In a crackdown against ‘social media culprits’, thirty-five WhatsApp groups have been banned by the government for ‘spreading misinformation’ about the Agnipath Recruitment scheme, sources told CNN-News18. Ten people have also been arrested for disseminating ‘fake news’, and organising protests, sources said.
Amid violent protests and incidents of arson across states in opposition to the recruitment scheme for the armed forces, the Centre has urged citizens to report any such group on the PIB fact check team number, at 8799711259.
The government on Tuesday announced the ‘Agnipath’ model of recruitment under which soldiers will be inducted into the three services for four years with a provision of retaining 25 per cent of them for an additional 15 years following a selection process.
Bihar, which has seen the brunt of the stir, has been facing suspended internet services. The state government had said the internet was being used to transmit ‘objectionable content’ in order to spread rumours with the intent to incite the public and cause damage to life and property.
Eye on Coaching Centres
Bihar officials are also investigating the roles of operators of coaching centres, and seven of them are on the radar of the district administration in Patna. “The operators of seven coaching institutes are also on the radar of the district administration. We have put security forces on high alert. If necessary, we will not hesitate to stop internet services in Patna,” Chandrashekher Singh, the District Magistrate of Patna had told IANS.
According to latest information, 190 protesters have been arrested in Patna, and 11 FIRs have been lodged. Complaints against six coaching institutes have also been filed.
The Telangana Police too, had earlier arrested the owner of a coaching institute in Narasaraopet, Palnadu district, for allegedly inciting youth to protest the Agnipath scheme, reports.
And as many as 46 people have been arrested in connection with the arson and violence that took place in the Secunderabad Railway Station on June 17 and the involvement of the army recruitment coaching academies is suspected, a senior official of the railway police said here on Sunday.
B Anuradha, Superintendent of Police, told reporters that initially about 300 people entered the station through gate No 3. Eventually, the number swelled to 2,000 and some of them carried sticks, rods and petrol cans, damaging the railway property, the official said.
On Friday, a young man died and 13 others were injured after security personnel opened fire to control the rampaging mob protesting against ‘Agnipath’ at the railway station. The police official further said based on the inquiry, it was found that the youth were selected in a physical test for the recruitment in the Army and were ready for the written test which was postponed for six times due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The agitators with the provocation of some army recruitment coaching academies circulated the messages to assemble at the Secunderabad Railway Station at 8.30 AM on June 17. They instructed carrying petrol cans, too. There is a big conspiracy of Army recruitment coaching academies are involved in this conspiracy, a press release from the police said.
‘Agnipath’ to Not Take in Protesters, Arsonists
Meanwhile, all applicants aiming to join the three services under the ‘Agnipath’ military recruitment scheme will have to give an undertaking that they were not part of any protest, arson or vandalism, a senior military official said on Sunday. The comments by Lt Gen Anil Puri, Additional Secretary in the Department of Military Affairs, came amid violent protests against the new model of recruitment of soldiers into the three services.
“The foundation of the Indian armed forces is discipline. There is no space for arson. There is no problem if you show your anger and engage in talks. But there is no space for arson and vandalism,” Lt Gen Puri said at a tri-services media briefing. He said every individual wanting to join the three forces through the ‘Agnipath’ scheme will have to give an undertaking that they were not part of any protest, arson or vandalism.
Lt Gen Puri said the youths who are part of the arson and violence against the scheme will not be able to join the three services as a police verification process will be carried out before enrolling anyone under the scheme. “Every individual who wants to join the armed forces through the ‘Agnipath’ scheme they will have to submit a pledge that they were neither part of any protest nor were involved in any violence. Nobody can join the forces without police verification..We have made the provisions,” Lt Gen Puri said.
He also claimed that the protestors were instigated by “inimical forces” as well as some of the coaching institutes. Lt Gen Puri said around 70 per cent of the aspirants studying in these coaching centres to prepare for entry into the armed forces are from villages.
“They were studying taking loans. They were given assurances by these coaching institutes and they have significant contributions in sending them to the streets,” he said. Lt Gen Puri also appealed to the youths to start preparing for the recruitment tests, saying it is not easy to clear the physical fitness tests. “The Army, Navy and Air Force are giving time of 45 to 60 days to the youths to prepare for the physical fitness tests and understand the terms and conditions so that you are ready to join us,” he said.
Violence Subsides in Bihar
Violent protests against Agnipath scheme for defence recruitment appeared to be on the wane in Bihar on Sunday as a police crackdown on troublemakers continued and train services remained hit in view of security concerns. According to a statement issued by Police Headquarters, altogether 804 people have been arrested so far in connection with the large scale violence and arson, which had the state in its throes last week. The number of FIRs registered in connection with the protests stood at 145 and tracing of persons suspected of instigating or indulging in anti-social activities contimnued. Internet services remain suspended in 17 out of 38 districts in the state and heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces continued in places, the PHQ release said.
With inputs from agencies