Angry crowds in India set an office of the country’s ruling party on fire, attacked railway infrastructure and blocked roads on Thursday, in widening protests against a new military recruitment system, police officials said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government this week announced an overhaul of recruitment for India’s 1.38 million-strong armed forces, looking to bring down the average age of personnel and reduce pension expenditure
But potential recruits, military veterans, opposition leaders and even some members of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have raised reservations over the revamped process.
In eastern India’s Bihar state, where protests have flared in around a dozen locations, thousands gathered in Nawada city to demonstrate against the new recruitment system, police official Gaurav Mangla said. “They torched a BJP office, torched tyres in three prominent areas of the city, damaged a bus and many private vehicles,” Mangla told Reuters. Protesters also attacked railway property across Bihar, setting alight coaches in at least two locations, damaging train tracks and vandalising a station, according to officials and a railways statement.Police said protests also took place in northern Haryana state and western Rajasthan. Both are traditional recruiting areas for the Indian military.
The new recruitment system, called Agnipath or “path of fire” in Hindi, will bring in men and women between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 for a four-year tenure, with only a quarter retained for longer periods.Previously, soldiers have been recruited by the army, navy and air force separately and typically enter service for up to 17 years for the lowest ranks.