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Garden manager carrying cash for staff abducted

Jorhat, Feb. 7: The manager of a small tea plantation was abducted today by a group of armed men in Titabar sub-division here along the Assam-Nagaland border.

Moon Mahanta, 45, manager of Lakhimijan tea estate under Bandar Chaliha police outpost near the inter-state border in chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s constituency (Titabar), was abducted from the small garden. The site of the incident is about 23km south of here.

Police sources said three criminals came on foot to the plantation, located in the foothills of Nagaland, around 3pm and abducted Mahanta at gunpoint. The manager was reportedly carrying cash to make weekly payments to the labourers.

Mahanta, who hails from Sonitpur district, was staying in a rented house in Titabar town and had been visiting the garden regularly.

Garden owner Bijoy Kumar Modi, who was in Nagaon and rushed back after the incident, told The Telegraph that according to preliminary information, a three-member armed group had forcibly taken away Mahanta along with the cash.

Modi, who is also the president of Lions Club of Jorhat, said the group had taken the manager towards the hills and might have crossed into Nagaland. The owner said he did not know the exact amount of money in Mahanta’s possession, but it was likely to be between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000.

He said the group of abductors was possibly from the tea tribes’ community and one of them was a worker who was earlier engaged in the plantation. Modi denied receiving any extortion notice from any outfit or group.

“I have not received any extortion demand earlier, nor after the kidnapping of the manager,” the planter said. The plantation area of the garden, started in 1997, is about 10 hectares and annually produces 1.5 lakh kg of green leaves.

Jorhat superintendent of police Amanjeet Kaur told this correspondent that the police have launched a manhunt along the border to rescue Mahanta. Kaur said from investigations so far, it appears that the abductors were “local miscreants” and one of them has been identified. She said Mokokchung district (Nagaland) police authorities, too, had been alerted.

Titabar unit president of the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha, the largest and oldest organisation of tea workers in the state, Nagen Kurmi, while condemning the incident, has urged the district administration to initiate efforts to rescue the manager.

The incident comes within a month of the abduction of a tea garden manager in Sonitpur district. On the night of January 16, the manager of Pabhoi tea estate, Bharat Singh Rathore, was abducted by a group of armed persons from his garden bungalow along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. On January 21, Rathore was released following intensified operations by the security forces.


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