On 31 January this year, thousands of members of the Kapu community, seeking benefits under the Backward Caste (BC) category, resorted to violence; setting a train, police station and police vehicles on fire, and blocking road and rail traffic for several hours at Tuni, in East Godavari district. The Vijayawada bound Ratnachal express was set on fire and a lot of destruction ensued in the town. While the issue cooled down after a couple of weeks, it has risen again in the past few weeks, making it evident that there are bigger forces and bigger motives at play than just the inclusion of the Kapu caste in the BC category.
In these times when extensive unrest is being caused in the state because of this issue; South Report takes a look at the sequence of events that brought the issue to this stage.
Evolution of The Kapu Reservation Issue:
The first major protest for the inclusion of the Kapus in the ‘Backward Castes’ was held in 1993; following which, a government order was then issued for their inclusion in the category. After this, despite the fact that no ruling party took any action regarding this matter, no major protests happened in this regard.
Now, two years after the Telugu Desam Party came into power, the issue rose again with the Tuni incident; which many leaders, including Nara Chandrababu Naidu, said was pre-planned and pre-meditated to create a state of unrest in Andhra Pradesh.
The Kapu leader, Mudragada Padmanabham, withdrew the protest as it had turned violent and later, on February 5; he and his wife launched an indefinite hunger strike, with the same demands. An interesting point here is that he launched the hunger strike a day or two after YSRCP leader Y S Jaganmohan Reddy announced his support to the issue.
A few weeks later, in the first week of March, the Andhra Pradesh government announced that it will look into the matter and work towards the inclusion of the Kapu caste in the BC category. After this, for more than two months, there wasn’t any buzz about it and things in the state were normal.
Now recently, in the last week of May, Mudragada Padmanabham again challenged Mr. Chandrababu Naidu regarding this issue and an interesting point to be taken into consideration here is that it was around this time that Chiranjeevi also lent his support to the issue.
And finally, on June 9, Mudragada Padmanabham started an indefinite hunger strike again and demanded the inclusion of the community in the BC category at the earliest.
Andhra Pradesh is like a new-born baby that needs to be nurtured carefully. When the two states were divided in 2014, the lion’s share of funds, resources and infrastructure automatically went to Telangana, owing to Hyderabad’s location. The state has to be built from scratch now and the ruling party is striving hard to do the same.
All these issues turning so big and violent just shows that the YSRCP is desperately trying to upset the balance of the state. What started off as a community’s demands to solve their problems, has now turned into an ugly battle of castes, with several YSRCP and Congress leaders fuelling it. The grievances of the Kapu community might be genuine and so might be their struggle but the way it has turned out, with Tuni-like incidents and turning it into an extremely political issue will affect the state in an extremely negative way.
At a time when the state needs every single person to work together and strive hard to make it prosper; Andhra Pradesh can definitely not afford to have issues like this.
The state has to prosper and everyone in the state has to contribute towards achieving that; in a united way, without being swayed by those trying to disrupt these attempts by destabilising the state.