The ‘Agnipath’ agitation fanned out and spread further down south and to the east on the third day after the Centre announced the new military recruitment scheme.
Secunderabad in Telangana became the epicentre of mob violence on Friday, where one person was killed in police firing and over 15 others injured. A raging crowd set fire to a parcel coach of a passenger train in the city’s railway station and pelted its coaches with stones and lobbed petrol bombs inside.
A total of 12 trains have been set on fire since June 15, including four in Friday’s violence – two in Bihar, one in Uttar Pradesh and one in Telangana. Public and police vehicles were attacked and personnel injured as the agitation snowballed into Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand among other parts of the country.
As many as 200 trains were affected, 35 cancelled and 13 short-terminated even as union home minister Amit Shah and army chief Gen Manoj Pande stepped in to address concerns.
Here’s a look at the states where the mob went out of control, resulting in scenes of arson and vandalism:
A mob burnt the parcel coach of a passenger train at the Secunderabad railway station. One person was killed in police firing used to disperse the crowd on rampage while 15 others were injured and then hospitalised. Unidentified miscreants went on rampage at the railway station shouting slogans against the Centre demanding normal recruitment of army jobs. Some stalls also suffered damage and the mob pulled out cargo from the parcel coach and dumped it on the tracks to set it on fire, leading to disruption of some train services.
In Bihar, where generations of youth train for years to get into the defence, angry aspirants set fire to two trains – New Delhi-Bhagalpur Vikramshila Express in Lakhisarai and New Delhi-Darbhanga Bihar Sampark Kranti Express in Samastipur. A mob also attacked the home of deputy chief minister Renu Devi in Patna. State BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal’s residence in Bettiah town was also vandalised but the leader claimed the attackers were not job aspirants. The attack comes a day after BJP MLA Aruna Devi was injured in a stone-pelting incident at Nawada, where the party office was torched. A toll plaza in Deedarganj, the outskirts of Patna, and a police jeep in Nawada were also set ablaze.
At Lakhisarai, people lay down on tracks at the railway station but were dispersed. Demonstrators also blocked highways at several places in Buxar, Bhagalpur and Samastipur and burnt tyres.
Prohibitory orders have been imposed in Palwal, Faridabad, Rohtak, Narnaul and Gurugram districts. The administration is anticipating angry crowds at railway stations, bus stands, markets, national highways and power grids in Gurugram despite no fresh agitation. Security at the deputy commissioner’s residence in Palwal was stepped up after an incident of stone pelting on Thursday.
Youths pelted stones at vehicles in Ballabhgarh, squatted on railway tracks in Jind and burnt tyres in Rohtak. Police resorted to mild lathicharge and rounded up over 40 people in Ballabhgarh, where authorities suspended mobile internet and SMS services for 24 hours as a precautionary measure following violence in Palwal district.
Hisar, Narnaul, Fatehabad and Jhajjar also witnessed scenes of agitation. State home minister Anil Vij said action will be taken against those indulging in violence and damaging public property. A company of the Indian Reserve Battalion has been requisitioned from Rewari to ensure law and order.
Police have booked over 1,000 people for Thursday’s violence in Palwal district. Three FIRs were registered in connection with the violence. While two FIRs were registered in Palwal subdivision, one was registered in Hodal subdivision, police said.
Haryana districts like Rewari, Charkhi Dadri, Gurugram and Palwal send a sizeable number of youths to the defence forces.
Youngsters raised slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and ‘Agnipath vapas lo’ and torched a railway coach in Ballia and damaged buses at other places. Police had to resort to lathicharge and used teargas shells, detaining 100 people.
Officials said raging demonstrations took place at 17 places across the state, including Firozabad, Amethi, Varanasi, Unnao and Deoria. A bus was set ablaze on the Yamuna Expressway near Tappal in Aligarh and at least two others damaged. Four buses were damaged in stone-pelting on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway in Firozabad. Protesters also targeted buses in Varanasi and Ballia.
Several trains were cancelled or held back. “In Ballia, youths set a bogie of a spare coach train on fire. Minor incidents were reported from other places. Police officials have explained the scheme to them. Through the public representatives, the youths are being taken into confidence,” a top police official said.
A video showed youths raising slogans and vandalising the Ballia-Varanasi Memu and Ballia-Shahganj trains. They also pelted stones near the railway godown and targeted private shops on the platform.
Ballia SP Raj Karan Nayyar said, “Some students, while returning from the railway station, tried to break the window pane of an empty train at the washing pit and also set fire to a bogey. RPF and police reached the spot as soon as they got the news, and brought the fire under control,” Nayyar told PTI.
Road traffic was badly affected in Aligarh and Noida. In Varanasi, a mob raised anti-government slogans at the cantonment railway station and damaged buses and carts. They also clashed with police by pelting them with stones, later damaging buses outside the DRM office in Lahartara area.
The agitation spread to Madhya Pradesh after hundreds gathered on tracks near a railway station at Indore and hurled stones and blocked a road. Authorities were forced to stop or cancel some trains, prompting police to lob teargas shells to control the situation. Two policemen were injured in stone pelting and 15 people were arrested.
“Nearly 600 youths gathered in different groups on the tracks near Laxmibai Nagar railway station in the city, forcing the railway administration to stop a few trains. Two policemen sustained minor injuries during the incident but no information of train passengers getting injured in stone pelting has been received so far,” Indore police commissioner Harinarayan Chari Mishra told PTI.
Western Railway officials said a crowd stopped the Daund-Indore and Varanasi-Indore Mahakal Express trains for 45 minutes. Police and RPF personnel have been deployed at different stations in Indore.
Road traffic was also affected in the commercial hub of Madhya Pradesh. Eyewitnesses said aspirants briefly blocked traffic on the busy Agra-Mumbai road but police lathicharged them. Section 144 of the CrPC was imposed in the Mhow cantonment area, which is near Indore. A day before on Thursday, incidents of stone pelting and arson were reported from near a railway station in Gwalior.
Agitators damaged public property and blocked railway tracks besides holding demonstrations and rallies in different parts of the state. In Bharatpur, hundreds blocked the Agra-Bandikui railway track. Wearing masks, some of them pelted stones at police personnel due to which police fired tear gas shells to disperse the mob.
“Stones were pelted at policemen. One policeman was injured. We had to fire tear gas shells to disperse the mob. Situation is now under control,” Bharatpur SP Shyam Singh said.
In Alwar, the windshield of a police car was damaged in stone pelting while in Chittorgarh, an agitation was held at the district collector’s office. A mob damaged railway property and pelted stones at police personnel in the district.
In Sikar, anti-Centre slogans were raised and effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi burnt. A roadways bus was vandalised in Neem Ka Thana area of the district.
In Kota and Jaipur, rallies were taken out and scores of defence job aspirants led by the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) staged agitations in several parts of the state on Thursday as well.
Agitators blocked tracks at many places in the state, leading to disruption in train services in several railway divisions, including the Howrah-Mumbai route. The East Central Railway cancelled five trains after a blockade was put up at Dhanbad station. People squatted on tracks and raised slogans against the Centre, but they were soon dispersed.
Movement of several other trains was also affected due to the agitation. Dhanbad-Dehri-on-Sone Express was detained at Koderma, while Asansol-Varanasi MEMU was stopped at Gomoh and Barkakana-Varanasi at Barwadih.
A case of rioting was also registered against unknown persons by the Delhi Police after attempts to block traffic and damage a bus in northeast Delhi. The windscreen of a minibus was damaged due to stone-pelting, a senior police officer said.
A case has been registered under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) and 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) of the Indian Penal Code.
WEST BENGAL AND ODISHA
In West Bengal, agitators attempted to march towards the residence of BJP MP and union minister Shantanu Thakur while a mob demonstrated in a cantonment area in Odisha.
Hundreds of aspirants blocked the arterial Ring Road in Cuttack and tore down hoardings in the cantonment area of the city. The agitation followed the death by suicide of a person who, it is said, cleared the physical fitness and medical tests during a recruitment drive by the Army and apprehended that it will be cancelled after the announcement of the new scheme.
Train services on the Sealdah-Bangaon route in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district were disrupted for over an hour as a group of students blocked railway tracks.