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 rural and urban 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.
Addressing Kapu Ikya Garjana that was 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 `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 promises that 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 plans 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.
View the pictures here: Quota Stir in AP: Kapu Activists Burn Ratnachal Express
“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.
Tuni: After keeping the State administration on tenterhooks launching a Rasta Roko and Rail Roko protest that threw public life out of gear for five hours, former minister and Kapu leader Mudragada Padmanabham called off the stir on Sunday night. He demanded Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu to make an announcement over the issue of sanctioning BC status to Kapus by Monday evening. Even as Chief Minister Naidu was addressing mediapersons in Vijayawada over the Tuni incident and Kapu reservations issue, Padmanabham announced his decision to call off the road blockade.
WHO’S MUDRAGADA PADMANABHAM?
He’s a much-travelled Kapu politician who was a minister in the N T Rama Rao government. He threw away his job then and emerged a hero of the Kapus
THE KAPU CONUNDRUM
Having simmered for a while, the Kapu agitation for quotas has suddenly become the number one issue in Andhra Pradesh and threatens Chandrababu Naidu’s best laid plans
Who Are They?
The Kapus are an amalgam of four related castes or sub-castes: Kapus, Telagas, Ontaris and Balijas
What Do They Want?
Inclusion in the list of Backward Classes so that they can access job and education quotas
Why Are They Crucial?
They are 27 per cent of the population of AP and are uniformly spread all over the bifurcated State. That makes them politically vital to any party’s victory
Why Flare Up Now?
Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu promised to extend quotas to them. But other groups already in the BC list oppose it because their share of the quota would shrink
What Has Naidu Done?
Set up a commission to examine how to make the process litigation-proof
WHAT’S THE POLITICAL CALCULUS?
The Naidu government’s vital ally, actor Pawan Kalyan, is a Kapu. He can decisively swing the vote away from Naidu
The Kapu vote is much sought after by the Congress, BJP and YSRC
If the Kapus are brought into the BC list, it might trigger a division of the Backward Class vote, which accounts for about 48 per cent of the population
A fission of the BC vote bank would bring about tectonic changes in AP’s politics
Extra Forces Rushed to Tuni to Ensure Law & Order
Additional forces were rushed to Tuni in neighbouring East Godavari district, with ‘Kapu Ikya Garjana’ turning violent, with agitators setting ablaze Vijayawada-bound Ratnachal Express, Rural and Urban police stations of Tuni.
A group of 300 police personnel, including armed reserve and civil police were rushed to Tuni to bring the situation under control. Additional forces from other districts are also being deployed at Tuni. SP Bhaskar Bhushan has put district police on high alert and asked them to ensure that no untoward incident happens in West Godavari. According to sources, near about 40,000 people belonging to Kapu community went to Tuni to attend ‘Kapu Ikya Garjana’ organised by former minister Mudragada Padmanabham.
Meanwhile, many people got stranded at Eluru Railway station, with several trains bound to different places in both directions regulated at different railway stations in view of rail roko and following violence at Tuni. Though railway officials and railway police personnel have asked them to look for other alternatives, with even highway blocked, the passengers had no choice but to stay put at the railway station.
A group of people mostly youth, who participated in the Kapu meet split from the body, that proceeded to block road and railway traffic, went to Tuni Rural Police Station and set afire the police station and several police vehicles. Meanwhile, DGP JV Ramudu and other police higher officials are closely monitoring the situation and deployed additional forces at Tuni.
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