Nationwide protests against the Agnipath scheme entered the fourth day on Saturday, with violence being reported in Punjab, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir and Bihar, among other states. Here’s a look at what has happened today:
A group of youths on Saturday morning stormed into the Ludhiana railway station premises and vandalised railway property in protest against the Agnipath scheme. The agitators also demanded the army recruitment exam be held at the earliest.
The police said that most of the protesters had their faces covered. They damaged glass window panes, ticket counters etc. When senior police officials reached the spot to pacify them, the youths said it has been nearly two years that the government has not held the Army recruitment exam. They said that a job in the Army was the only hope for them and their families. Demanding the immediate rollback of the Agnipath scheme, the youths said exams should be held like before and the recruitment process should begin immediately, as they have been preparing for it for two years.
Youth Congress workers Saturday took to the streets in support of the protesting Army aspirants demanding roll back of the Agnipath scheme, the central government’s new recruitment policy for defence forces.
Led by J&K Youth Congress president Udhay Bhan Chib, the party workers held demonstrations near the Jammu Press Club, raising slogans against the Centre.
Describing the new recruitment scheme as “anti-youth “ and “anti-defence forces”, the Youth Congress leader appealed to the protestors to refrain from damaging public property. Pointing out that the aspirants have the right to protest against the new recruitment policy as it adversely affects their future, he said the Congress has always acted as a voice of the suppressed and under-privileged sections.
Kerala on Saturday reported two incidents of protests against the Agnipath scheme. As many as 300 youth took out a march to the state raj bhavan and another group of 500 youth protested at the Kozhikode railway station.
At both places, the protests were held in a peaceful manner. They clutched placards saying “conduct CEE”, and raised slogans demanding conduct of army exams, which, according to them, had been postponed several times.
DYFI, the youth wing of CPI(M), said the outfit would mobilize youths at the national level against the scheme. DYFI national president A A Rahim, in an article published in Deshabhimani, said the scheme would churn out thousands of unemployed persons in the country every year. Gradually, the scheme would create a group of army-trained youths, who can even be hired by anyone, even other countries. DYFI would mobilize all youths and youth organisations in the country to launch an agitation against the scheme. The Centre would be forced to withdraw the scheme as the government had done in the case of farm laws.
Several student associations in Bihar, led by the All India Students’ Association (AISA), have called for a 24-hour bandh in the state today to protest the Agnipath recruitment scheme. The RJD-led alliance has supported the bandh.
Violent anti-Agnipath protests continued rocking Bihar for the fourth consecutive day on Saturday, with agitators torching vehicles parked on the premises of a police outpost in Jehanabad district, officials said.
A large number of protestors gathered outside Tehta police outpost around 8.30 AM and started pelting security personnel with stones. Later, they set several vehicles, including a bus and a truck, on fire, they said. Normal life was affected in Gaya, Buxar and Jehanabad districts, as well as some other parts of Bihar, as vehicles remained off the roads and shops and business establishments were shut, barring those selling essential items, due to a statewide bandh called by student organisations led by Left-wing All India Students’ Association (AISA).
South Western Railways cancels several trains to North India
Following the protests, the South Western Railways has cancelled several trains, particularly those heading towards Bihar and other north Indian states.
While several organisations are planning to stage protests across Karnataka, the railway department has deployed additional forces, including Railway Police Force (RPF), at railway stations. No untoward incident has reported in Karnataka so far.
The cancelled trains are: 12296 Danapur-KSR Bengaluru City daily superfast express (June 17), 22351 Patliputra- Yeshwantpur weekly superfast express (June 17), 12295 KSR Bengaluru-Danapur daily superfast express (June 18), 12253 Yeshwantpur- Bhagalpur weekly superfast express (June 18), 22352 Yeshwantpur- Patliputra weekly superfast express (June 20).
In Belagavi, Congress MLA Anjali Nimbalkar and several youths staged a protest demanding the withdrawal of the controversial Agnipath scheme, and announced that they would observe a day-long bandh on June 20.
The Noida police has arrested 10 protesters and booked more than 200 people for rioting and assault during the anti-Agnipath scheme protests in Jewar on Friday.
Police officials said that several people had gathered in the Jewar area on Friday to protest against the Centre’s new Agnipath scheme for recruitment to the armed forces. Protesters blocked traffic and pelted stones against police officers, leading to a law and order situation, police said. Eight policemen and one bus driver were injured in the protests, police officials added.
While 10 protesters have been arrested, an FIR was filed against 75 named and 150 unnamed persons. The police said they are identifying more persons from videos and photos of the protest.
Protests in West Bengal:
Train services on the Sealdah-Barrackpore route in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district were disrupted for one hour on Saturday as a group of anti-Agnipath agitators blocked railway tracks and did push-ups to register their protest against the new scheme for recruitment in armed forces.
Around 20 protesters blocked both up and down lines at a level crossing from around 10 AM affecting vehicular traffic, a spokesperson of the Eastern Railway said.
(With inputs from agencies)