Kapus Protest in Andhra Pradesh: Facts You Need to Know

Kapus Protest

Kapus Protest

The caste system in India has existed for ages, ever since Aryans came and settled down over here. In the beginning it was supposed to be occupational. It was not related to one’s family. One was not a Brahman or Shudra by birth but by occupation and there was no forbidding a king’s son from becoming a monk or vice versa. However, later on, owing to the actions of majority of Brahmanic community and the others’ unshakable faith on them as messengers of god this became linked to birth and family and people were soon being discriminated for or against on the basis of the same.

Even during the Independence Movement there were plenty of debates regarding the same between Gandhi and BR Ambedkar. After Independence, caste-based reservations were introduced in various governmental institutions and professions. Ever since caste has been a major thorn in India’s flesh with the latest death of Rohit Vemula – as well as several caste-based riots in between – being an ideal expression of how cancerous the whole issue has become. The recent incident at Tuni in Andhra Pradesh with members of Kapu community setting ablaze a train and then pillaging the nearby railway station only underlines the trend in India whereby several castes, who are not regarded as backward, are now looking to be included as backward castes.

Who are Kapus? What do they want?

Kapus are a community that resides primarily in the coastal parts of Andhra Pradesh and comprises 23.4% of the population over there. Ever since 1960, when the OBC (other backward classes) status was revoked they have been asking to be included in the same, perhaps because of the benefit such a status entails. In the general elections of 2014, they had voted for the Telugu Desam Party following Naidu’s promise that they would be included in the said category. However, it was only in January 2016 that a panel was established to look into their demands.

The main grouse of Kapus, according to their leader Mudragadda Padmanabham, is that they have been used as vote banks by respective governments and their demands have never been met. However, admittedly, they have had enough and now they want to end this trail of injustice being meted out to them. They have also said that till the time their demands are met they will continue to block railway tracks and highways. They are very clear about their role in TDP winning the last elections and now wish to get what they think is due to them.

What are they planning to do next?

Following the incidents of 31st January when they burnt many coaches of a train and damaged 25 vehicles, and also injured more than 19 people, including 15 police officers and four railway officials, the Kapus have withdrawn their agitation. However, Padmanabham had also issued an ultimatum to the state government to fulfill Kapus’ demands by the evening of 1st February, failing which he would undertake a fast to death.

What does the government plan to do to stop the crisis?

Chandrababu Naidu, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, has meanwhile asked the Kapus to refrain from violence. He has said that a judicial committee has been set up to look into their demands and it is presently working on the same. He has further stated that this is something that his government has promised and will fulfill in the days ahead. This is the reason why he sees no reason for any violence as has happened in the last few days. In the same vein, he has also appealed to the other communities to maintain peace. It was basically his assurance that led the Kapus to do away with their agitation for the time being. Security has also been beefed up at places in order to ensure that there is no repeat of the incidents of 31st January.

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