One person has died and over 15 have been injured in Telangana’s Secunderabad as violent protests against the new military recruitment policy, Agnipath, spread to the southern state after entering the third consecutive day in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. Protests have also been reported in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
Telangana police resorted to aerial firing to disperse the angry crowd at the Secunderabad railway station as protests escalated into large-scale violence and arson, news agency PTI reported.
Protestors are demonstrating on railway tracks and have halted all train movement for the last three hours. Security forces are outnumbered as the railway station has been overrun by angry youth, who have already set three trains on fire.
Speaking to NDTV, Suman Kumar Sharma, an AC Power Car mechanic, narrated the horrifying scenes while the trains were being vandalised. He said there were around 5,000 people at the station and around 40 of them entered the train he was in.
“They tried setting fire in the coach. They desperately tried to set fire to the power car, but we saved it. The passenger’s things have been left behind and broken. Two gates were open, so we let the passengers go from one side. We told them, that the Railway Protection Force will keep them safe. We took the passengers out from here,” he said.
Elderly people were also terrified. Some have left behind suitcases, spectacles, Aadhaar cards, and half-eaten packets of mixture strewn around inside the train, he added.
The railways are diverting trains so that they don’t go through the Secunderabad station. The disruption began at 9 am when over 350 protestors took over the railway station.
East Coast Express, Rajkot Express, and Ajanta Express were set on fire by violent mobs. 71 trains – 65 from Hyderabad Multi-Modal Transport System and six express – have been cancelled so far.
In Bihar, where the protests entered the third day, the house of Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi was attacked as the new recruitment scheme that has set off a firestorm. “Such type of violence is very dangerous for the society. The protesters should remember that this is a loss for the society,” Ms Devi, who is currently in Patna, told NDTV.
Two coaches of the Jammu Tawi Express train were set on fire in Bihar’s Samastipur district, officials told NDTV, adding no one was hurt in the incident. A BJP office was also attacked in the Lakhisarai district. A mob set fire to the Islampur-Hatia express train which was stationed at the Islampur station in Nalanda. Three AC coaches are completely burnt down and several other coaches have been damaged.
In Uttar Pradesh, a mob entered a railway station in Ballia this morning and set a train coach on fire, and also damaged railway station property before the police used force to disperse them.
Over 200 trains have been affected – 35 trains have been cancelled while 13 short-terminated- since the protests erupted on Wednesday, according to the Railways.