A Blueprint For Catastrophe

The Sinister “path” of Agnipath

Partho Sarothi Ray

The country is on fire. Young people aspiring to join the military, especially from the northern Indian states where chronic absence of employment opportunities have made a career in the armed forces one of the few employmentoptions for young men from poor families, are literally on the fiery path. Not to join the “Agnipath” scheme of recruitment into the armed forces as announced by the government, but to show their discontent and outrage at it. They are very clear about what they are facing. A scheme which will shatter their hopes of a career in the armed forces, for which many have struggled and prepared for many years, together with the possibility of a stable employment and the social recognition that brings. A scheme which is touted to make the army “young” and “modern”, but which will send 75% of the recruits back home after 4 years with a paltry sum of money and no pension. And together with this there will be the stigma of being “army rejects”, as the prestige of being a “fauji”, which is of great importance in the communities they come from will not belong to these young people. They will be predated upon by security agencies, and will end up mostly as ATM guards, and maybe guards in some “party offices” (as declared by a BJP leader), with low pay, no job security and no respect. This is the future which will face the “Agniveers”.

The Agnipath scheme has been criticised by various people, from the armed forces aspirants themselves to ex-servicemen, for being muddleheaded and callous, just like every other scheme of the Modi government, from demonetisation to the farm laws, from GST to CAA/NRC. The unfeeling, unsympathetic attitude of the government, towards the people going to be most affected by its actions, is clear from the record of the Modi government over the last eight years. But in the Agnipath scheme, much more than just the lack of sympathy or feeling for the suffering of people, something much more sinister is present. It is something that has evaded the notice of the analysts and critics of the scheme and it is something that is in conformity with the much larger agenda of the BJP-RSS.

“Hinduise the military and militarise the Hindus” has been one of the original aims of the Sangh Parivar. VD Savarkar, the first ideologue of Hindutva believed that only able-bodied and armed Hindus could answer the "growing danger from the designs of the awakened Muslim mind”. During World War II, when the country had erupted against the British in the Quit India Movement, Savarkar had instead encouraged young Hindu men to enlist in the British Indian Army, to gain military training, to be used against the “enemies of Hindus” in the future and at the same time to exclude Muslims from the military. Since then, successive Sarsanghchalaks of the RSS have stressed on the militaristic training of RSS members as the means of militarising the Hindus. BS Moonje, another Hindutva ideologue and mentor of RSS Sarsanghchalak K B Hedgewar, had visited the Fascist military colleges on his visit to Italy, and on his return had established the Bhonsala Military School in Nashik under the aegis of the Central Hindu Military Education Society (CHMES) with Hedgewar as a board member. CHMES now runs a school in Nashik to help prepare students for the NDAexam, Shashastra Seema Bal interview and for physical and mental training. Lt Colonel Shrikant Purohit, one of the main accused in the Malegaon terrorism case, was trained in this college in a special coaching class for entry into the short service commission in the army.

Therefore, imparting military training to its members and at the same time infiltrating the military in order to “Hinduise” it has always been a major aim of the RSS. Now with the Agnipath scheme, the road has been opened for this. The type of military training which the RSS wishes its members to have is not possible to impart in its shakhas, for infrastructural, financial and legal constraints. Now, if young RSS members can be recruited into the military in large numbers, the desired arms training can be imparted to them legally, and at public expense. Their presence in the military, with 25% retained every batch, will “Hinduise the military” and when the rest will be out after 4 years with the desired military training and skills, it will effectively be the “militarisation of the Hindus”. The BJP-RSS government had planned to kill many birds with the one stone of Agnipath… to mobilise large number of RSS members into the armed forces, get them military training at public expense, have them back as the trained military wing of the Sangh Parivar, and at the same time show off the scheme as an attractive and patriotic employment opportunity to the youth from poor families and simultaneously cut down the expenses of the armed forces by reducing expenditure on salaries and pensions. The last one is a sop to ensure the silence and acquiescence of the military top brass, as anything to cut down personnel costs and increase the finances to purchase fancy new weaponry is attractive to the higher echelons of the armed forces. The babus in the defence ministry could also be brought onto the same page with the hope of attractive kickbacks from every new military purchase, as is notoriously known. And it would be easy to demonise any opposition to the scheme from opposition parties and civil society as unpatriotic and anti-national and against the modernisation of the Indian military. RSS has always aspired to take over all institutions of the state, preparatory to the establishment of Hindu Rashtra. The success of candidates trained in the RSS-backed IAS coaching centre Samkalp Foundation in the UPSC exam is well known. Apparently, out of the 759 candidates picked by the UPSC to enter the civil services in 2020, as many as 466 had undertaken Samkalp’s Interview Guidance Programme, as per the Foundation’s own claim. Now with the Agnipath scheme, the door to the armed forces would be opened. It was really a win-win situation.

What the BJP-RSS had not clearly bargained for was the opposition from the common aspirants to the armed forces, who have clearly seen through the scheme, although they might not have realised the sinister agenda behind it. It is usual for this government, which is always so distant from the aspirations of the common people and subservient to the special interests that control it, that it did not understand the resistance that would come from the people who would be directly affected by the scheme. It is just as was the case with the farm laws, where the government did not bargain for the opposition of the farmers, or the CAA-NRC where it did not think that the Muslims would rise up with such strong opposition. It is therefore the resistance of these young people which is possibly the only thing that can scuttle this sinister scheme, which is designed to destroy their futures and at the same time destroy the Indian armed forces as a professional, secular and patriotic fighting force. The RSS-BJP will try to divert these young people’s frustrations by continuously raising divisive, religious fundamentalist issues, but it is the duty of the civil society and progressive political forces to prevent it and keep the focus on the this sinister act of the government.

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Vol 55, No. 4, Jul 24 - 30, 2022