Clashes broke out in Andhra Pradesh's Amalapuram town on Tuesday and a group of mob set state Transport Minister P Viswarup's house on fire over the proposed renaming of the newly-created Konaseema district as BR Ambedkar Konaseema district. Section 144 was imposed after an arson broke out when police resorted to lathi-charge at the crowd protesting outside the house of the district collector, leaving many police personnel injured.
While the ruling party blamed unnamed forces behind the arson, all opposition parties hit out at the YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy's government over its "gross failure" in controlling the situation. The state government, meanwhile, said some parties and anti-social elements instigated the violence.
A police vehicle and an educational institution's bus were also torched, while stoned was pelted at policemen.
State Home Minister Taneti Vanitha said some 20 police personnel were injured in stone-pelting by the mob while the protestors torched a school bus. Vanitha told reporters at the Secretariat here that some parties and anti-social elements apparently instigated the arson.
"It is unfortunate that over 20 police personnel sustained injuries in the incident. We will conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and bring the culprits to book," she added.
The protestors targeted Mummidivaram MLA Ponnada Satish's residence and set it on fire in the Konaseema district. "It was such a horrifying thing when a mob of 1,000-1,500 persons came and burnt our house. They were carrying petrol in bottles, which clearly indicated that they did all this intentionally," Satish said. He and his family members were, however, moved to safety.
#WATCH | MLA Ponnada Satish's house was set on fire by protestors in Konaseema district in Andhra Pradesh today, the protests were opposing the naming of the district as Dr BR Ambedkar Konaseema district pic.twitter.com/XzJskKqhz3— ANI (@ANI) May 24, 2022
They later went to the house of Transport Minister Viswarupu and torched it.
Eluru Range Deputy Inspector General of Police G Pala Raju, who rushed to Amalapuram, said they were observing restraint and trying to bring the situation under control. He said the injured police personnel were "not in danger." Trouble started when the police allegedly prevented leaders of the Konaseema Sadhana Samiti from going into the district Collector's office for submitting a memorandum against renaming the district and resorted to a lathi charge.
How did the opposition react?
The opposition parties appealed to people to observe restraint and ensure peace returned to Konaseema.
Principal opposition Telugu Desam Party, BJP, Jana Sena and Congress hit out at the government over its gross failure in controlling the Amalapuram situation.
"The arson in Konaseema, known for its peace, is unfortunate. The Home Minister made baseless allegations on a delicate issue. This is completely a failure of the government and the police," Telugu Desam chief N Chandrababu Naidu said in a statement.
Jana Sena chief K Pawan Kalyan lashed out at the Home Minister for blaming the opposition parties over the Amalapuram incidents.
"It is nothing but an effort to cover up the government's failure in maintaining law and order. The ruling party is only seeking to push the blame onto the opposition to cover its failures," Kalyan said.
State BJP president Somu Veerraju strongly condemned the incidents and blamed the government for failing to ensure peace.
"The government should take responsibility for its failure to maintain peace in Konaseema," he added.
State Congress president Sake Sailajanath too blamed the government over this.
Former Director-General of Police V Dinesh Reddy, too, found fault with the police.
"Instead of blaming, I can say it is the failure of the police. (When I was) DGP of combined AP, such incidents were never allowed to boomerang on this scale," Dinesh Reddy said in a social media post.
He recalled that he worked as SP of the erstwhile East Godavari district for a long period and the people of Konaseema were found to be peace-loving. "I am shocked at the turn of events," he added.
Name change fiasco
On April 4, the new Konaseema district was carved out of the erstwhile East Godavari.
Last week, the state government issued a preliminary notification seeking to rename Konaseema as B R Ambedkar Konaseema district and invited objections, if any, from the people.
Viswarupu said the proposal to rename the new district was based on the demand raised by all political parties.
Against this backdrop, the Konaseema Sadhana Samiti objected to the proposed renaming of the district and wanted the name Konaseema retained.
The Samiti organised a protest on Tuesday and sought to submit a memorandum to the district Collector Himanshu Shukla against the renaming.
Police tried to foil the protest, which apparently infuriated the protestors and eventually all hell broke loose in the otherwise quiet town.
(with inputs from PTI)