Dibrugarh, June 12: Assam’s crisis-ridden tea industry today woke up to the shocking news of another tea executive being lynched by a group of irate labourers.
The victim, Mukul Dowerah, was assistant manager at Nandanmal tea estate in Dibrugarh district. He became the third garden executive to be murdered in Assam in less than two weeks. Labourers of Sapoi tea estate in Sonitpur district had lynched two managers and set fire to their bodies on May 30.
Dibrugarh police said seven labourers waylaid and killed 35-year-old Dowerah when he was returning to his office after a field visit on his motorcycle this morning.
None of Dowerah’s colleagues knew of his murder until a garden employee spotted the body lying in a pool of blood around 12.30 pm. The site where the assistant manager was slain is about 3 km from the garden office.
The police said the assailants had lost their jobs for an unspecified reason 20 days ago. An investigation revealed that they had had an argument with Dowerah this morning while demanding reinstatement.
Assistant superintendent of police (headquarters) Pradip Kar, who visited the garden, said Dowerah’s refusal to reinstate the labourers provoked the attack. The police are searching for the murderers, he added.
A platoon of the CRPF and police has been deployed in the garden, which is spread over 500 acres and is a unit of Madharkhat Tea Company, owned by C.R. Chakravarty.
The Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA) and various labour organisations have condemned the incident and expressed concern over the trend of labourers attacking garden executives. “It is a heinous crime and we condemn it strongly,” ATPA secretary Debeswar Bora said.
The ATPA plans to demand compensation from the government for Dowerah’s murder. The precedent was set by the Assam Branch of the Indian Tea Association (ABITA), which recently moved the government for compensation to the families of the two executives killed in Sapoi tea estate.
Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha general secretary Madhusudhan Khandait demanded strict punishment to the labourers who lynched Dowerah, saying killing someone was not the solution to any problem. “Any grievance should be discussed and resolved amicably,” he said.
Like deputy manager Anthony D. Unger and assistant manager Susmit Kumar Singh in Sapoi, Dowerah was the victim of labour fury over an official matter. Unger and Singh were dragged out from their bungalows and attacked with sharp weapons before being set ablaze.
Ironically, Dowerah’s murder coincided with a meeting of industry officials to discuss security arrangements in tea gardens. The meeting had been convened in accordance with a government directive.
Emerging from the meeting, chairman of the Bharatiya Cha Parishad, K.K. Saharia, accused human rights organisations of “turning a blind eye” to attacks on tea garden executives.
Taking cognisance of a petition filed by the management of Sapoi tea estate, the Assam Human Rights Commission yesterday registered a case over the twin murders in the garden. “The gruesome murder of A. Unger and S.K. Singh and the conspiracy behind the crime is undeniably a flagrant and blatant violation of human rights,” the petition said.
The commission sought reports on the incident from the deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police of Sonitpur.