The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mill leader missing, union ‘busy’

Serampore (Hooghly), Nov. 21: A Citu leader of a jute mill here, Ashok Singh, stepped out of his coolie lines home for sweetmeats before dinner last Saturday. He is missing since.

The Citu leadership at India Jute Mill, 30 km from Calcutta, is too caught up with the union’s state conference to look into Singh’s disappearance. “We are busy with our conference in Calcutta. We have come to know that Ashok is missing and will inquire into it,” said Dilip Chatterjee, the district Citu secretary. The police have begun a probe. The leaders said they would conduct an independent investigation.

Family members said Singh had left home around 10 pm on November 15 with Rs 3 in his pocket to buy sweets. His wife became worried when he did not return till 1 am. “I thought my husband was watching cricket on TV at the local club. After 1 am, I sent one of my sons in search of him,” said Sikha.

Singh’s eight-year-old son Amit went looking for him. He visited the neighbours and the club but his father wasn’t there. The next morning, a nervous Sikha went to the Citu office of the jute mill in adjacent Dharmadanga and told secretary Shibu Belel that Singh was missing.

Belel claimed that he had seen him the previous night but could not say if it was after 10 pm. Sikha’s search continued. On November 17, she lodged a diary at the police station.

“We have spoken to various people at the jute mill and outside,” said Bijoy Haldar, the inspector-in-charge of Serampore police station. The mill is shut since October 29 as the management has declared suspension of work, he added.

Sikha gave to the police in writing that she suspected activists of a Naxalite-dominated union, the Indian Federation of Trade Unions, who had clashed with Singh and two of his union mates three days before he went missing. “They had brought in anti-socials from neighbouring Uttarpara and threatened Ashok later,” she said.

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