‘Following old system’: Rajnath Singh clarifies after Opposition targets Centre over caste and religion columns in Agnipath forms

The controversy erupted after it came to fore that the Agnipath application form that aspirants have been asked to fill up contain columns on religion and caste as well.

‘Following old system’: Rajnath Singh clarifies after Opposition targets Centre over caste and religion columns in Agnipath forms
Fresh row breaks out over religion and caste columns in Agnipath forms. (Photo source: IE)

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s recently-announced Agnipath scheme created yet another controversy after Opposition parties alleged that caste and religion certificates are being sought for the defence recruitment services. Questioning the Centre on whether it was interested in creating “Jaativeers” instead of “Agniveers,” AAP MP Sanjay Singh took to Twitter on Tuesday and wrote, “The Modi government’s ugly face has been revealed to the nation. Does Modi ji not consider Dalits/backward/tribals eligible for Army recruitment? For the first time in the history of India, caste is being asked in ‘Army recruitment.’ Modi ji do you want to make ‘Agniveers’ or ‘Jaativeers.’”

The controversy erupted after it came to fore that the Agnipath application form that aspirants have been asked to fill up contain columns on religion and caste as well.

Reacting to the Opposition’s allegations, Union Defence minister Rajnath Singh dismissed the allegations as rumours and said that the existing practice is being used for the recruitments under the Agnipath scheme “It’s just a rumour. Earlier system, existing since pre-independence era, is going on. No change has been made. Old system is being continued,” Singh told reporters outside Parliament.

RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly, hit out at the BJP and called RSS “the country’s largest casteist organisation.” Taking to Twitter, he said, “The BJP government of the Sangh runs away from the caste census but asks caste from the Agniveer brothers who will give their lives for the service of the country. The caste is being sought because the country’s largest casteist organisation, RSS, will later sort Agniveers on the basis of caste.”

Citing a 2013 Supreme Court order, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “In 2013, the Indian Army had submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that there is no role of caste as far as the selection process is concerned, however, there is a column for caste that is required to be filled during the recruitment process as it is an administrative or operative requirement.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Army also clarified that caste and religion columns have existed in Army recruitment forms since inception. “The requirement for aspirants to submit caste certificates and if required, religion certificates have always been there. There has not been any change to the Agniveer recruitment scheme in this regard,” Indian Army officials said.

“Religion is also required for performing last rites as per religious rituals for recruits who die during training and soldiers who die in harness,” the Army officials added.

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

Photos