Sunday, September 25th, 2022 23:11:34

Coaching of Violence!

By Nilabh Krishna
Updated: July 8, 2022 11:01 am

Violent protests against Agnipath, the national government’s programme for recruiting soldiers, broke out recently in parts of the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Telangana, among others. Young aspirants who hope to one day join the defence establishment have been among those accused of causing damage to both public and private property during these rallies. So, responsibility of this mayhem lies on whose shoulders, is the moot question here. Everyone should be the answer. The news station anchors carried out their duties by magnifying the graphical presentation of this violence. By avoiding a detailed analysis of the subject, the opposition also enraged the students. However, if one institution would have performed appropriately, all of this could have been avoided. There could be thousands of causes for protests to start, but only one could lead to them getting out of control.

Bihar: The epicentre

Protests against the Agnipath scheme witnessed arson and stone-pelting in several districts of Bihar and in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Reports of the burning of trucks, buses and other vehicles, stone-pelting and vandalization came from Jehanabad, Taregana, Masaurhi, and other places. At Taregana station in Bihar, the RPF office was set ablaze and more than a dozen vehicles parked outside were set on fire. Protesters tried to set the Masaurhi railway station on fire. In Jehanabad, nearly a dozen vehicles were torched near a police post, and later a bus and a truck were set on fire.

The Danapur Divisional Railway Manager put the losses to railway properties at over Rs 200 crore. 50 coaches, five engines have been completely burnt, and platforms, computers and technical devices were smashed by protesters, he said. Internet services were blocked in 12 districts of Bihar to prevent escalation of violence, even as RJD and Left parties gave a Bihar Bandh call later on.

There were protests in Jaunpur, Kannauj and Gautam Buddha Nagar in UP. Protesters tried to block the Agra-Lucknow expressway near Kannauj.  In Chennai, protesters marched to the War Memorial to stage protests against the scheme.

Bihar bore the brunt of most of the arson and violence in Bettiah, Arah, Buxar, Samastipur, Danapur, Hajipur, Gaya, Supaul, Begusarai, Buxar, Nalanda, Nawada, Lakhisari, Bhagalpur, Sasaram, Muzaffarpur, Aurangabad, Bhojpur, Munger, Arwal, Jehanabad, Patna, Vaishali, Khagaria, Jamui, Rohtas, Shehpura, Siwan, Bagaha and Madhepur. There were disturbing scenes of trains burning, passengers screaming, children cowering in fear, railway fire staff trying to douse flames with water pipes, and GRP jawans standing helplessly.

Questions naturally arise as to why Bihar seems to be the epicentre of anti-Agnipath protests. It appears that there is a lot of interest among young people in Bihar for positions in the government, whether they be in the armed forces, paramilitary forces, railway, or education department. After obtaining a government position, a family member quickly rises in social standing. Bihar had a 5 per cent reservation in the army, however demand for army posts was far greater than the reservation quota. Even in the Class 4 (peon) category, a young person who obtains employment with the government is flooded with marriage proposals and dowry offers, and sister marriages are made simpler.


The violent coaching

Numerous coaching facilities are dispersed throughout Bihar, where these young people were receiving both written and physical training for the armed services. These training facilities are essential in helping these young people who want to join the military to make their future. Since Bihar has a strong demand for defence services, the state has become a tutoring hotspot for thousands of applicants who are currently on the streets.

Most of these coaching centre operators believe they may have to terminate their operations now that the Agnipath scheme has been launched. According to reports, some of the owners of these coaching centers—who these aspirants see as their “gurus”—began uploading videos on social media decrying the Agnipath plan. Some of them are obviously driven by politics.

Following violent demonstrations against the Agnipath initiative, the same coaching centres have found themselves in the firing line. For allegedly “inciting” violent protests, police in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, have detained the owners or managers of at least nine coaching facilities that prepare applicants for military recruitment. Police in Patna, Bihar, where demonstrations against the programme took a violent turn in certain regions, have made similar accusations against coaching centres.

In Telangana too, the Government Railway Police (GRP), claimed that coaching centres, which train youngsters aspiring for army jawan jobs, played a role in instigating the violence. Approximately 2,000 candidates from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh passed the physical examination and were awaiting the written examination. However, for a number of reasons, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the written exam had to be postponed six times. The applicants were upset after the written exam was cancelled on June 14 and the Center unveiled the Agnipath programme. As told to news18, Superintendent of Police GRP-Secunderabad, B. Anuradha, said “They approached the coaching institutes which cited anti-Agnipath protests at a railway station in Bihar where a train was burned and said that if something similar was done here, it would draw the attention of the Central government.”

In Patna, these aspirants were being advised to “not lose any opportunity to stage protest” by the proprietor of a coaching centre in Patna. He was spreading incorrect information on 63 young people who had already committed suicide due to the launch of the Agnipath scheme. This is how social media is used to provoke young people. After serving four years in the military, individuals are informed that they would not be eligible for any government employment. In an another video the owner of a teaching centre in Patna is heard saying: “First of all, you protest against TOD (Tour of Duty) at every level conceivable. Completely rebel. No level should be spared. You should demonstrate your “josh,” or guts and determination, to the government rather than to your parents. Since yesterday, 42 people have died by suicide, bringing the total to 63 today. These are based on the data we collected. Avoid suicide; it is pointless. If you hear of a suicide in a hamlet, go there and warn the youth not to do it. Send them positive vibes. TOD has been imposed through force.”

The owners/managers of at least nine coaching centres have been identified in a FIR filed by the police in Aligarh, UP, in relation to the violent protests that broke out in some areas of the city. According to Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kalanidhi Naithani, 80 people have been detained by Aligarh police in connection with the violence, nine of whom are connected to such centres.

Police claim that the owners and administrators of these coaching centres are accused of “circulating inflammatory and inciteful comments on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, etc., which led to the spread of violence,” citing information from “reliable sources.”

These coaching institutes have put the future of these army aspirants in jeopardy, as the FIR lodged various states are under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 307 (attempt to murder), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Other sections invoked in the FIR include 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 427 (mischief causing damage), 336 (any act so rash or negligent as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.), 333 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 120-b (criminal conspiracy), along with section 7 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act and relevant sections of Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. And everyone in this country knows that once a case is registered against a person, he is not liable to get any job of government, whether civilian or army.

Youths have the right to express their disapproval, but they can only do it in a nonviolent way. Setting fire to expensive trains and coaches won’t help them find a solution . It is not the answer to stoning buses and other vehicles on highways. The nation’s properties cannot be expected to suffer catastrophic losses at the hands of young people who are born patriots and who dream of serving their country. They must be aware that maintaining discipline is the most important necessity in the military. The aspirations of youths who are hurling stones at trains and setting them on fire will never come true. Youths should take a seat, relax, and consider their options without getting stirred up by vested interests.


By Nilabh Krishna     


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