The stir by Kapu community members seeking reservation under Backward Class category turned violent on Sunday with agitators setting four coaches of Ratnachal Express on fire at Tuni railway station in East Godavari district, disrupting train movement on the Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam section.
However, timely intervention of railway officials ensured that no passenger suffered injuries in the incident, said Vijayawada Station Manager N Suresh Babu. He said the agitators, gathered at Tuni to attend a public meeting addressed by their leader and ex-minister Mudragada Padmanabh, pelted stones at the train and attacked some police personnel, before ransacking the railway station.
The demonstrators also blocked portion of national highway 16, bringing vehicular traffic between Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada to a halt in afternoon. According to a release issue by South Central Railway, Vijayawada-Visakhapatnam Ratnachal Express was stopped at 15.20 hours between Tuni and Hamsavaram railway stations on Rajahmundry Visakhapatnam section of Vijayawada Division by ‘Kapunadu Garjana’ agitators who sat on the track, climbed on the locomotive and damaged hose pipe/ glasses of the locomotive.
The incident forced authorities to stop all trains running between Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada stations, causing a huge inconvenience to passengers. South Central Railway CPRO M Umashankar Kumar said, “After the passengers in the coaches got down from the train, four coaches were set on fire. However, passengers are safe”. The agitators also damaged police vehicles in the area and set ablaze at least two of them.
Confirming the incident, 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 including torching two police vehicles. Our people are trying to control the situation. Additional forces have been rushed to the spot”.
According to sources, one police constable sustained injuries in stone pelting at the spot. In view of the agitation, at least 15 passenger trains running on the Vijayawada-Rajahmundry-Visakhapatnam section of Vijayawada division have been regulated. Meanwhile, Padmanabh held Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu “responsible” for the situation.
“Chandrababu is solely responsible for present situation as he has driven Kapus to streets in frustration by giving them false promises of inclusion in BC category. Let the CM realise the gravity of the situation,” Padmanabh said at the meeting.