Agnipath Protests: Centre Bans 35 WhatsApp Groups for 'Spreading Fake News'

This comes amid reports of social media platforms like WhatsApp being used to plan protests in Telangana.

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The Centre on Sunday, 19 June, banned as many as 35 WhatsApp groups that were allegedly spreading fake news about Agnipath – the defence recruitment scheme that has sparked outrage across the country.

This comes amid reports of social media platforms like WhatsApp being used to plan protests in Telangana, which have witnessed violent protests.

Information about these 35 groups or action initiated against their administrators was not immediately known, news agency PTI reported.


In Telangana, however, the police apprehended the owner of a coaching institute for sending messages to the youth asking them to take part in the protests against the Agnipath scheme.

According to Telangana Police, the coaching academy had a wide contact list of defence service aspirants and this list was used to create WhatsApp groups.

Defence Ministry Holds Press Briefing

Earlier on Sunday, Lt General Anil Puri, additional secretary of the department of military affairs, had ruled out the rollback of the scheme despite pan-India protests and came out with a comprehensive enrolment schedule under the new policy.

The Centre, on 14 June, introduced Agnipath – a short-term defence employment scheme through which soldiers will be selected in the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force on a contractual basis for four years. The jawans recruited under the aforementioned scheme would be called 'Agniveers.'

The officials at the briefing announced that all ‘Agniveers’ will have to pledge that they never took part in any arson or protest. There have been widespread protests and violence in different parts of the country over the Agnipath scheme.

"There is no place for indiscipline in the Armed Forces. If there is any FIR against any candidate, they cannot be a part of Agniveers," said Lieutenant General Anil Puri.

The Indian Army will issue a draft notification for the induction of Agniveers on Monday, 20 June. Recruitment rallies will take place across the country in August, September, and October, the officials added.

By December, 25,000 Agniveers would join the Army. The second batch will be inducted by February 2023. The service chiefs also asserted the new scheme was aimed at bringing down the age profile of the armed forces.

Lt General Puri also said that the government did not give concessions in the Agnipath scheme because of the protests and that those provisions were already in the works.

Concessions Made in the Scheme

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday, 18 June, announced 10 percent reservation for ‘Agniveers’ in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles. It also declared a three-year age relaxation beyond the upper age limit to 'Agniveers' for recruitment in the two forces.

Soon after this, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh approved 10 percent reservation in the defence ministry too.


Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said that the Karnataka government will induct 'Agniveers' into state police after completion of their service in the Agnipath recruitment scheme, news agency ANI reported, quoting the minister.

Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri also said that public sector undertakings (PSUs) under the housing and petroleum ministries are looking at ways to hire 'Agniveers' after their four-year service in the armed forces.

On Thursday, 16 June the age limit was relaxed from 21 to 23 on Thursday for 2022.


The Protests So Far

As protests against the Indian government's new Agnipath scheme enter their sixth day, a Congress delegation is set to meet President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday, 20 June, to raise issues with the new military recruitment scheme.

Top Congress leaders as well as MPs sat on a 'Satyagraha' protest at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantra on Sunday, 19 June, in solidarity with the youths protesting.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and party leaders Jai Ram Ramesh, Rajiv Shukla, Sachin Pilot, Salman Khurshid, and Alka Lamba took part in the demonstration.

Meanwhile, the violent pan-India protests resulted in the cancellation of 369 trains on Saturday, and the arson of at least a dozen trains. 620 people have been arrested in Bihar so far.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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