Stepping up its attack on the Centre, the Congress, on Sunday, held a ‘Satyagraha’ in New Delhi in support of those protesting the government’s Agnipath scheme, with party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra urging the youth to recognise “fake nationalists” and ensure that a new government is formed in the country which shows “real patriotism”.
She alleged the new military recruitment scheme would be destructive for the youth and the Army.
Several top Congress leaders, including Priyanka Gandhi, AICC general secretary organisation K.C. Venugopal, party’s leader in Lok Sabha Adir Ranjan Chowdhury, Harish Rawat, Communications department head Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khurshid, Sachin Pilot, Deepender Hooda and Ajay Maken, participated in the ‘Satyagraha’ held at Jantar Mantar.
Congress leaders and supporters criticised the BJP-led Central government and said the Agnipath scheme is not beneficial for the country’s youth and will also jeopardise national security.
“There is no bigger patriot than you. I want to tell you, open your eyes and recognise the fake nationalists and fake patriots. The entire country and the Congress are with you in your struggle,” Priyanka Gandhi said in her remarks aimed at the youths protesting against the Agnipath scheme.
In her address, the Congress general secretary also recited a few lines from Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s Hindi poem ‘Agnipath’ to urge the youths to persevere and keep struggling peacefully.
“The name of the poem has been given to such a scheme that will destroy the youth. This scheme will destroy the Army. Recognise this government’s intentions.”
“In a democratic way and by walking on the path of truth and non-violence, bring down this government. Your objective should be (to ensure) that such a government is formed in the country which shows real patriotism and takes forward the poor and the youth of the country,” Priyanka Gandhi said.
She also appealed to those protesting to not resort to violence.
“I want the youth to know that we understand your pain. This is your country and this country’s property is yours. So, it is your responsibility to protect it. I appeal to you to hold peaceful protests but not stop. It is your duty to protect the country’s democracy. Every leader of the Congress will support you in fulfilling this duty,” she said.
The Congress leader alleged that the government is working for big industrialists.
“I appeal to you to understand the situations around you (and) what the government is doing. This government is not working for the poor and its people but for big industrialists,” Priyanka Gandhi said.
Addressing the gathering, Pilot said if the government wanted to save money then it should not have gone ahead with the Central Vista project and bought two planes, that would have saved thousands of crores.
“But they played with the dreams of the youth by bringing Agnipath scheme. It should be taken back. Youths should also not resort to violence but protest peacefully. Our party is with them,” he said.
In his remarks, Hooda said an ‘Agniveer’ in the fourth year will become insecure about his future. What will happen to the security of a country whose soldier is insecure about his future, he asked.
Slamming the BJP over its defence of the Agnipath scheme, he said foreign models of the US and Israel won’t work in India.
Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat said joining the Army was a tradition in his state and was not seen just as a means to earn a living.
“Every regiment has a history of valour and you want to destroy that history. We condemn this decision which has been taken without consideration,” he said.
Youths in several parts of the country have been protesting against the contentious defence recruitment scheme. Over the past few days, incidents of protesters vandalising railway stations, setting trains on fire and blocking roads and railway tracks have been reported from different cities and towns.
Heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces was seen at the protest site. The entry and exit points to Jantar Mantar were blocked.
The Agnipath scheme, announced on June 14, provides for the recruitment of youths in the age bracket of 17-and-half to 21 years for only four years with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years. Later, the government extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment in 2022.