The Centre, on Tuesday, slammed Opposition parties for spreading “rumours” over caste and religion-based recruitment in the Indian Army, under the newly launched Agnipath scheme. Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has categorically dismissed the charges, saying that no changes have been made to the system, and that the caste and religion sections are not new additions for recruitment into the army.
“It’s just a rumour. The system, existing since the pre-independence era, is still the same. No changes have been made. The old system is being continued,” said Rajnath Singh. The controversy erupted after many Opposition leaders including Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh from the Aam Aadmi Party, and Leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Tejashwi Yadav shared the screenshot of the Indian Army’s new recruitment notification under the Agnipath scheme, highlighting the caste and religion-based sections in the application.
Sharing the screenshot on Twitter, AAP’s Sanjay Singh has alleged that the “cheap face of Modi government” has come out in front of the country by asking the caste and religion of army aspirants. “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 you have to make ‘Agniveer’ or ‘Jaativeer’,” tweeted the AAP leader.
RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav also jumped into the controversy and said that the RSS-led central government is asking about the caste of the recruits since it is the country’s biggest casteist organisation that would later sort out the Agniveers on the same basis.
In the new notification for the various posts in the Indian Army under the Agnipath scheme, the two requirements have been mentioned as:
Cast Certificate: Caste Certificate affixed with photograph of the candidate issued by the Tehsildar/District Magistrate.
Religion Certificate: Religion Certificate to be issued by the Tehsildar/ SDM (if religion as “SIKH/ HINDU/ MUSLIM/ CHRISTIAN” is not mentioned in caste certificate).
Urging the Centre to clarify the matter, Janata Dal (United) leader Upendra Kushwaha also asked that if there are no reservations under the Agnipath scheme then what is the need to ask for caste and religion certificates for recruitment.
Does The Indian Army Recruit Based On Caste And Religion?
Giving a reply to a PIL filed by a doctor from Haryana in 2013, the Indian Army categorically denied discrimination on the grounds of religion, caste, birth and sex in the recruitment process. Religion and caste sections for recruitment in the army are supposedly for administrative and operational purposes, and have no role in the selection process.
The army further stated in its reply that certain regiments are organised on the lines of classification because social, cultural and linguistic homogeneity has been observed to be a force multiplier as a battle winning factor.
According to the Indian Army, several regiments such as the Dogra, Garhwal Rifles, and the Madras Regiment are not defined by caste and religion, but by region. They further clarified that all aspirants are eligible for enrolment into the army.