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Violence in Andhra as Kapus launch stir for quota

Large-scale violence broke out in Andhra Pradesh, Tuni town on Sunday as protesters demanding reservation for Kapu caste set afire eight coaches of Ratnachal Express, two police stations and at least 25 vehicles. They even blocked the national highway 16. The passengers of the train were left unharmed. But at least 15 policemen were injured in a stone pelting incident.

The community has been demanding inclusion of their caste into the Backward Class (BC) list, ANI reported. Kapu leader M Padmanabham, however, late night today announced the withdrawal of the road block in Tuni till 4 pm tomorrow. Since afternoon, all trains between Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam and the vehicular traffic on Chennai-Kolkata national highway came to a halt as thousands of protesters squatted on the tracks and the highway.

The violence broke out around 3 pm today, during a massive public meeting organised by Kapu State Committee at Tuni, a town around 100 km from Visakhapatnam. Kapu leaders declared that they will not leave the tracks and highways till the government met their demand.

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.

A railway official said no one was injured in the incident but the passengers including women and children ran in panic. The protesters later attacked Tuni railway station and ransacked the furniture. Four railway employees were injured. Dozens of trains were stopped at various stations in coastal Andhra due to the violence and the presence of protesters on the track. With the situation going out of control, additional forces were rushed to the region. Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu called an emergency meeting of his cabinet colleagues and top officials in Vijayawada.

Ex-MP of Kakinada, Mudragada Padmanabham had earlier today called a public meeting demanding Kapu community to be included in the Backward Class category. Lakhs of members from the community gathered at the venue in Tuni of Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. N Chandrababu Naidu had earlier promised Backward Class status to Kapu community if he was chosen to power.

Trouble began soon after M Padmanabham, a senior leader Kapu leader, announced at the public meeting that they will not tolerate any further delay. "We will not move from highways and tracks till the government issues an order," he said amid loud cheers from tens of thousands who had gathered from different parts of the state. The Kapu leaders were angry with the ruling TDP for not implementing its poll promise to include Kapus in BC list.

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