The violence that broke out in the Secunderabad railway station on Friday, June 17 over the anti-agnipath recruitment scheme claimed one life and left several injured. The victim was identified as eighteen-year-old Damodara Rakesh. The station was also vandalised, forcing the authorities to suspend train services temporarily.
The protesters were angry at the Union government for announcing the Agnipath recruitment scheme for the armed forces, even while they had been waiting for three years for the Common Entrance Exam (CEE) to be conducted, despite passing physical and medical tests.
According to the railway authorities, the mob entered the station through a side entrance around 9.00 am. They raised slogans and waved banners and placards. After holding a protest in front of a train stationed at platform number 1, protesters then threw cargo onto the platform and the tracks and burnt it.
The protesters then headed to other platforms. Visuals show scores of them running across platforms and the footbridge. Lack of adequate security personnel appears to have given scope for the violence to escalate. Soon, the protest turned into violence, with mobs torching train coaches, damaging stalls, furniture and other properties in the station.
Scores of men in the crowd were wearing masks, holding sticks and metal rods as they kept ransacking and vandalising properties. While the rampage was going out, the police sent out the passengers stuck inside the station. Then between 10.00 am to 10.30 am, firefighters were roped in to bring the fires under control.
A 56 second-clip showed the protestors charging at the police with stones, while gunshots were fired. In another video, police in riot gear are seen trying to approach the protesters, but are unable to move further as stones are thrown at them continuously.
Within a span of two hours, at least six train coaches were set on fire. According to some witnesses, the protestors first set fire to the Shalimar-bound East Coast Express. A passenger who left his luggage and ran out of the train told TNM that the train coach was set on fire even as the passengers were inside. One coach of the Howrah to Manmad Ajanta Express, Raipur Express, ICF Train and Rajkot Express was gutted. A passenger who left his luggage and ran out of the train told TNM that the train was set on fire even as the passengers were inside the bogies.
Even after the situation was brought under control, a large group of protestors continued to raise slogans on the side at the far end of the platform as police watched on. They declared they wouldn't stop their agitation until the government abolished the Agnipath scheme.
(With inputs from Paul Oommen)