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Gang abducts four tea workers

Jorhat, Dec. 11: Armed goons from Nagaland today abducted four labourers who worked on a small tea plantation along the Assam-Nagaland border in the district and took them across the border.

According to a source of the firm which owns the plantation, a group of five armed men, suspected to be militants, abducted the four workers around 9.30am at Laljan Project (as the plantation is called) in the Rongham area under Selenghat police outpost of Teok police station.

The site of the incident is about 38km southeast from here and adjacent to the border with Mokokchung district of Nagaland. The four kidnapped workers are Damu Gour, Maina Baishya, Amar Praja and Bijen Gowala — all aged between 24 and 32 years.

A mohari (supervisor) of the plantation, who did not wish to be named, told this correspondent that around 9.30am, five armed men came down the hills adjoining the plantation and entered the garden. On seeing the armed persons, a group of about 30 workers who were digging earth in a corner to plant saplings fled. But the group managed to get hold of four of them.

The supervisor, who was at the office in the plantation, said that nearly 90 workers in the entire plantation who were working in different areas at the time of the incident, stopped work and ran for their lives.

He said the abductors later rang up senior officials of the firm and demanded Rs 1.5 lakh for their release.

The owner Ramesh Dutta, also known as Dhan, who has three more small plantations nearby along the inter-state border, is reportedly out of Assam.

A source said in the afternoon three workers and a staff of the firm had gone to a basti (small village in Nagaland) across the border to talk to members of the village council to facilitate the release of the workers.

Police are tightlipped with senior district police officers refusing to say anything. Jorhat deputy commissioner Solanki Vishal Vasant said the police were looking into the matter and Mokokchung district police were requested to cooperate to rescue the workers.

Assam additional director-general of police (law and order) A.P. Rout told The Telegraph this evening that he had spoken to the Nagaland IGP (headquarters) Lungriading. Denying that the incident was a “border row,” Rout said after talking to Lungriading it was decided that a joint operation would be launched in Nagaland.

Rout said additional superintendents of police of Jorhat and Mokokchung districts would lead the search operation. He denied having knowledge of the ransom demand and said the police have not been able to ascertain whether the abductors were militants or goons.

The Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association has criticised the government and the management for failure to ensure safety and security of the workers and demanded their immediate release .

On June 3, a labourer of Naginijan tea estate (along the inter-state boundary in Mariani) Sanjoy Bhumij was shot dead by suspected militants from across the border when he along with four others were working in the garden.