The regiment system in the armed forces will be retained even after recruitment under the Centre’s new Agnipath scheme is done, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval said on Tuesday, ANI reported.

“The concept of regiments... Nobody is tinkering with it,” he said in an interview with the news agency. “If there were regiments, then there will be regiments of artillery, electrical or mechanical engineers or mechanical engineers. They will continue...The regimental system has not ended.”

Doval’s comment came amid apprehensions that the new short-term recruitment scheme would alter the demography of regiments that induct soldiers from specific regions or castes.

The national security advisor added that only two or three caste-based regiments were left in India and described the system as a “colonial legacy”.

“Britishers wanted that nothing should be pan-India,” he said. “They wanted to divide the people into sections so that they represent particular areas or sects so that there is no national perspective left among the soldiers...”

Under the Agnipath scheme that was announced on June 14, citizens aged between 17-and-a-half and 21 years will be eligible to apply. Of these recruits, 25% will be eligible to apply as regular personnel after they complete their four-year service.

Since June 15, violent protests have taken place in several states against the recruitment plan. 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.

Agitators burnt and vandalised railway property, blocked train tracks and clashed with officials. At least 1,238 persons have been arrested across India for allegedly taking part in these protests. While 805 arrests were made in Bihar, 387 people were arrested in Uttar Pradesh and 46 in Telangana’s Secunderabad.

On Tuesday, Doval told ANI that there was no question of rolling back the scheme.

“This [Agnipath scheme] is not a kneejerk reaction that has come overnight,” Doval said. “This has been discussed and debated for decades.”

On being asked about the protests against the scheme, Doval said that while raising voice was allowed in a democracy, vandalism and violence will not be tolerated.

On Sunday, Lieutenant General Anil Puri, an additional secretary in the Department of Military Affairs, had said that Agnipath aspirants will have to pledge that they did not take part in any violence, arson or protests against the government.

If aspirants are found to have first information reports registered against them, then the defence ministry will not recruit them, Puri had said.