At least 15 policemen were injured today when a stir by Kapu community members seeking reservation under Backward Class category turned violent as the agitators went on rampage, set four coaches of Ratnachal Express on fire at Tuni station and blocked the national highway-16 in East Godavari district.
The protesters withdrew the blockade on the national highway, connecting Kolkata and Chennai, late tonight. “...the protest was withdrawn... (Kapu) community members earlier damaged public and railway properties,” said a police officer attached with Tuni police station, adding that traffic movement was back to normal.
A South Central Railway spokesperson said seven trains were cancelled, four others partially cancelled and six diverted on the Vijayawada-Rajahmundry-Visakhapatnam section due to the protest.
Earlier, the agitators, gathered at Tuni to attend a public meeting addressed by their leader and former minister Mudragada Padmanabh, pelted the engine of the train with stones and also attacked police personnel, before ransacking the railway station. Some bogies were also set ablaze. However, no passenger was injured in the incident as they had alighted from the train before it was set on fire.
A total of 15 policemen, including a senior district police officer, were injured in the violence.
The protest forced the authorities to stop all trains running between Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada stations, causing a huge inconvenience to passengers. Road traffic on national highway 16 was also disrupted due to the protests.
Reacting to the incident, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said he was committed to reservation for the community. “I am committed for the reservation for Kapu community for which a Judicial Commission was also constituted,” he told reporters in Vijayawada tonight.
He said reservation benefits would be extended to the community without exceeding the total reservation by 50 per cent as per the decision of the Supreme Court.
However, Padmanabh accused the Chief Minister of giving “false promises” to Kapus on their inclusion in BC category. “Let the CM realise the gravity of the situation,” he had said addressing the rally.
The agitators also damaged police vehicles in the area and set ablaze at least two of them.
State Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) R P Thakur told PTI: “They have set on fire four bogies of the train, besides damaging some police vehicles and torching two. Our people are trying to control the situation. Additional forces have been rushed to the spot.”
According to a senior police officer from East Godavari district, the situation was under control and peaceful and additional forces have been deployed to maintain law and order.
He said the protesters attacked Tuni (Rural) police station and damaged four police vehicles, besides some private vehicles.
South Central Railway General Manager Ravindra Gupta tonight held a disaster control meeting with the higher officials in Hyderabad.
With several trains being regulated at various stations on the Vijayawada-Rajahmundry-Visakhapatnam section, the SCR officials are making arrangements to provide food and water to passengers and attend to their medical needs.
Additional RPF personnel have been deployed to provide security to railway passengers.