Visakhapatnam: Violent protests erupted in Andhra Pradesh's East Godavari district on Sunday as thousands of protestors from Kapu community seeking quota benefits under Backward Class (BC) category went on a rampage, setting ablaze at least six compartments of Ratnachal Express, two police stations and blocked highways and railway lines.
At least 15 policemen were also reportedly injured in the incident.
The protestors also set afire a police station in Tuni, a town in East Godavari district, about 100 km from Visakhapatnam.
All trains between Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam and the vehicular traffic on Chennai-Kolkata national highway came to a halt as thousands of protestors squatted on the tracks and the highway.
Meanwhile, Kapu leader M. Padmanabham on Sunday night announced that he was withdrawing the protest.
The mobs went on a rampage in the town -- about 100 km from Visakhapatnam -- in East Godavari district and sat on rail tracks and the national highway, bringing to a halt the movement of trains and vehicles between Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam.
The protesters set afire rural and urban police stations and 25 vehicles. Fifteen police personnel, including two officers, and four railway employees were injured in the attacks by protesters.
All trains between Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam and vehicular traffic on the Chennai-Kolkata national highway came to a halt as thousands of protesters squatted on the tracks and the highway.
Padmanabham on Sunday night announced that he was withdrawing the protest, but gave an ultimatum to the state government to issue orders by Monday evening to include Kapus in the list of backward classes. He threatened to launch a 'fast-unto-death'.
The violence broke out around 3 p.m. during a massive public meeting organised by the Kapu State Committee at Tuni.
Kapu leaders declared that they will not leave the rail tracks and highways till the government issues an order to meet their demand.
Soon the protesters marched towards the tracks and stopped the Visakhapatnam-Vijayawada Ratnachal Express near Tuni railway station.
They attacked the engine and set afire bogies after ordering passengers to get down.
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 the Tuni railway station and ransacked the furniture. Four railway employees were injured.
Railways cancelled 14 trains between Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam and partially cancelled several others. Many trains were also diverted.
With the situation going out of control, additional forces were rushed to the region. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu termed the violence "pre-planned".
He said the government was committed to include Kapus in the backward classes list but the orders can be issued after a detailed study.
Naidu said some political parties were instigating people for their narrow interests. He appealed to people to maintain peace.
Trouble began soon after Padmanabham 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 the backward classes list.