019 without major problems but was stopped during the Covid period. The government seized that opportunity and put a stop to it forever. At the same time, another financial assistance scheme that had been running for the past 18 years was discontinued – the Padho Pardesh scheme. This scheme was meant to provide loan assistance to minorities for studying abroad. The ministry was not even ready to officially announce its cancellation. The students learned about it through the bankers from whom they had taken loans. Earlier, the pre-matric scholarship, which was available to students of classes 1 to 10, was reserved only for students of classes 9 and 10 during this period of austerity. In continuation of all this, the government’s new move is another hard blow to the minority community.

This can be viewed as a continuation of various onslaughts by the Modi-led Hindutva government on the minorities of the country. Hindutva, which aspires and works for a nation free of minorities, has taken control of the very ministry. In the last budget, the Ministry of Minorities received an allocation that was 38% less than the previous year. It should also be noted that 48% of the allocation from the last financial year was not utilized. Therefore, this restriction on scholarships cannot be regarded as a mere coincidence. This is the discriminatory terror of Hindutva fascism, and it is to be opposed and defeated at any cost…

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