The police said that the protesters created WhatsApp groups with names such as Railway Station Block, Indian Army Group, Hakimpet Army Soldiers group, etc. through which they coordinated to ‘riot’ at the Secunderabad railway station.

Army aspirants staging a protest at Secunderabad railway station.
news Investigation Friday, June 24, 2022 - 17:15

Following the arrest of 56 persons who allegedly participated in the arson and violence last week at the Secunderabad railway station over the Agnipath scheme, the director of Narsaraopeta-based Sai Defence Academy has been detained by the Hyderabad police. The director, who is a retired Army Medical Assistant, was previously detained for questioning by the Palnadu police. However, he was let off as they did not find any incriminating evidence against him.

The investigating authorities now have new evidence that reportedly points at the director being the prime instigator behind the arson and violence in Secunderabad. The other arrested accused allegedly confessed to the authorities that the director had provided them with money and resources to carry out the protest.

The director reportedly admitted to the authorities that he arrived in Hyderabad on June 17, the day of violence. Police say that the suspect runs coaching academies in Narsaraopeta and Secunderabad too. In leaked chats from the WhatsApp groups, an aspirant was seen in a selfie with the director, claiming that the latter came from Andhra to express support to the agitation. But during the Palnadu police’s inquiry, the director said that he routinely visits Hyderabad where he runs another branch.

Many of the youngsters in the widely circulated video clips of the Secunderabad violence ‘are believed to be his followers or associates’, The Hindu reported an investigating officer as saying.

The police remand report said that the arrested accused created WhatsApp groups with names such as Railway Station Block, Indian Army Group, Hakimpet Army Soldiers group, Chalo Secunderabad ARO 3 group, Army GD 2021 March rally group, CEE Soldiers group, etc. through which they coordinated to ‘riot’ at the Secunderabad railway station. The protesters conspired with the defence training institutes to create violence, the report stated.

Videos of Pruthvi Rathod, listed as accused no. 2 in the remand report, setting train coaches on fire while his fellow protesters filmed him have been leaked.

The police are also cracking down on private defence coaching institutes after their investigation found that these academies provoked and mobilised the army aspirants to engage in violence in Secunderabad. The estimated damage caused by the violence is reportedly Rs 12 crore.

Meanwhile, fearing police action, 23-year-old G Ajay, a resident of Kothapalli in Telangana’s Jangaon district who had allegedly participated in the protest, attempted suicide.  

The agitating aspirants are demanding that the government should conduct regular recruitment since they have cleared two tests – running and medical fitness.  “We were hoping that clearing the written test would be the last hurdle, but all of a sudden they are saying that the efforts we put in so far are null and void. How can we accept that?” said 23-year-old Jayanth* (name changed), an army aspirant from Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. Jayanth belongs to the Vaddara community, categorised as Backward Class. His parents work as construction labourers. Through a government job, he hopes that his family will get economic mobility.

Aspirants in Telangana say that the lack of jobs in the state government also pushes them to look at central government jobs.

Under the controversial Agnipath scheme, the candidates will be recruited for a short-term of four years. After this tenure, 25% of them will be retained while the rest will have to exit the service.

Army officials have categorically stated that there would not be any regular recruitment henceforth. Following protests across several states, the Union government has given a one-time waiver by increasing the age limit for Agnipath recruits from 21 to 23. Originally, the entry age for all recruits was 17.5 to 21 years.

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