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Suicide stokes unrest at Unilever factory

Dibrugarh, Aug. 19: The suicide of one of the workers allegedly responsible for Hindustan Unilever declaring a lockout at its personal products factory in Doomdooma has re-ignited the unrest that seemed to be dying down with the employees’ union making conciliatory moves in recent weeks.

Ratul Bora had been placed under suspension along with eight other employees for alleged anti-company activities. He was found hanging from the ceiling in his house yesterday.

Several hundred factory workers and representatives of various organisations carried Bora’s body in a procession through Doomdooma town of Tinsukia district today after police handed it over to his family. Police and paramilitary forces maintained vigil all along the route of the funeral procession.

Colleagues said the company’s arrogance drove Bora to desperation.

The Hindustan Lever Workers’ Union, of which Bora was the assistant general secretary, handed a memorandum to Tinsukia deputy commissioner K.K.Dwivedi, seeking an end to the lockout that began on July 15.

“Ratul Bora committed suicide due to depression, for which the arrogant attitude of the company is to be held responsible. Therefore, we have urged the immediate intervention of the deputy commissioner to settle the crisis,” Nagen Chutia, the president of the union, said over phone from Tinsukia.

The union wants adequate compensation and a job for a member of Bora’s family. It has warned of a statewide agitation if the company continues to stand its ground at the cost of worker welfare.

“It seems the state government too has surrendered before the might of multinationals and even failed to bring the company’s representatives to the negotiating table,” Chutia said.

Hindustan Unilever declared the lockout after a “series of strikes” by workers over various demands.

The immediate provocation for the lockout, a company release said, was the workers’ act of keeping 18 executives cooped up in their office for 16 hours on July 6.

Chutia claimed that criminals backed by political leaders and some contractors hatched a conspiracy to “murder” Union leaders who led the agitation.

“Last night, some people attacked one of our executive members, Sanjoy Gogoi. He escaped after a scuffle. What is even more alarming is that Doomdooma police refused to register any case against these people because they enjoy the Congress’s backing.”

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