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Left organisations of Punjab rise to the challenge of Agnipath scheme

By Harsh Thakor

Democratic organizations have risen up to the very hour in Punjab, to give a fitting blow to the Agnipath policy. In many parts of Punjab sustained resistance has sprouted to embarrass the rulers in their very backdoor. Activists vociferously attacked the very base of the Agipath at the very grassroots, summarising how it was manifestation of neo-fascist policy.
A most positive development in Punjab to witness the integration of students, youth, farmers, workers and agricultural labour community to confront the anti-people Agnipath policy. Possibly such a protest would crystallise in many a scattered region of Punjab and pave the path for a further polarisation against Neo-fascism of the BJP.
Positive of the people of Punjab to display such a level of political maturity in understanding of neo-fascism, sharpening the polarisation against it as a whole. Considering the state has launched such a tirade of organised repression against the protest creating every obstacle to disrupt it, such developments are praiseworthy of the death-defying courage, determination or resilience of the democratic forces.
In coming days most clinically a strategy must be formulated by the democratic organisations to galvanise sections from all spheres of society and areas not only to organise protest but to withstand the might of the state repression imposed. Preparatory work is of vital importance. It would also be crucial to mobilise youth aspiring to join the armed forces.

Anandpur Sahib Protest

The Naujwan Bharat Sabha and the Punjab Students Union led a qualitative protest in Anandapur Sahib on June 19th challenging the enforcement of Agnipath.The speakers narrated how it was part and parcel of the fascisation of the State, crippling the progress of the nation’s youth and manifestation of the agenda of Hindutva.
Around 50 youth blocked the Anandpur Sahib Nangal highway creating a barrier for vehement of any vehicle .Later they took out a demonstration from Panj Para park which converged into a dharna at Naina Devi Park. After an hour the protest was terminated and a memorandum presented to defence minister Rajnath Sngh and magistrate Gurdip Singh.
Kirti Kisan Union leader Veer Singh Barwa and Punjab Students Union leader Ranveer Randhawa addressed the rally.

Sangrur Protest

In Sangrur in Banasar garden the Naujwan Bharat Sabha and Zameen Prapt Sangharsh Commitee conducted a protest where the speakers explained the link between the Agnipath with the neo-fascist policies of the rulers as a whole. Earlier the organisers met in the garden to chalk out the plans of the march. With examples they explained how it obstructed any avenue for the youth to blossom in the country. The speakers pledged that they will leave no stone unturned in confronting the nefarious policy. In their view it was ridiculous to curtail instatement for only 4 years for youth in army after the sheer toil to enlist into the ranks, cutting the roots of any flower to germinate. The leaders asserted it was an obstacle not only to the youth in the military but to them in all spheres of life. A most sustained youth resistance would have to galvanized, in their view. A gherao earlier planned was called off and a memorandum was presented to senior authorities.Bikar Singh Hathua was the main speaker.
NBS leader Rupinder Singh Chaunda stated that the fast recruitment of youth is virtually imperative in the army.
Notable protests of around 100-150 people were also organised by Punjab Students Union (Shaheed Randhawa) outside Sangrur DC office and Naujwan Bharat Sabha ,outside Bhatinda DC office. On June 23rd. Both had qualitative response. The main speakers were Hoshiyar Salemgarh of PSU (SR) and Ashwini Guddha of NBS.

Protest in Jalandhar

On June 25th 22 farm unions staged dharna to lodge their protest against the registration for Agnipath scheme which too got underway today.
Protest was led by Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee state secretary Sukhwinder Singh Sabhra and district president Salwinder Singh Jania. The unions demanded that the Agnipath scheme be withdrawn immediately. They demanded that 1.25 lakh vacant posts and nearly 60,000 more posts which were set to fall vacant soon be filled through the old regular process soon. They said the recruitment process for jawans, which had been started in Punjab two years ago, be completed and the recruits be given two-year relaxation in the upper limit of age owing to the delay. They also demanded that the aspirants who have recently come down on roads to lodge a protest against the launch of the scheme should not face any discrimination during induction and all cases lodged against them by the police should be withdrawn.
Farmer leaders said the party which won with the people’s vote should work for the welfare of the country and people. But, by implementing anti-national schemes, Modi government has only patronised profits only for rich families.
They said Samyukt Kisan Morcha would fight for the rights of the youth. A memorandum was also handed over to DSP Prem Kumar on the occasion.
Members of various organisations staged a protest against the Agnipath scheme at Adda Jhungian in Garhshankar and burnt an effigy of the Prime Minister Narendra Modil-led central government. Addressing the protesters, the office bearers of various outfits said the Agnipath scheme was a curse for the youngsters. Protesters said the central government had earlier enforced the policies against farmers and now it’s compromising on national security and and future of the youths. They said this scheme should be scrapped and recruitment in the Army Forces should be enfoced as before

Amritsar Protest

Various public organisations held a demonstration against the Emergency-like situation prevalent in the country at Company Bagh on June 25th.
Dr Parminder Singh recalled the authoritarianism of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who had imposed the Emergency in 1975 and how people from different walks of life were imprisoned Similarly, anti-people policies of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government could only be challenged by pro-people democratic forces, he said.
Gurbachan Singh of the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) said the Modi government stripped the citizens of their democratic rights. Sucha Singh of the Kirti Kisan Union and Lakhwinder Singh of the BKU (Ugrahan) stated that the farmers’ movement showed the mirror to the Central Government.
Ashwani Awasthi of the Democratic Teachers’ Forum said the Modi government declared a state of emergency by going ahead with demonetisation, GST, Covid-19 lockdown, abrogation of Article 370 and the Agnipath scheme.
A protest demonstration led by members of the Punjab Students’ Union (Lalkar) on June 26th was staged against the Centre at Putlighar Chowk here for the cancellation of Agnipath scheme. In support to students and youth of other states, the students of GNDU took out a protest march from Putlighar to Balmiki Chowk.
Sumit Singh from the Tarksheel Society, Gurbachan Singh from BKU Ugrahan and Gurpreet Singh from Punjab Students’ Union (Lalkar) addressed the protesters. The union leaders said the decision taken by the BJP government to recruit military and paramilitary forces under the Agnipath scheme was anti-people.
“The Agnipath scheme will recruit youngsters between the age of 17 and 21 for four years but after that they will be laid off and sent home. There is no provision for their livelihood, no pension and allowances or any other benefits provided by the government. The Centre has been pushing for a reduction in the defence budget. But in order to reduce the burden, the sword is being hung on the people, who are already cutting the gaps,” said Gurpreet Singh.
Sumit Singh said many youngsters from poor families join the Army for permanent employment due to hardships or family compulsions. “For the last two years, regular military recruitment has been stalled. The dreams of those, who were waiting for recruitment, have been burned by the Centre. Now, these youngsters are over 21-year-old. Through Agnipath, the government intends to kick the employment of these youth and recruit raw and contract servicemen,” he said.
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Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist from Mumbai who has toured and reported democratic events and struggles in Punjab

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