The imams of at least 24 mosques in Kanpur, on Friday asked people to encourage their children to join the Indian armed forces through the new Agnipath recruitment scheme. They issued the appeal during a pre-prayer talk on how a stint in the armed forces would benefit young people and the community at large. The imams also issued similar messages on social media.

The campaign was spearheaded by the Association of Muslim Professionals, which works in field of education, and the Sunni Ulema Council.

“I told everyone we should not be part of any controversy. People are protesting and people are supporting this scheme. It is for the government to deal with it. For us the bottom-line is this scheme gives a good opportunity to young people,” said Haji Mohammad Salees, convenor of the Sunni Ulema Council, who insisted that the message wasn’t political.

“You will be serving the motherland; you have to display your strength and valour for the country. You should not become stone-pelters,” he added.

His comments come against the backdrop of widespread protests last week over the scheme in many parts of India, even as the government announced that a certain proportion of the intake of central armed police forces, and some state-owned enterprises would be from those Agniveers (as those who are recruited under the scheme are called) who are not absorbed into the force after their four-year stint.

The Agnipath scheme, which was unveiled on June 14 to induct the youth between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 years for a four-year tenure, triggered violent protests across the nation last week amid criticism about the length of service and the lack of pension provisions for those released early.

The Modi government later announced several measures as means to reassure protesters, such as a 10% reservation in job vacancies for Agniveers, age relaxation and expanded recruitment of women sailors for the Navy from the scheme.

The longest speech was delivered at Nanapara mosque where Maulana Meraj Ashrafi said the Agnipath scheme was for everyone across religions. The community must avail itself of this opportunity, especially because it complains that options are limited for young people, he added. .

“Earlier, we used not to apply for variety of reasons. We lacked awareness and information, now we have both,” Ashrafi said.

Former corporator Mohammad Aslam said his grandson has completed high school this year and wants to join the Indian Army.

“Maybe, he will apply next year as he is underage; I am happy with his decision,” he said.

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