Fierce clashes and arson broke out in Andhra Pradesh’s Amalapuram city on Tuesday as protesters rallied against the government’s move to rename the newly created Konaseema district after Dr B R Ambedkar.
The protesters set fire to the house of ruling YSRCP MLA from Mummidivaram, P Satish, and also burnt furniture kept outside Transport Minister P Viswarup’s home, police said.
Konaseema SP K Subba Reddy told The Indian Express the protesters also set fire to police vehicles and buses.
“Several police personnel have been injured. We are showing restraint while trying to bring the violence under control,” he said.
The violence on Tuesday broke out after thousands of protestors tried to barge into the district collector’s complex.
As police used batons and fired into the air to disperse the crowd, the protesters responded by pelting stones.
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.
Carved out of the East Godavari district, Konaseema is among the 13 new districts announced by the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government in April.
Trouble began earlier this month when the government announced to rename the district after Dr B R Ambedkar. It said the decision was taken keeping in mind the district’s “large SC population”.
Konaseema’s headquarters, Amalapuram, where the clashes erupted on Tuesday, is an SC-reserved Parliamentary constituency.
However, the protesters, led by groups such as the Konaseema Parirakshana Samithi, the Konaseema Sadhana Samiti and the Konaseema Udyama Samiti have demanded the tourist region’s “traditional name” be retained.
Nestled between the Bay of Bengal and the tributaries of the Godavari River, Koonaseema’s backwaters are often compared to Kerala’s.
Transport Minister Viswarup has, however, blamed the protests on the opposition Telugu Desam Party.
“The state government renamed Konaseema as Ambedkar district while agreeing to requests as a large population of the district belongs to the SC community. But the TDP has instigated these protests to cause disturbances,” he said.
The government’s advisor on public affairs, Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, said that the renaming had been ordered after “careful consideration of the composition of the population” and after demands from locals.
“It is unfortunate that divisive forces have turned this into an issue,” he added.
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