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Bihar: Shutdown Against Agnipath Scheme as Protests for Roll-Back Enter 4th Day

Protesters take out marches in all 38 districts. Opposition RJD opposes suspension of internet in 15 districts.
Bihar: Shutdown Against Agnipath Scheme as Protests for Roll-Back Enter 4th Day

Representational image. | Image Courtesy: DNA India

Patna: Normal life was affected in Bihar during a day-long shutdown or Bihar Bandh call to protests against the armed forces recruitment scheme, Agnipath, on Saturday. Ignoring rains in one part of the state and hot and humid climate in other parts, slogan-shouting protesters, mostly youths, staged a protest for the fourth consecutive day demanding withdrawal of the scheme.

The aspiring youth, who have been preparing for years to get into the Army, are angry with the sudden announcement of the scheme, whereby recruitment will be done only four years, after which only 25% of the trainees will be absorbed in the armed forces.

The ‘Bihar Bandh’ call was given by student body AISA-INOS, Rojgar Sangarsh Sanyukt Morcha and Sena Bharti Jawan Morcha that was initially supported by Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal and Left parties .Later ruling ally of BJP , Hindustani Awam Morcha, former ally Vikasheel Insaan Party also extended support to the bandh.

In Patna, AISA-INOS and CPI (ML) took out a protest march during the shutdown and were baton-charged by the police. Several of their leaders were also detained. As per reports reaching here, shutdown supporters took out protest marches in all 38 districts of the state.

“We got unexpected support from people, a large number of them took to streets despite internet suspension, Section 144 and heavy deployment of security forces. It was a successful shutdown,” Kunal state secretary of CPI (ML), said.

Most heavy vehicles remained off the roads and few vehicles were seen on roads in towns, shops and business establishments were shut, all private schools were closed.

Unlike large-scale protests on Friday when job aspirants blocked roads and rail tracks, targeted railway stations, set ablaze trains, attacked houses and vehicles of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and vandalised BJP offices, the protests on Saturday were by and large peaceful, except sporadic instances of violence.

Heavy security forces have been deployed across the state, particularly at railway stations in view of the shutdown. Internet services remained suspended in 15 districts and prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC have been imposed in several districts to prevent any untoward incident. Opposition RJD has opposed suspension of the internet and demand to end it.

Additional security forces were deployed at BJP state headquarters in Patna and in other districts.

On Saturday, a group of protesters reportedly vandalised the Taregna railway station in Patna district, reportedly pelted stones and set afire a few vehicles parked in its premises. Later, the police opened fire to disperse them.

In neighbouring Jehanabad district, there were instances of stone-pelting and setting ablaze vehicles including a bus and a truck in Tehta. At another place in a rural area,protesters blocked NH 83 and halted vehicles to ensure a shutdown that led to clashes with police.

In Arwal district, an ambulance carrying prisoners to jail from a hospital was reportedly attacked and at Tarapur in Munger, the vehicle of Block Development Officer was damaged.

Stone-pelting was reported in Rohtas district too.

After the trains were targeted by some protesters in the past three days, the Railways cancelled dozens of trains, including long route express and passenger, on Saturday to minimise the chances of further damage.

According to ADG law and order, Sanjay Singh ,so far 31 FIRs have been lodged by the police and around 435 protesters arrested in connection with the violence..

Protests erupted early this week in Bihar after the Central government announced that about 45,000 aspirants in the 17.5-21 age group would be recruited as ‘Agniveers’, or soldiers, into Army, Navy and Air Force for four years, with only 25% of them being absorbed for regular service based on merit and performance. The rest will get a one-time tax-free Seva Nidhi package of around Rs 11.71 lakh with no gratuity or pension.

Bihar was probably the first state where protests against Agnipath began.

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