NEW DELHI: The arson that is being carried out by so-called Army aspirants in several parts of India since Wednesday against the Agnipath recruitment scheme has brought to the fore the functioning of the intelligence gathering mechanism in the country that is handled by the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
Police officials in Bihar, the state that is witnessing the maximum hooliganism, told The Sunday Guardian that they had received no inputs from the IB, warning them of the possibility of such kinds of protests taking place.
The IB, apart from specific tasks related to terrorism and similar subjects, collects information through various channels regarding the general sentiments and specific issues on the ground and passes them to various other agencies including state polices.
This is the second time in recent weeks that the IB has been slow in collecting and sharing inputs about protests with the state police.
The violence in Bihar continued unabated on Saturday, with cars being burnt and rioters firing on policemen in Masaurhi, Patna that led to police retaliation. The cabin of the station master and booking counter at the Masaurhi railway station was also set on fire. Internet services have been snapped in 15 of the 38 districts of Bihar till Sunday evening to stop the spread of misinformation and coordination among the aspirants. FIR has been filed against two coaching institute operators in Masaurhi after it emerged that students had come out of the coaching building and attacked the Taregna railway station. At least 55 FIRs have been filed by the police against 560 people for indulging in arson across Bihar. The failure of the state police to control the rioters has forced the deployment of one company of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), three companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and six companies of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
Last week, the IB had failed to warn the authorities or anticipate and collect information about the large-scale protests that were carried out in multiple states including Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal by Wahhabi fundamentalists against the objectionable remarks made by two former BJP spokespersons.
Last year, hundreds of individuals, who were protesting against the three farm laws, as a part of a well-conceived plan, had stormed the Red Fort and unfurled a religious flag. The plan to storm the Red Fort and unfurl the flag was not a spontaneous one but was designed well in advance. In that case too, the IB seemed unaware about something like this being planned.
In February 2020, the IB had failed to generate inputs about the systematic planning that was done against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that led to large scale riots in the heart of Delhi and blocking of important connecting roads, a blockade that lasted for months.
“If there were no prior intelligence inputs about the violence that is happening in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, then definitely the IB has not done its job. When the scheme was announced, the first thing that came to my mind was that there would be protests against this and I hoped that the IB was keeping an eye on it. However, the fact that even now the arson is happening in these parts clearly shows that the intelligence apparatus has failed”, a former Special Director of the agency told The Sunday Guardian.
Despite the Narendra Modi government going out of its way to enhance the capabilities of the IB, the agency, in recent times, has suffered multiple spectacular lapses in giving actionable intelligence.
In the Union Budget 2022-23, the Intelligence Bureau received one of its highest allocations of Rs 3,168 crore. This was an increase of 125% since 2016-17 when it was allocated Rs 1,410 crore. In 2021-22, IB was allocated Rs 2,839.24 crore and in 2020-21, the amount stood at Rs 2,575.25 crore.
The present IB chief, Arvind Kumar, who joined the agency in June 2019, and was then given a one- year extension last year, is likely to be replaced by the Prime Minister once his tenure ends.
According to officials, the protests that are happening in Bihar were the result of multiple reasons for youth anger. “In some cases, we have found that people associated with coaching centres were asking the aspirants to speak up against Agnipath in a ‘collective voice’. Whether these aspirants were asked to indulge in vandalism and arson is still being ascertained. Among the people who have been arrested for indulging in violence are students of some of these coaching institutes,” a government official, who is handling the developments in Bihar, said.
People from at least five coaching centres in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh have been arrested by the local police for circulating inflammatory messages against the Agniveer scheme.
Some of the individuals who have been identified were also a part of the protests that had taken place in Bihar in January this year against a three-year delay in the announcement of the railway recruitment results and an alleged unannounced change in the recruitment rules by the Railways.
In that protest too, which went on for four days, the aspirants had burnt Railway properties all over the state. In the recent disturbances petrol was brought to set fire to the coaches.
The Patna police had at the time named seven directors of different coaching institutes and “research centres”, all based in Bhikhana Pahari area of West Patna, for allegedly instigating their students to indulge in violence.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Saturday evening provided Y category security cover to about a dozen Bihar BJP leaders with immediate effect.
Those covered by CRPF security include two Deputy Chief Ministers, Renu Devi, Tarkishore Prasad, Sanjiv Chaurasiya, MLA from Digha in Patna, Sanjay Sarogi, MLA of Darbhanga, Harikishan Thakor, MLA from Madhubani, Vijay Khemka, Purnia, Dinesh Jaiswal, Kishanganj and Sanjay Jaiswal, MP from Bettiah.
The said decision to involve the CRPF was taken following attacks on BJP leaders and its party offices during the anti-Agnipath agitation.
Meanwhile, BJP’s allies in Bihar, JDU and HAM have declared their support for the agitators.
State BJP president, Sanjay Jaiswal, while addressing a press conference on Saturday alleged that the BJP was being targeted by the agitators even as police and administration remained silent spectators. Jaiswal, whose home too was targeted, said that the police did not resort to even lathi charge nor fired tear gas shells, giving a free hand to the agitators.
“The adminstration failed everywhere, there was no sign of government”, he alleged.
The state police has advised BJP leaders, including ministers not to move out of their houses.
The national president of the JDU, Rajiv Ranjan Singh , alias Lallan Singh, reacted sharply to the allegations by Jaiswal, and said, “Sanjay Jaiswal has lost his mental balance. He should analyse why the BJP was the target of the agitated youths and students.”
“Nitish Kumar is known for good governance and state police acted wisely on Friday. BJP leaders should not blame others for the anger of the youths and students. Ask the agitators why they targeted the BJP leaders”, he stated.