Hyderabad: As the agitation against the Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy government’s decision to move the capital out of Amaravati continued for a 31st day, the Andhra Pradesh High Court came down heavily on the state police’s crackdown against women protesters.

Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy’s proposal to decentralise the capital at three places across the Indian state has triggered massive protests, especially in the Amaravati region, and thousands of farmers, women and other sections were out on the roads to oppose the idea.

Several organisations including those of advocates have moved petitions before the High Court questioning indiscriminate arrests, use of force against women and enforcement of prohibitory orders under section 144.

During the hearing of the petition on Friday, a division bench of headed by Chief Justice J.K. Maheshwari expressed its displeasure over the arrest of women agitators by male police.

“Why are male police officers arresting women? Why are women being crushed under the boots of the police?,” the judges questioned the advocate-general of the state.

The court also questioned the imposition of section 144 in the villages around Amarvati city and wanted to know the reason behind it.

Coming down heavily on the curbs imposed by the police on peaceful demonstrations by the villagers and the conducting of a Flag March by the police, the judges asked the advocate-general to explain whether a curfew was imposed in the area.

The court also wanted to know the reason behind the arrest of 610 protesters in Vijayawada.

The AG told the court that restrictions under section 144 and rule 30 of the Police Act were imposed fearing the breach of peace due to the agitation.

“All necessary steps were taken to maintain law and order in and around Amaravati”, the AG said and sought some time to file an affidavit before the court.

The division bench take up further hearing of the case on Monday.

The court has also issued notices to the top officials of Krishna, Guntur rural and Guntur urban districts as well as the police commissioner of Vijayawada seeking a reply on the police crackdown on agitators specially the women.

The government was facing stiff opposition to its plans from various mass organisations as well as the opposition parties including TDP, BJP, Jana Sena and the left parties on the ground that the location of different functions of capital at different places will create serious problems and hamper normal functioning of administration.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister YS Jagan has ordered the cabinet meet to Saturday to discuss the capital plans. Earlier he had convened the cabinet meet on Monday but now it will be held two days in advance.

The main opposition Telugu Desam Party of N Chandrababu Naidu, which was in the forefront of the agitation has urged the Centre to intervene and stall any move to trifurcate the capital.

Party leader Nara Lokesh Naidu took part in a bike rally on Friday organised by the political joint action committee. CPI secretary K Narayana also took part in the protest along with other leaders.

Another TDP leader P. Keshav questioned how the state government can announce the plans to shift state High Court from Amaravati to Kurnool when the matters comes under the purview of the Centre.