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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Explained: The row over renaming Andhra’s Koonaseema that triggered violent protests

Andhra Pradesh's Amalapuram city saw widespread clashes and arson over the state government's bid to rename the newly crafted Konaseema district after B R Ambedkar. What led to the protests? Why has the state government proposed a new name?

Written by Sreenivas Janyala , Edited by Explained Desk | Hyderabad |
Updated: May 26, 2022 1:54:39 pm
Protesters set ablaze police vehicles, buses and even the house of ruling YSRCP MLA from Munnidivaram, P Satish. (Express/Sourced)

Andhra Pradesh’s Amalapuram city Tuesday saw widespread clashes and arson over the state government’s bid to rename the newly crafted Konaseema district after B R Ambedkar.

Protesters set ablaze police vehicles, buses and even the house of ruling YSRCP MLA from Munnidivaram, P Satish. The mob also targeted the house of Transport Minister P Viswarup, setting furniture kept outside on fire. After the clashes, curfew was imposed in Konaseema to bring the situation under control.

What led to the protests?

The Andhra Pradesh government last month reorganised 13 districts and created 13 new ones taking the number of districts in the state to 26.

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During this drill, Konaseema district was carved out of the former East Godavari district. In the second week of May, the state government issued a notification saying that on popular demand, it will rename the district after Dr B R Ambedkar. Dr B R Ambedkar Konaseema district was the new name proposed, and objections were invited to the proposal with a month’s deadline. In response, several local organisations, including the Konaseema Parirakshana Samithi, the Konaseema Sadhana Samiti and the Konaseema Udyama Samiti, started staging protests against the renaming proposal. They argued that the area has been known as Konaseema since long, and the government should let the name be.

Name game

The Andhra government has maintained that the decision to rename Konaseema after Dr B R Ambedkar was taken after requests from the district’s “large SC population”. However, non-SC groups, which are leading the protests, want the tourist region’s “traditional name” to be retained.

Where is Konaseema?

Konaseema region is a scenic delta with a group of small islands nestled between the Godavari river’s four tributaries just before they enter the Bay of Bengal. It is often compared with Kerala’s backwaters due to the coconut groves, lush green fields, small lakes, and the canals dotting the region. It has its own cuisine, and the resorts along the Godavari and its tributaries offer houseboat accommodation along with watersports on the placid waters.

The violence on Tuesday broke out after thousands of protestors tried to barge into the district collector’s complex. (Express Photo)

Why did the state government propose a new name?

In April, the state government created the new Konaseema district with the two revenue divisions of Amalapuram and Ramachandrapuram from the former East Godavari district.

Amalapuram, a reserved Lok Sabha seat, was made the district headquarters.

Out of the Amalapuram Parliamentary constituency’s seven Assembly segments, three – Razole, Gannavaram, and Amalapuram Assembly seats – are reserved.

After the new district was formed, several Dalit organisations requested the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy-led state government that considering the large SC population here, the new district should be named after Dr B R Ambedkar. On May 18, the state government issued a notification and invited objections and suggestions from people living in the Konaseema region within 30 days. However, the proposal did not go down well with residents of other castes in the area who started demanding that the traditional name – Konaseema – be retained.

As police used batons and fired into the air to disperse the crowd, the protesters responded by pelting stones. (Express Photo)

What led to the violence?

Protestors belonging to several organisations opposed to renaming the district held protests and then took out a rally in the morning to the district collector’s office at Amalapuram.

When the protesters tried to enter the DC’s office, police lathicharged to disperse the mob. Initially, this led to mild stone-pelting. As the mob swelled, the protests spread to other parts of Amalapuram. By the evening, protesters and police were involved in fierce clashes. Stones and sticks were thrown at the cops, injuring several among them. The protesters then turned their ire on ruling YSRCP leaders and targeted the houses of Transport minister P Viswarup and YSRCP MLA from Mummidivaram, P Satish. Police had to fire in the air to disperse the mob. Curfew was imposed in the new district later at night.

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