The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Garden in trial by fire

Gobindapur (Golaghat), Feb. 12: Some 15 hours after the grisly killing of its owner, Gobindapur tea estate wears a deserted look. But for the chirping children, the silence enveloping the garden is that of a graveyard.

Doya Karmakar shows the spot where his father's employer Rupak Gogoi was set ablaze. For him and some of his friends, Gogoi's lynching is a matter of excitement.

But garden watchman Md. Siddique Ali is despondent, as he stares at the foggy crystal ball of an uncertain future.

The Assam Tea Planters' Association and the North Eastern Tea Association have strongly condemned the brutal killing of former Congress minister Jibakanta Gogoi's son. They have sought stringent punishment for the culprits.

The planters have found sympathy from the All Adivasi Students' Association and the All Assam Tea Tribes Students' Association who, too, have condemned the killing.

A post mortem was conducted at the Golaghat civil hospital earlier today. The mortal remains of Rupak Gogoi were consigned to the flames at Khumtai this afternoon.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who was visiting the nearby Kaziranga National Park, went to the residence of the bereaved family.

The Golaghat district unit of the Congress has demanded a CBI inquiry into the incident.

'There is no garden worker present, all have gone to the police station to surrender,' said Ali.

Golaghat deputy commissioner John Ekka said police have remanded 43 labourers in custody for further interrogation. Ekka said the district administration would hold discussions with the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha and other labour organisations to decide the future of the estate workers.

The labourers had been holding a meeting at their club near the main office when Rupak arrived at his garden at around 4.30 pm yesterday.

A few days ago, Rupak had given in writing through the estate manager that 15 days' salary would be paid on Friday.

But he had called labour union president Ajoy Ahary and secretary Saytu Gowala to his office and told them that he could pay only a week's salary. The rest would be paid within a couple of days, he had promised. A sum of Rs 94,460 has already been deposited with the accountant, he added.

The labour leaders came out of the office and informed the others. Led by some women, the workers barged into the office where Rupak Gogoi was sitting and dragged him out. A labourer attacked him with a dao. The security guard tried to stop them, but his carbine was snatched.

Almost every labourer had a go at the owner. They lit a bonfire with straws piled up in the factory in front of the office and threw Gogoi into the flames.

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