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Militants spill tea beans
- Calcutta company named in payoff
Arrested National Democratic Front of Boroland rebels Sunil Brahma and Indramohan Basumatary alias David Waris being produced in court in Guwahati. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati/Calcutta, May 7: Two members of a Northeast militant outfit today named a Calcutta-based tea company as having paid them a “donation”.

The two leaders of a rebel group of Assam — the National Democratic Front of Boroland — said: “We collected money from McNeil and Magor.”

Sunil Brahma and Indramohan Basumatary alias David Warris were arrested in Calcutta last week and brought today to Guwahati where they were produced in court.

Talking to reporters while leaving the court, Brahma said they went to Calcutta to collect money from some companies. “We met a senior official of McNeil and Magor, Mr Ambuken, on April 29,” he said.

McNeil and Magor, which had gardens in Assam, is a company that does not exist any more. The Indian and British partners that used to own the company have split and formed separate entities — Williamson Magor and George Williamson, which is under British ownership.

The Bodo militants, if they are telling the truth, are obviously not aware of the corporate changes that have overtaken McNeil and Magor.

P.K. Gangulee, director of George Williamson, said: “I don’t want to discuss this matter with anyone, including the reference the Bodos have made about Ambuken. If you want any comment, speak to our chairman in London.”

The Bodo leaders said the meeting with the tea official took place on a Calcutta road.

R.S. Jhawar, director of Williamson Magor, said: “We have always followed a policy of keeping the government informed of any developments which should be reported to them. We have made no payments to anyone. George Williamson and Williamson Magor have separated and we have nothing to do with each other’s operations. As for Ambuken, he is not part of our group.”

This is the second time that a tea company’s name has been mentioned in connection with payment of protection money to militants in the Northeast.

In 1997, Assam police had accused Tata Tea of funding the United Liberation Front of Asom.

When asked whether they had met any Tata Tea official in Calcutta, Brahma replied in the negative.

Basumatary said their colleagues were entrusted with the task of collecting “donations” from other companies.

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