TUNI (AP): A massive protest demanding the inclusion of the Kapus in the backward communities’ list turned violent on Sunday with agitators setting ablaze coaches of the Vijayawada-bound Ratnachal Express and two police stations here in East Godavari district.
Taking a leaf out of the book of the Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan, thousands of Kapus, led by former minister Mudragada Padmanabham, blocked roads and rail traffic between Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada on NH16 for several hours since 4 pm. As part of the protest called Kapu Ikya Garjana, several thousands of people stormed the Tuni railway station and blocked the Ratnachal Express. Some of them pelted stones at the train’s engine, overpowered four railways staffers and injured them. Things suddenly got out of hand when the protesters set the train on fire and the passengers hurried out panicking.
At the same time, a group of protesters proceeded to the Tuni rural police station and set on fire the building and several police vehicles parked in the compound. Later, the agitators burned the Tuni urban police station also. Police and fire and rescue personnel could not reach the spot on time as the routes to the spots of violence were already blocked by the agitators. The entire area was burning till late in the evening.
Earlier, addressing Kapu Ikya Garjana, attended by thousands of Kapus, Mudragada blamed Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu for the backwardness of Kapus, who make 27 per cent of the State’s population. He demanded to know what happened to the TDP chief’s election promises of including Kapus in the backward communities’ list and sanctioning Rs 1,000 crore per year for their development. “He had said he would see to it that Kapus are included in the BC list in six months, but it has been 18 months and there is no development in that direction. It was that delay and reluctance to keep the promises that have brought all of us here today,” he said.
Accusing the Naidu government of trying to create obstacles to the meeting by denying school buses, RTC buses, places to cook, interrupting power and drinking water supply, the former minister said, “It is time to confront Naidu. I want you to travel with me and not rest till our goal is achieved. Our action plan starts now. Let’s block roads and trains and not leave till our goal is achieved,” he told the crowd assembled in a coconut grove on the outskirts of Tuni.
“Our elders say that Kapus were part of backward communities in the British era. From 1910 to 1956, Kapus were part of backward communities, and, in 1956, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy made them OCs. However, in 1961, stating that Kapus are economically backward and there is need for reservation for them, then Chief Minister Damodar Sanjeevaiah issued an order including them in the backward communities’ list. The order was in force till 1966, when Chief Minister K Brahmananda Reddy removed Kapus from the backward communities’ list,” Padmanabham said.
DGP J V Ramudu and other police officials from neighbouring districts are closely monitoring the situation and additional forces have been deployed to Tuni. High alert has been sounded and security tightened across the State.