The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jalpaiguri tea estate manager hacked to death

Jalpaiguri, April 12: The assistant manager of the Changmari tea garden in Nagracata was hacked to death by some unknown assailants last night.

The incident took place around 10 pm, when Sekhar Sikdar, 47, was going to the factory from his bungalow, according to police. Officials say Sikdar might have got out of his car to open the gate when the assailants attacked him.

Later, an employee of the tea garden found the car parked near the checkpost with Sikdar lying some distance away. When he raised an alarm, other workers at the factory rushed out to see the man lying on the ground and bleeding profusely. The management called the police.

Senior police officials have rushed to the spot. Unconfirmed sources said three people have been detained in the ongoing raids to nab the culprits. “We are investigating the case. The situation is peaceful now,” said Jalpaiguri superintendent of police Siddh Nath Gupta.

Sikdar might have found the checkpost gate — barely 100 metres from the factory — shut, forcing him to stop the car, say sources.

“The checkpost gate usually remains open till 9 pm and a guard is posted there. After that, the gate is closed. If anybody comes by car, the workers come out and open the gate,” explained Ratan Munda, a worker at the tea garden.

Tea Association of India members today condemned the incident and said it would have an impact on the entire industry. “We condemn this brutal act and want the police to find the assailants,” said D.N. Gupta, the secretary of the association’s North Bengal branch committee.

According to Gupta, they have also asked the district police chief to set up a police camp in Changmari, which had become the centre of dispute for the past three months following a clash between rival groups on February 9.

On February 22, the police had to open fire when a mob of about a thousand labourers attacked the police personnel who were conducting a raid to nab those responsible for the earlier clash.

Three labourers were killed in the firing. About 35 people, including 23, women were arrested the same day.

On April 5, the police again raided the tea garden to get hold of the culprits and arrested about 31 people.

But police are not yet linking Sikdar’s murder with the incidents that took place in the tea garden.

“We are investigating the case. We cannot comment about the motive of the murder right now,” said Gupta.

Sikdar, a resident of Anandapara locality here, is survived by two daughters and wife Gitashri.

“It is highly unlikely that he had made enemies. Police should find the culprits immediately,” said Sona Bagchi, a relative.

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