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‘Will be retired at 24’ — Bihar youth on Agnipath grouse as violent protests, arson go on

Bihar, Telangana, Haryana, Rajasthan, UP, West Bengal — states across India are witnessing violent protests against 'Agnipath', the Union govt's new military recruitment scheme.

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Patna: As the nationwide protests over the central government’s new defence recruitment scheme ‘Agnipath’ entered their third consecutive day Friday, protesters in Bihar continued attacks on the Indian Railways network, public property, and BJP offices.

Several states across India, including Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana, have seen protests over the past three days, with protesters demanding a rollback of the scheme.

In Telangana’s Secunderabad area, one person is reported to have died in protest-related violence.

In Bihar, the violent protests reached state capital Patna Friday afternoon. A mob believed to be made up of over 1,500 youngsters reportedly vandalised the Danapur Railway Station in the state capital.

According to reports, several trains have been set on fire in the state — including the Sampark Kranti Express, Farakka Express and Jammu Tawi-Guwahati Amarnath Express.

At the Danapur Railway Station, cycles and carts had been thrown on railway tracks to block services. Apart from this, cars and bikes on the road were torched too.

The burnt body of a car on the streets of Danapur, Bihar, amid protests over the Centre’s Agnipath military recruitment scheme, 17 June, 2022 | Jyoti Yadav, ThePrint
The burnt body of a car on the streets of Danapur, Bihar, amid protests over the Centre’s Agnipath military recruitment scheme, 17 June, 2022 | Jyoti Yadav, ThePrint

Over 100 people have been named so far in the FIR registered in the Danapur violence and over 25 arrests have been made, Abhinav Dhiman, sub-divisional police officer (SDPO), Danapur, told ThePrint.

Patna District Magistrate Dr Chandrashekhar Singh, speaking to the media at Danapur station Friday, said that more people will be identified using CCTV footage.

The district administrations and police officers in Bihar are on high alert and security forces— the Railway Protection Force (RPF), the Government Railway Police (GRP), and the State Armed Police Force — have been deployed at Danapur station in large numbers. Meanwhile, top government functionaries in Patna have been advised to postpone their visits and meetings to other districts.

Speaking to ThePrint, SDPO Dhiman said, “We believe that the protesters have vented their frustration and there will be no such attacks further.”

He added that it is not necessarily just Army aspirants who made up the mob, and that “miscreants have joined the protesters and vandalised public property”.

The protest were started in Buxar allegedly by armed forces aspirants unhappy with the changes introduced by the Centre under the Agnipath recruitment scheme — especially the length of the service, the lack of pension, and the 17.5-21-year age restriction.

“We are discouraged and frustrated,” Shubham Kumar, a 23-year-old who hopes to join the army, told ThePrint.

Originally from Bihar’s Arrah district, Kumar now lives in Patna and trains the city’s youth at Gandhi Maidan for daroga (sub inspector) jobs and for the army exam.

Another army aspirant, 19-year-old Piyush Tripathi is also worried about his marriage prospects later in life. “People will say that I am retiring at 24. Who will marry me?” he said to ThePrint.

The youth of Bihar believe the scheme will be scrapped but are wary of talking about their involvement in the protests.

“The police are identifying army aspirants to frame them, so nobody really wants to speak up,” added Kumar.

The Ministry of Defence Thursday late night tweaked the minimum age for recruitment, allowing those up to 23 years of age to apply. The was done to pacify those aspirants who had missed out on the opportunity to join the armed forces due to lack of recruitment rallies in the past two years following Covid restrictions.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, Leader of Opposition in Bihar, tweeted Friday: “Will Agniveers, who will be recruited on a 4-year contract, get 90 days of leave in a year like regular soldiers or not? If the Agnipath scheme is justified, then why not recruit officers on contract? Why only recruit soldiers on contract? Is this MGNREGA for educated youth?”

The BJP’s alliance partner in the state government, Janata Dal (United), has demanded clarity on the scheme too.

“The Government of India should have some clarity about the scheme. The youth of this country need clarity. The government should have considered the youth’s opinions,” said JD(U) leader Vijendra Kumar Yadav.

Also read: Agnipath scheme is proof that Modi govt can bring change for good. But an open mind is key

Railways in focus

In north India, especially Bihar, the railways has borne the brunt of the Agnipath protests. The Madhepura Railway Station was vandalised Friday, and, in Samastipur, the Sampark Kranti Express was set on fire.

The Lakhminia Railway Station in Begusarai was also attacked by a mob and the station’s office was vandalised Friday.

Similar visuals of mob violence from Lakhisarai Railway Station went viral. At Mohiuddinnagar Railway Station, the Jammu Tawi-Guwahati Amarnath Express was set ablaze. Protests also continued in Buxar, the originating point of the agitation.

Roads and railway tracks were jammed in Nalanda, and Arrah saw a sit-in protest.

In Arwal district, police vehicles were attacked, while in Sasaram district, a toll plaza was set ablaze.

BJP leaders targeted 

In several districts, BJP MLAs and district offices are being attacked. Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi’s house in Bettiah district was attacked and set on fire.

Similarly, the house of BJP state president Sanjay Jaiswal in Bettiah was also attacked.

BJP’s district office in Madhepura was ransacked by more than 500 protesters.

This report has been updated with additional information

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also Read: Trains set ablaze in Ballia, Secunderabad as protests over Agnipath scheme spread to more states


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