Hyderabad: Why did the police open fire at Agnipath protestors?

Hyderabad: The city police is now working overtime to unravel the alleged conspiracy behind the mob violence at Secunderabad railway station that took place on Friday which ultimately led to police firing that claimed the life of a 22 year-old army job aspirant from Warangal.

The Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel fired several rounds on the protestors – numbering around 2,000 – who were setting fire to rail coaches and locomotives. Also, they damaged several coaches, private vehicles and damaged the stalls located on the railway platforms. 

A case under Section 143,147,324,307,435,336,341 r/w 149 of Indian Penal Code, Section 150,151,152 of Indian Railways Act and Sections 3 and 4 of PDPP Act were booked by the Secunderabad Railway Protection Force. 

The sudden gathering of youngsters armed with iron rods and skillfully throwing burning jute bags beneath the railway coaches with intention to set ablaze the train clearly points to the preplanning to resort to violence, said a police official investigating the case. 

The police are investigating if any political party or radical group instigated, gathered/ assembled, armed and sent the youth to the railway station. 

In a press release the railway police pointed out that initially around 9 a.m, a group of about 300 youngsters all of a sudden entered the railway station from Gate number 3. Soon in small batches more arrived and their number swelled to around 2,000. 

“All of a sudden the group started behaving violently and began damaging the trains and locomotives. A goods coach in which parcels including perishable goods like fish and eggs were kept was set on fire, small groups ran around between platform number 2 and 7, damaging several stalls of small-time vendors,”  said an official of the railway police. 

Minutes later the Government Railway Police, Secunderabad, which was on alert on instructions in view of violence and damage to railway properties elsewhere in the country, grouped together to calm down the agitators. On Friday, the full strength of 45 personnel was on duty as their leaves and shifts were cancelled by their higher ups. 

The outnumbered agitators rained stones on the police after picking from the tracks. As the railway police sent an SOS, the Hyderabad police rushed to their rescue. The Railway Protection Force to join in. The aggressive mob rained stones and chased the police personnel out. It is learnt on instructions of the higher the policemen fired on the mob to disperse them.

Rakesh (24) of Warangal died while 12 others were injured including two sustained bullet injuries and were operated at Gandhi Hospital. 

It is for the first time in the history of Secunderabad railway station that bullets were fired to disperse agitators. Although in the past during train roko several leaders were arrested. 

The higher ups of the Hyderabad police are now enquiring what went wrong and how could a huge number of youngsters gather at the railway station within minutes. Although the jurisdiction falls with the government railway police and the railway protection force, the Hyderabad police are interested to know who gathered the mob and how come the local intelligence wing, the special branch failed to sniff it out.  

“Preliminary enquiries have found the youngsters had formed Whatsapp groups for studies. In the group some persons circulated messages with details about the Agnipath scheme, due to some miscommunication of understanding, all planned to stage a protest and came to Secunderabad,” said the railway police. 

At around 10 a.m, the mob became aggressive and started attacking the property and half an later the police after failing to persuade them fired at the mob after noticing the agitators were setting on fire gunny bags and throwing beneath the coaches. 

Railway police maintained the firing was done to deal with the situation. “A 4,000 liter capacity power car was stationed and other two locomotives have around 3,000 liters diesel each. The mob was pelting stones near it and setting train coaches on fire. Fearing any violent play with the power car would mean a big explosion in the railway station, a press release stated. 

Soon after firing as men collapsed due to bullet injuries the police and others rushed them to the Gandhi Hospital. Doctor declared Rakesh died while under treatment and two others operated for injuries. Although the police fired to disperse the crowd, it did not help much. Groups of agitators squatted on the tracks demanding the government revoke their decision. 

A protestor from Karimnagar said several youngsters wrote the exam for Army recruitment and were selected. Now the new Agnipath scheme is announced. “Did we prepare to work for four years and return home?  If they want to introduce new schemes, let them do it. But the older 15 years term scheme should be continued,” he demanded. 

The protest continued till six o’clock in the evening with the police later swooping down on the protestors and taking around 20 of them into custody. For dispersing them around 300 policemen in a coordinated manner moved on the railway tracks and dispersed them. 

Before the final action the senior police official held several rounds of talks with the protestors and even assured to facilitate a dialogue with the defense authorities. 

During the day the police had beefed up security at all railway stations in the city. Armed police pickets are deployed at all the railway stations. Security was also beefed at all the metro rail stations in the city. 

Following intelligence reports of the unsocial elements might carry out attacks on defense installations and army installations, the police in tri commissionerates increased security at the places. The police also intensified the patrolling in the surrounding areas and the pickets will continue till further orders.  

Security at the Bhartiya Janata Party office at Nampally was beefed up on Friday fearing an attack on the office. Police had blocked roads leading to the BJP office from Nampally and Abids by placing a barricade.