Assam Tea Garden Manager Murdered by Militants

GUWAHATI, Assam

Tea planter Adilur Rahman was murdered in a hail of bullets last week and his body guard seriously injured in the first outbreak of violence against tea executives in six years.

A truce with militants that has held since 2006 is now in jeopardy with four addition deaths since last Tuesday.

Authorities have arrested some suspects associated with the NDFB, or National Democratic Front of Bodoland, but unrest is evident. Open warfare with various insurgents lasted 16 years. During that time hundreds were killed including 21 tea executives.

Since the truce that have been incidents of abduction — mostly of smaller entrepreneurs who have taken to plantation — the victims have managed to come back. Rahman’s killing was the first since the brutal murder of Haridhan Das, manager of Holong-habi tea estate near Digboi in 2006.

Surrendra Paul, managing director of Assam Frontier Tea Ltd, a subsidiary of the Apeejay Group, was the first top tea executive in Assam to be murdered in April 1990. He was killed near Dibrugarh; the group responsible was the ULFA.

“Planters and tea executives are in a peculiar situation. They are working in areas far from urban centres and police stations. It is like being caught between the devil and the deep sea. If he doesn’t pay up, then he gets killed, and if he pays, the government blames him of hobnobbing with the militants,” said Deepanjal Deka, secretary of the Tea Association of India (TAI), which represents another section of the industry.

Rahman was gunned down on Tuesday near his two estates, Mahaluxmi and Tejalpatti, located close to the Arunachal Pradesh border in Sonitpur district, about 280 km from Guwahati.

“They (the rebels) have chosen a soft target, as all tea planters and tea executives are anyway. There is also an intention of terrorising and crippling the tea industry that had looked up only recently after a series of adversities in the recent years. It is definitely a failure on the part of the government,” Dhiraj Kakati, secretary of the Assam Branch Indian Tea Association (ABITA), told The Indian Express.

The industry says it remains under pressure from various armed groups. “Planters continue to get extortion notes and phone calls from various outfits, and this is most common in Tinsukia district. We always keep the police abreast of such developments,” says Kakati, whose ABITA represents most of the planters in Assam.

Tuesday’s killing was a reminder of the high-profile killings that had rocked the state when militancy was at its peak. Victims of militants’ bullets in in the past two decades or so have included social activist Sanjay Ghose, Russian mining engineer Sergei Gritchenko, minister Nagen Sarma, veteran journalist Kamala Saikia, FCI executive director P C Ram, and IPS officers Daulat Singh Negi and R K Singh.

On Saturday, Indian Express reported two persons — Ainul Haque (30) and Rabindra Boro (37) — were killed in two separate incidents in Kokrajhar district, on a day when Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had claimed that normalcy was fast returning to Bodoland districts and more than 4.46 lakh persons displaced during the July violence had returned to their respective villages.

One more person was killed — the third in as many days — as incidents of violence have returned to Assam’s trouble-prone Kokrajhar district. The victim, identified as Ali Hussain (30), was shot from close range while he was working in a jute field on Monday morning.

Source: Indian Express

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