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Lever learns to live with danger

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By Staff Reporter in Guwahati
  • Published 28.11.03

Guwahati, Nov. 28: Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL) tonight set at rest the Assam government’s fears that it would pull out of the state, but said its perception of the threat from militants had definitely changed after the Ulfa attack on one of its units in Tinsukia district two days ago.

“We pointed out to the chief minister that our perception has changed as the militants now seem to be targeting our families,” HLL director (plantations) S.K. Dhall told The Telegraph soon after his meeting with chief minister Tarun Gogoi.

Dhall flew to Doom Dooma yesterday and came to Guwahati this afternoon, accompanied by corporate director of human resource development Gurdeep Singh. “We wanted to meet our people, their spouses and children. The chief minister has assured us that he will look into the matter and, therefore, there is no question of a pullout,” he said.

Gogoi said he assured the company that the government would arrange for “maximum security” for the staffers and their families. However, he said the level of security could be upgraded only after “taking into account the forces available with us”.

The chief minister said he had written to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, seeking more forces to tide over the situation. Delhi has already sent some additional companies to the state to control the backlash against Bihari settlers.

Dhall declined to say whether the Rs 2-crore Ulfa extortion note served on Lever figured in his discussions with the chief minister, but sources said the HLL delegation assured Gogoi they would not pay money to militants. “It is not the company’s policy to fund any outlawed outfit,” the delegation was quoted as saying.

Dhall met director-general of police P.V. Sumant before calling on Gogoi and chief secretary J.P. Rajkhowa in Doom Dooma. Sumant did not say anything about his meeting with the HLL official except that they discussed “security matters”.

Tinsukia superintendent of police Apurba Jibon Barua said over phone that two more “RPG noses” had been found near the site of the attack. This means the Ulfa militants fired thrice at the HLL manufacturing unit and not once, as the police headquarters in Guwahati had insisted yesterday.

Residents of HLL campus — one of the buildings there was hit — told the police they heard three sounds. The RPG fragments were found in the vicinity of the residential complex, 1.5 km from the factory. The police said the militants’ target was the state-of-the-art unit, set up by HLL in 2001 at a cost of Rs 125 crore.