Dekhari-Nepaligaon (Dibrugarh), March 24: A worker in a small tea plantation of Assam's Dibrugarh district today hacked his employer to death following a financial dispute, triggering an equally fierce backlash against the tea tribes.
Police said small tea grower Dijen Bora, 26, had slapped one of his workers, Jagu, for refusing to work despite allegedly taking wages in advance. The irate worker brought an axe from his house and killed Bora on the spot.
Though Jagu was arrested, his act provoked some residents of the area to set fire to 11 houses and shops belonging to members of the tea community. A platoon of the Central Reserve Police Force was deployed and peace committees hurriedly formed to restore a semblance of normality.
The incident occurred just over a month after workers of Gobindapur tea estate of Golaghat district killed their employer, Rupak Gogoi, in a grisly manner following a wage dispute. The victim, who was assaulted and then burned to death, was the son of former Congress minister Jibakanta Gogoi.
In contrast to the high-profile Rupak, the victim in today's incident was a small tea grower whose 30-bigha plantation in Dekhari-Nepaligaon does not even have a name. He used to sell green leaf to factories in the district.
Dibrugarh deputy superintendent of police (headquarters) B.M. Barooah said two brothers of Jagu and another relative had been arrested for complicity in the murder.
But the prime accused denied the police's version of the incident. 'I did not take any advance money from him (Bora). I was unwilling to work under him since he was paying only Rs 50 per day, whereas the other tea growers pay Rs 80 per day. He kicked me like a dog one day. He came to my house today, slapped me and tried to drag me out. My patience ran out and I took the axe and hacked him to death,' he told The Telegraph from his cell at Moran police station.
Jagu had been working in Bora's plantation for a year on a temporary basis. There are about 70 houses belonging to members of the tea tribes in Dekhari-Nepaligaon.
Itab Singh Tamang, a neighbour of the accused, said he locked himself up in his house when a 100-strong mob carrying 'torches and cans of kerosene' raided the houses in the locality. Two fire-tenders and nearly 20 firemen rushed to the village from Moran town to douse the flames. The police are trying to identify the villagers involved in the arson.
In an unrelated development, the Congress and the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) today spoke out against the move by 13 organisations representing the tea tribes to float a political party, insisting that this would actually divide the community.
The tea cell of the Congress said it was keeping a close watch on the activities of these organisations and awaiting a formal communiqu' from the Assam Tea Tribes Students Association, which is spearheading the move to form a party.