The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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31 held for tea-garden violence

Jalpaiguri, April 5: Thirtyone people were arrested in a raid at Changmari tea garden at Nagracata near here this morning on charges of inciting violence on February 22 that resulted in the death of three workers in police retaliatory fire.

Around 5.30 am today, a huge police contingent led by Malbazar sub-divisional police officer Joy Biswas arrived at the tea garden at Nagracata to round up the people alleged to be among those who had incited a mob to attack the police. The raid comes more than a month after the incident in which 16 police personnel were seriously injured.

“Police personnel had gone to the tea garden on February 22 in search of those involved in a clash between two gangs early that month. Tea garden labourers resisted and a clash ensued. A mob attacked the police leading to the firing and deaths,” Biswas said.

But residents alleged that police ransacked huts and many more men than the police claim had been rounded up. “The police were very brutal in their action. As many as 72 men have been picked up by them,” said Amar Nath Jha, one of those wanted by police, over phone.

Fearing police atrocities, many villagers have fled their homes. They alleged that the police are in league with Citu leaders in terrorising tea workers. Local CPM leaders refuted the charge.

“It is the policeman’s job to go out and look for criminal elements. We have no specific information that houses in the village have been ransacked,” said the CPM’s Nagracata zonal committee secretary, Ashu Sarkar.

Biswas, too, emphasised that no houses had been damaged in what he claimed was a “routine raid”. The Malbazar sub-divisional police officer said those who were arrested had been sent to the Jalpaiguri court for remand.

Jalpaiguri police superintendent Siddh Nath Gupta said, in all, 53 men were wanted in connection with the February 22 violence. “These men were involved in attacking the police and trying to burn their vehicles and they have been charged for these criminal acts,” Gupta said.

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