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Trains in Bihar set Ablaze as Agnipath Protests Spread to 25 Districts

Protesters blocked roads and rail tracks, set trains on fire and attacked houses and vehicles of BJP leaders.
Trains in Bihar set Ablaze as Agnipath Protests Spread to 25 Districts

Image Courtesy: ANI

Patna: The protests against the armed forces recruitment scheme Agnipath in Bihar spread to 25 districts, including the state capital, on the third day on Friday. The police had to fire bullets and teargas to disperse mobs in half-a-dozen districts.

The protests, which started on a small scale on Wednesday, intensified with thousands of defence jobs aspirants blocking roads and rail tracks, targeting railway stations, setting trains on fire, attacking houses and vehicles of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and vandalising BJP offices.

The slogan-shouting protesters have been demanding the withdrawal of the scheme and threatened to continue protests unless it is scrapped.

Student body AISA-INOS, Rojgar Sangarsh Sanyukt Morcha and Sena Bharti Jawan Morcha have a call for ‘Bihar Bandh’ on Saturday. The opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal and Left parties have extended support to the bandh.

According to an official of the zonal headquarters of East Central Railway, Hajipur, the protesters targeted Railways properties, disrupting the movement of trains with several of them stranded at different stations for hours. They vandalised railway stations and set bogies of nearly a dozen trains at different railway stations on fire on Friday. More than 50 express and passenger trains in Bihar were cancelled and routes of dozens diverted. Protesters had set ablaze five trains on Thursday.

In Bettiah, West Champaran district, protesters attacked the houses of BJP leaders, including state president and MP Sanjay Jaiswal and deputy chief minister (CM) Renu Devi, a vehicle of party MLA Vinay Bihari and the BJP office in Lakhisarai and Rohtas districts.

Sensing trouble for BJP leaders, the state beefed up the security of the house of another deputy CM Tarkishor Prasad, a senior party leader in Katihar district. Additional security forces were deployed at the BJP state headquarters in Patna and in other districts.

On Thursday, protesters set fire to the BJP office in Nawada district and attacked a vehicle of BJP MLA Aruna Devi injuring two of her bodyguards.

ADG law and order Sanjay Singh said that the police have been taking action against protesters. “More than two dozen FIRs were lodged by the police and around 100 protesters were identified and arrested. Protesters will be identified and action would be taken against them based on video footage,” he told reporters. The police will also go through the videos of TV news and YouTube channels to identify protesters because “some antisocial elements were involved”, he added.

Sensing the growing anger, the BJP’s state ruling ally Janata Dal (United) demanded that the Centre reconsider the scheme. JD(U) national president Lalan Singh said that the Centre should take notice of the protests and “reconsider its decision”. Earlier, two senior JD(U) leaders minister Vijendra Prasad Yadav and senior party leader Upendra Kushwaha had demanded the withdrawal of the scheme. Another BJP ally Hindustani Awam Morcha supported the protesters and demanded the scrapping of the scheme.

Despite the opposition of the coalition partners, most of the top BJP leaders in Bihar defended the scheme and blamed the Opposition for the protests.

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