More than 1,000 persons have been arrested across India for allegedly taking part in violent protests against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme in the past five days, the Hindustan Times reported on Monday.

The police have arrested 1,238 persons in all – 805 in Bihar, 387 in Uttar Pradesh and 46 in Telangana’s Secunderabad.

Since Wednesday, protests have taken place in several states against the Agnipath scheme, which provides for short-term recruitment into the armed forces. The scheme was announced by the government on Tuesday.

The protestors are demanding permanent recruitment under the regular process as well as pension and other retirement benefits that are not a part of the Agnipath scheme.

At several places, agitators burnt and vandalised railway property, blocked train tracks and engaged in stone-pelting. In Bihar alone, 60 train coaches have been burnt and property worth about Rs 700 crore has been damaged since June 15.

The Bihar Police has filed 148 first information reports in connection with the violence. Additional Chief Home Secretary Chaitanya Prasad said that those targeting public property will not be spared. “District police have been directed to pick up the trouble mongers,” he said.

At Secunderabad, the Government Railway Police alleged that coaching institutes that train aspirants for posts in the armed forces had played an important role in instigating violence at the railway station on June 17, The Hindu reported.

Superintendent of Police B Anuradha claimed that several agitated aspirants were told by coaching centres to protest at railway stations to draw the Union government’s attention.

The protests were organised through WhatsApp groups on June 16, Anuradha alleged. “The WhatsApp groups were named Railway Station Block, Hakimpet Army Soldiers, Chalo Secunderabad ARO 3, Indian Army, Army GD 2021 March rally, CEC Soldiers and Soldiers To Die,” she said. “They circulated messages on how to target railway stations, and executed the plan.”

On Sunday, the defence ministry said that Agnipath aspirants will have to pledge that they did not take part in any violence, arson or protests against the scheme before joining the armed forces.

“Every individual will give a certificate that they were not part of protest or vandalism,” Lieutenant General Anil Puri, additional secretary, the department of military affairs said. “Police verification is 100%, no one can join without that.”