The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ulfa strike on Lever complex

Guwahati/Jorhat, Nov. 27: The United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) launched a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the residential complex of a personal care product factory owned by Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL) at Doomdooma in Upper Assam last night.

There was no casualty, but the attack in Tinsukia district sent shivers across the industry and the state government, which was groping for answers as the district has a heavy presence of security personnel.

HLL had received an extortion note for Rs 2 crore purportedly sent by the Ulfa in September-end, prompting the government to rush additional security to the tea belt of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh.

Tinsukia superintendent of police Apurba Jibon Barua said the incident took place at Raidang tea estate around midnight. The grenade went off inside the kitchen of the staff quarters of the commercial officer, Subhendu Uzir, who was with his wife in the living room when the grenade hit the building.

The grenade, believed to have been fired from 200 yards, slammed into quarter No. 404 on the first floor of Bristi block, damaging the kitchen wall and hit the refrigerator.

HLL spokesperson Shubhabrata Bhattacharya said in Mumbai: “We confirm the incident and are grateful to god that the damage was limited. It could have been worse.”

Asked if, in the given situation, the multinational was contemplating a pullout from Assam, the spokesperson said: “In the past, we have reiterated our commitment to Assam. Our investment in the recent years is proof enough.

“Our current assessment of the situation will depend upon the ability of the administration to provide protection to our personnel and to our assets, as well as prevent recurrence of such attacks. We are trying to tackle the situation with the cooperation of the administration.”

The complex has three three-storied blocks, each housing 18 families.

The complex is surrounded by gardens on three sides and the attack was carried out from the jungle behind it.

Sources said a CRPF camp, set up after the extortion note was made public, is located within 500 metres of the complex. The nearest army camp is at Rupai, 10 km from the site.

Barua, who took over following the killing of a youth in police firing to stop a group clash from flaring up in Tinsukia last week, said the militants probably had planned to attack the factory located about 1.5 km from the staff quarters.

But, he felt, the original plan was shelved as it was guarded by jawans of the Assam Tea Plantation Security Force.

The director-general of Assam police, P.V. Sumant, described the incident as “unfortunate”, adding that there was “no need for the employees working for the multinational in Assam to press the panic button.”

He said HLL’s director (plantation) S.K. Dhall has reached Doomdooma from Calcutta to take stock of the situation.

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