Sloganeering protesters barged into the railway station carrying banners against the Union government and vandalised property. Railway officials say the damage is yet to be assessed.

 Violence at Secunderabad station, train bogie set on fire by Agnipath protesters
news Agnipath Protests Friday, June 17, 2022 - 11:44

Protests against the Union government’s newly-introduced Agnipath scheme, which were so far limited to north Indians states like Bihar, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh among others, have spread to Telangana too. On Friday, June 17, agitating Army aspirants went on a rampage at the Secunderabad railway station. The protesters barged into the station carrying banners against the Union government, blocked the trains, and set a train’s bogie on fire. They also engaged in vandalism and damaged the wind-shield of an RTC bus.

Speaking to TNM, Ch Rakesh, Chief Public Relations Officer of South Central Railway, said, “The protesters entered the Secunderabad station around 9 am, not through the main entrance, but instead from beside the end of the platform. A bogie was set on fire. However, the situation was brought under control within an hour. We are not sure who the protesters are. The damage is yet to be assessed and the cause of the protest is yet to be confirmed.”

However, the protesters who have spoken to the media have clarified that their stir was against the Agnipath scheme. A masked agitator asked, “Why should our service be restricted to just four years? It takes three years just to prepare ourselves to join the Army. The government is saying that after finishing the four-year service term, we would be provided with jobs as security guards. Are we struggling to prepare ourselves physically to work as guards? We want the government to revoke this scheme and continue with the existing policy. Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has not been conducting exams to recruit candidates for the past two years. Today, they say the exams are permanently cancelled. We have passed the running exam, cleared the medical tests. So how can you cancel the recruitment?”

In videos that have now gone viral, the protesters could be seen running amok at the railway station, armed with wooden poles in their hands and shouting the slogan ‘we want justice’. Baggage from the cargo section was strewn on to the railway track and was set on fire. Soon, the Railway Police began dispersing the crowd and tried to bring the situation under control.

Under the Agnipath scheme, men and women between the ages of 17.5 and 21 will be eligible to apply for recruitment. The service term for most of these candidates would be four years. After four years of service, 25% of the ‘Agniveers’ will be retained in the regular cadre based on merit and medical fitness. The retained employees will have an opportunity to serve a full term of another 15 years, while the other 75%, who do not qualify for the same, will have to exit with a package of Rs 11-12 lakh.

It was initially suspected that the NSUI, the students’ wing of the Congress, was behind this violent protest. However, the organisation clarified that it had nothing to do with the protest. NSUI Telangana president Balmoor Venkat, who was taken into custody this morning by the city police without citing any reason, condemned the “reports and rumours”. “The protests that broke out at the Secunderabad Railway Station were all by students who had applied for the Army examination. After the examination was cancelled, nearly 44 people have died by suicide. Disappointed and pained by the developments, they protested at the Secunderabad railway station. We condemn reports that it was the NSUI workers who held the protest. None of the NSUI cadres have taken part in this protest. I was taken into preventive custody this morning by the police. I request the protesters not to inconvenience the passengers, I request the NSUI cadre to stop the protesters,” Venkat said.

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