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Caste, Religion Requirement for Agnipath RSS Design: RJD

Bihar opposition party alleges that the Centre plans to lay off Agniveers on the basis of caste later.
Caste, Religion Requirement for Agnipath RSS Design: RJD

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav Speaking at Press Conference.Image Courtesy: ANI

Patna: The opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar has slammed the Narendra Modi government for the mandatory requirement of producing caste and religion certificates for recruitment into the military short service scheme Agnipath and alleged that it is a part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s design to lay off Agniveers on the basis of caste later.

A day after ruling BJP ally Janata Dal (United) questioned the requirement for furnishing caste and religion certificates, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav tweeted on Tuesday saying that it is an age-old saying that “do not ask the caste of the monk but the BJP government has been asking the caste of a soldier”.

The RSS-led BJP government has refused to conduct a caste-based census but is asking the caste of Agniveers, who are willing to sacrifice their lives in the nation’s service.
They are asking for caste certificates because the RSS, which is the biggest casteist organisation in the country, will lay the Agniveers off on the basis of their caste,” the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly added sharing a screenshot of the Army recruitment application and highlighting the section asking candidates to produce caste and religion certificates.

Senior JD(U) leader Upendra Kushwaha was the first to question the requirement for caste and religion certificates. The JD-U’s parliamentary board president had asked defence minister Rajnath Singh that when there is no provision of reservation in Agnipath, then why the government is asking for caste certificates. Kushwaha, considered close to chief minister Nitish Kumar, demanded clarification from the Centre.

Last month, both RJD and JD(U) had opposed Agnipath, meant to cut down on salaries and pension. Protests against the scheme first erupted in Bihar in mid-June and soon spread to several other states after the Centre announced that 45,000 soldiers, airmen and sailors in the 17.5-21 age group would be recruited as Agniveers for only four years with only 25% of them being absorbed for another 15 years based on merit and performance. The rest will get a one-time tax-free Seva Nidhi package of Rs 11.71 lakh with no gratuity or pension.

Bihar witnessed widespread protests in all the 38 districts for four to five days. During the protests, around 60 bogies of more than a dozen trains and seven engines were set ablaze and several railway stations vandalised. Protesters blocked roads and railway tracks forcing the Railways to cancel more than 400 trains for a few days. Subsequently, the state government suspended Internet in 20 districts and imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in several others.

After supporting a one-day Bihar Bandh last month, the Opposition, including RJD and Left parties MLAs and MLCs took to the streets and staged a protest march to Raj Bhawan demanding withdrawal of Agnipath. Later, they protested inside the Assembly.

Sensing anger against the scheme, the JD(U) last month demanded that the Centre should reconsider the scheme. JD(U) national president Lalan Singh said that the Centre should take notice of the protests and “reconsider its decision”. Earlier, JD(U) minister Vijendra Prasad Yadav and Kushwaha had demanded the withdrawal of the scheme. Another BJP ally Hindustani Awam Morcha supported the protesters and demanded the scrapping of the scheme.

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