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Tea garden official murdered, worker held

- ASSISTANT MANAGER HACKED OVER 20 TIMES

Alipurduar, March 27: The assistant manager of Dalmore Tea Estate in the Dooars was hacked to death allegedly by a labourer who accused the official of misbehaving with his wife when she went for work this morning.

Ajit Panwar, 45, was attacked with a khukuri at least 20 times and he died on the spot. The accused worker, Subhan Rana, was arrested and admitted to hospital as he had injured himself on the right hand during the attack.

The estate, owned by the Calcutta-based Malnadi Tea Company Ltd, is near Birpara in Alipurduar subdivision. The garden had been shut twice in the past four years because of alleged attacks on management staff by labourers.

Sources in the garden said the events leading to the murder had begun when a female worker, Sabitri Rana, had arrived late for work this morning. “Work begins at 7.30am and each labourer is assigned task in a particular section by the management staff. Sabitri reached Section 18, where assistant manager Panwar was present, 30 minutes late. Panwar told her that 12 female workers were already assigned the work in that section and they had started plucking tealeaves. The official said Sabitri could be sent elsewhere in the garden, but she insisted that she should be given work in Section 18,” said a source.

Panwar refused to heed Sabitri’s demand. The woman told the assistant manager that she would show him what she could do to him and left the spot.

After some time, Sabitri’s husband, Subhan, reached Section 18, along with his 17-year-old son, Aman. “Subhan looked furious and was carrying a khukuri. He hit Panwar on his back with the khukuri repeatedly. Panwar fell on the ground and Subhan fled. The assistant manager suffered at least 20 injuries from the neck to the waist,” said Rupinder Singh Ranawat, the general manager of Malnadi Tea Company Ltd.

Panwar who was lying in a pool of blood was taken to the garden hospital in an ambulance. The doctor at the hospital declared him brought-dead. The body was taken to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri for post-mortem.

The management informed Birpara police about the attack and Subhan, 42, was arrested. Subhan also suffered injuries on the right hand as he unleashed the khukuri on the garden official. The police admitted him to a hospital in Birpara, from where he was shifted to Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital in the afternoon.

Subhan said he had hacked the assistant manager to death as the official had misbehaved with his wife. “My wife had come home and told me that the official had pushed her and pulled at her saree. I became furious, went out of the house with a khukuri and hacked the official to death,” Subhan told The Telegraph at the Jalpaiguri hospital.

However, the workers present in Section 18 said Panwar hadn’t misbehaved with Sabitri.

Subhan is also a worker with the Dalmore estate. Ranawat said an FIR had been lodged with the Birpara police, naming Subhan, Sabitri and their son, Aman.

Panwar is from Uttar Pradesh and he took charge in Dalmore in June last year. His wife and son stay in Uttar Pradesh.

The Dalmore plantation, 78km from Alipurduar, is spread over 642 hectares and has over 1,300 workers.

After the attack, the remaining two management officials have left the estate.

Prabir Bhattacharjee, the secretary of the Dooars branch of the Indian Tea Association, said Dalmore had been shut two times before because of indiscipline by labourers and attacks on the management staff.

“When the garden was reopened in June last year, workers had assured in writing that they would co-operate with the management. Tomorrow, the office-bearers of our association will meet and decide on the future course of action,” he said.

With the murder of the assistant manager, the workers are worried that the management will abandon the estate.

“The incident is unfortunate. We are always against any incident that affects the work culture in the garden. But we request the management not to shut the garden and leave because of a single person’s action,” said Bikash Roy, a central committee member of the INTTUC-affiliated Terai Dooars Plantation Workers’ Union.

Akash Magharia, the additional superintendent of police, Alipurduar, said: “The management lodged a complaint with Birpara police station and we have arrested the accused person. He somehow got injured during the attack and has been admitted to a Jalpaiguri hospital for treatment.”