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Life in jail for jute mill murder

Chinsurah, Aug. 8: A former jute mill worker in Hooghly was today sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the factory’s assistant labour welfare officer in 2011.

The verdict by the additional sessions judge of Chandernagore comes at a time the jute industry in Bengal is going through a turbulent phase. The executive of Northbrook jute mill in the same district was murdered in June allegedly by protesting workers. Several jute mills have closed down in the past few months because of losses.

On July 14, 2011, Firoze Akhtar, the assistant labour welfare officer of Gondalpara Jute Mill in Chandernagore, was cycling to the factory around 3.30pm after lunch at his quarters when he was attacked by two assailants who shot and stabbed him.

A profusely bleeding Akhtar, 59, was taken to the Bhadreswar municipality-run Onkar Hospital near the factory and later shifted to Chandernagore sub-divisional hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.

Akhtar’s murder had sent shockwaves across the state, similar to the uproar created by the killing of the chief executive of Northbrook Jute Co Ltd on June 15 this year.

Northbrook chief executive H.K. Maheshwari was battered to death with bricks by a group of workers after the management proposed to cut down working hours because of paucity of orders.

While probing the 2011 murder, Hooghly police had initially said the attackers could not be identified. Later, the police arrested Rajesh Chowdhury, a mill worker, and two others.

Public prosecutor Bidyut Roy Chowdhury said today: “Rajesh Chowdhury had been suspended from work on the basis of Akhtar’s recommendation because of negligence. Rajesh was angry with the assistant labour welfare officer. This was the motive behind the murder. Two of Rajesh’s associates were acquitted yesterday as no evidence was found against them.”

Asked about the verdict, Akhtar’s nephew Gauhar Ali, who attended today’s hearing, said: “My uncle was a peace-loving person. He could not stand those who shirked work at the jute mill. Rajesh Chowdhury was one of those employees who neglected work. So my uncle had recommended his suspension. Rajesh became angry and killed my uncle in revenge.”