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Sonitpur planter abducted

Tezpur, Jan. 17: The manager of a tea estate was abducted by militants from his bungalow in Sonitpur district of Assam last night.

Security forces launched a massive search this morning for Bharat Singh Rathore, 48, the manager of Pabhoi tea estate, who is suspected to have been abducted by about 12 cadres of an Adivasi militant group.

Sonitpur superintendent of police Arabinda Kalita told this correspondent today, “We gather Adivasi militants were involved in the abduction and a search operation is on to rescue the tea estate manager”.

The 370-hectare garden, 110km from here and 290km from Guwahati, is located under Biswanath Chariali police station (20km away) in Biswanath subdivision. It was sold by Eveready Industries India to Calcutta-based Narsinghpore Tea Company Private Limited in 2001. It produces 7.2 lakh kg of tea annually.

Residents of the area, including labourers of the garden, took to the streets demanding Rathore’s immediate, unconditional release. They also gathered at his official bungalow with bows and arrows to protect it.

The Sonitpur unit of All Bodo Students Union (Absu) and the All Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA) today appealed to the abductors to release Rathore immediately in the greater interest of peace and harmony among the people of the area.

On November 29, four armed persons had abducted Pradip Lahon, 32, an employee of Dufflagarh tea estate, about 26km from Gohpur police station, from the garden. He was released after a week. There are 60 tea gardens in Sonitpur district, of which 21 are in Biswanath Chariali and Gohpur subdivisions.

The militant All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA), currently in ceasefire with the Union and state governments, today alleged government apathy towards the problems faced by the Adivasis.


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