| The youths after being detained at Jaishidhi. Picture by Pranab Kr Das |
Jaishidhi (Assam-Arunachal border), Sept. 13: Suspected cadres belonging to the NDFB (Ranjan Daimary) today abducted a small tea grower, Bhadreswar Nath, 45, from his garden here under Itakhola police station in Sonitpur district. Jaishidhi is about 10km from Itakhola police station, 80km from district headquarters Tezpur and 260km from Guwahati.
Hundreds of people from the locality and nearby areas responded to the development by taking into custody six unknown youths found roaming in the area at 9am. They were released after four hours on the intervention of police.
The people also gathered near Jaishidhi High School and started shouting slogans against the militant group and demanded immediate release of the planter.
The outfit has been extorting money in the district bordering Arunachal Pradesh for some time now.
Family sources said Nath had gone to his garden, a kilometre away from his residence, on his motorbike around 8am to oversee plucking when he was whisked away by two youths on a bike.
The Sonitpur district unit of Small Tea Growers Association has vehemently condemned the kidnapping while seeking Nath’s early release. The association’s district secretary, Jitu Saikia, said they would meet tomorrow to discuss their future course of action if Nath was not released. Someswar Nath, the elder brother of Bhadreswar, is also a noted small tea grower of the area.
Superintendent of police Arabinda Kalita told The Telegraph that Nath was abducted for ransom but no demand has been made till now.
Kalita also said a search operation, with assistance from the army, has been launched to catch the abductors. He added that rebel Ram Singh from the faction was involved in the case.
Police sources said Nath’s abductors were associated with B. Boko, a dreaded member of the outfit, who was also involved in the assassination of tea planter Adilur Rahman in November. Boko was then with the Songbijit group of the outfit. Singh and Boko are “good” friends, the sources said.
Robin Bora, a villager, said, “We spent sleepless nights in the border area even though the militant organisation is observing a ceasefire. It is heavily into extortion, particularly targeting businessmen — small or big.”
Both the Songbijit and Ranjan Daimary factions of the NDFB are active on the North Bank but the former is not as active as before after security personnel turned on the heat after Rahman’s assassination. Nine persons were arrested in the case within a month.
Small tea growers contribute about 30 per cent of the state’s total tea production, which was 590.12 million kg last year. They are an influential lot and a large chunk of small tea growers is in Sonitpur district.