Hundreds of UPSC aspirants clashed with police and blocked traffic in Mukherjee Nagar on Thursday, demanding the scrapping of the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) in the UPSC examination. The mob also torched a police Gypsy and a police motorcycle. A Himachal Pradesh State Roadways bus was damaged in stone-pelting. Police had to resort to lathicharge and fire teargas shells to disperse the mob.
According to police, around 8 pm, about 600-700 UPSC aspirants from coaching centres and hostels in Mukherjee Nagar assembled on the Gandhi Vihar road and shouted slogans demanding a written confirmation from the government that the CSAT would be scrapped.
“When we tried to disperse them, they started pelting stones and also torched a police vehicle. We have detained 20 protesters and will take suitable action. The situation is under control,” DCP (North) Madhur Verma said.
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Civil Services aspirants have been demanding the scrapping of CSAT calling it discriminatory against humanities students and those with Hindi background. The Centre had asked the UPSC to postpone the preliminary examination slated for August 24. But protesters claimed that they received admit cards for the exam on Thursday.
“Today, admit cards were issued by the UPSC. The CSAT hampers the chances of Hindi language students. For instance, they use Google translator to translate English questions to Hindi. Since a computer program is doing it, the translation is flawed and we do not understand the questions,” Prashant Shukla, an aspirant from Varanasi, said.
The police control room was informed when the protesters blocked the road. The situation turned violent when police asked the protesters to disperse. Eyewitnesses said students picked up bricks and stones from the roadside and attacked police. Police alleged that most of the violence was caused by unruly elements — not UPSC aspirants — who joined the protesters later. Soon, senior officers reached the spot. There was heavy security in the area until late Thursday.
Verma said eight police personnel suffered minor injuries and were taken to hospital. “The protesters had tried to torch a Himachal Pradesh Roadways bus, but we arrived on time and used water cannons to douse the fire,” Verma said.
UPSC aspirant Monisha Meena from Rajasthan alleged, “Several of our friends were picked up by police from their rooms in Wazirabad, Mukherjee Nagar, Nehru Vihar, Gandhi Vihar and Indra Vihar. They were beaten up and taken to Timapur lockup. Male policemen barged into the rooms of my women friends and manhandled them while searching for boys.”
Traffic police said traffic was thrown out gear after the protesters blocked Wazirabad Road. Many inter-state buses were delayed and had to be rescheduled. “The protest had a spiralling affect on arterial roads as well. Mukherjee Nagar, Maurice Nagar, Hudson Lane and Civil Lines were among the worst hit,” a traffic police officer said.
At the heart of the controversy is the change of pattern the UPSC introduced in the Civil Services Preliminary Exam starting 2011. Till 2010, the exam used to have two papers — one on general studies and one on an optional subject where aspirants could choose one of 23 listed subjects.
This was changed from 2011 onwards, when the UPSC decided to replace the optional subject paper with a paper that tests the aspirants’ aptitude. The syllabus for this paper, protesting aspirants allege, is heavily tilted in favour of those from the science or, more specifically, engineering background and is discriminatory against students from humanities, particularly those who have studied in Hindi-medium.