A flash protest by the Kapu community in Andhra Pradesh for their inclusion in the backward classes list turned violent on Sunday with protesters setting a train on fire, damaging a railway station and two police stations and blocking rail and road traffic.
The movement of trains between Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam and vehicular traffic on the Chennai-Kolkata national highway came to a halt as thousands of protestors squatted on the tracks and the road in east Godavari district in coastal Andhra.
The trouble began at Tuni during a public meeting of the community when a Kapu leader announced that they would sit on railway tracks and roads till the state government issues an order including them in the list.
The protesters soon fanned out and stopped the Ratnachal Express near Tuni. They damaged the engine and later set afire empty bogies as passengers escaped in panic.
They also attacked the Tuni railway station and ransacked the office. Four railway employees were injured in the incident.
Fifteen policemen, including two deputy superintendents of police, also sustained injuries. Two police stations and 25 vehicles were set afire.
CM N Chandrababu Naidu called an emergency meeting of top officials in Vijayawada to review the situation. He directed the police to rush additional forces for protection of public property.
Terming the incidents unfortunate, he said the violence appeared to be “pre-planned”. Naidu said the government was ready to issue an order to include Kapus in the Backward Classes list. Railway officials also held meetings with Kapu leaders, requesting them to end the protest on tracks as several trains had to be stopped.
Late on Sunday evening, Kapu leader Padmanabham announced that they were withdrawing their agitation. He, however, said that if the government failed to respond to their demand by Monday evening, he will sit on an indefinite fast.
After Padmanabham’s announcement, protestors began vacating railway tracks and national highway at Tuni while authorities were making arrangements to resume rail and road traffic.
Railways have cancelled 14 trains between Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam and partially cancelled or diverted several other trains.