Violent protests erupt in India after the Narendra Modi — India’s Prime Minister — administration announced this week a sweeping revamping of India’s 1.38 million troop military with a focus on reducing the average age of service members by limiting their time in service to four years.
Over a dozen people were injured and at least one person was killed. As violent protests began to spread, the southern Telangana state reported its first fatality. The demonstrator was killed when police opened fire on a crowd that set fire to a train at Secunderabad train station.
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According to media reports, additional police were dispatched to train stations after the fire to mitigate further damage to infrastructure. This forced cancelations of dozens of trains, which impacted almost 200 cars on several lines.
In multiple states including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, mobs of angry citizens flooded the streets, blocked train tracks, and attacked government facilities. Police reported having to use tear gas and batons to disperse violent crowds.
Approximately 31 miles south of India’s capitol, New DelhiIn, in the Haryana state’s Palwal district, mobs came under fire by police after throwing rocks at the home of a government official. Police said that firing shots was necessary to protect the building. One officer who refused to give his name said, “Yes, we have fired a few shots to control the crowd.”
Potential recruits, leaders of the administration’s opposition, and military veterans feel that the new policy will bring devastating consequences. Recruits claim that they should be allowed to serve for more than four years and even some members of the current administration’s party worry that these short term recruitment goals will contribute to the country’s already catastrophic unemployment numbers.
One protesters in the Jehanabad district of Bihar told said to reporters, “Where will we go after working for only four years? We will be homeless after four years of service. So we have jammed the roads.”
Prior to this announcement, the military, which recruited for each branch separately, allowed incoming recruits to serve for up to 17 years in junior enlisted rolls. The newly announced policy called Agnipath or in Hindi, “path of fire” would enlist recruits between the ages of 17 and a half years old to 21 years old, eligible for no more than four years.