Violent protests against the Agnipath army recruitment scheme that broke out at the Secunderabad railway station were being planned over WhatsApp since Wednesday.
Several protesters said messages were shared on WhatsApp groups, such as ‘Railway Station Block’, which they were a part of. While concern and resentment over the delay of Common Entrance Exam was palpable, the Centre’s announcement of Agnipath was the final straw.
One such WhatsApp group comprising over 500 participants was formed on Wednesday, an army aspirant from Vikarabad said. “For the past two days, we have been getting messages on the group about Friday’s protest. This is why we are here. I want to say that we are not with any political party. We just want to be recruited to the army in a proper manner,” a youth protesting at the Oliphant Bridge said.
Another protester concerned about the well-being of his injured friend said they felt deeply distressed after the written exam was cancelled last year. “We were aspiring for General Duty, AMC Nursing, and Tradesman posts in the army. But with Agnipath, it looks like our aspirations have gone up in smoke,” he said, adding that physical tests were completed, and clearing the written test was what finally decides recruitment. Another protester pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic, too, was a cause behind postponing the exam.
A few protesters told mediapersons that they planned to die by suicide if the Agnipath scheme was not rolled back. “There are 2,800 aspirants who are affected by this. The written exam has been cancelled. What should we do? Exams should be conducted, come what may. If nothing is done within 48 hours, we are willing to kill ourselves. We want to live and die for the army,” said G. Vinod, an army aspirant hailing from Mahbubnagar.
Amid chants of ‘Agnipath Down Down’, a protester said, “We have waited patiently and were calm. We demand that the written test be conducted without any delay. We are willing to die and will also stay here for three to four days if the need arises. This scheme is of no use to us.”