Tea Workers Protest Assam Unrest

Tea Plantation in AssamGUWAHATI, Assam – The fate of a tea garden manager kidnapped at gunpoint Thursday remains unknown.

The State of Assam is situated on India’s frontier. Garden owners there are vigilant out of necessity as insurgents, border clashes and organized bandits frequently target these outposts.

The Pabhoi tea estate in Biswanath Chariali in the Sonitpur district is well established, a site frequented by tea tourists. It was assaulted by 10 to 12 masked gunmen who abducted manager Bharat Singh Rathod and three security guards along with a relative of Rathod. All but Rathod were released about 5 kilometers from the scene of the kidnapping.

Insurgents known as the Adivasi were implicated and the superintendent of police “is conducting a massive search and rescue operation.”

Word spread quickly and on Friday and the Times of India reported “thousands of tea garden workers in the area took to the streets in an outburst against the rise in militant activities here. Local people are demanding the release of Rathod.”

That same night militants suspected of belonging to the ZakirBahini, a faction of the United Democratic Liberation Army (UDLA) abducted two traders from Ramnathpur in Assam’s Halakandi district. On Sunday in Dhubri in the Dhekiajuli district militants killed one person and critically injured another. The Sunday attack in a local bazaar was blamed on the NDFB(S) operating near Bogaribari in the vicinity of Bhutan.

In September the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) rebels abducted the manager of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation near Guwahati. He was rescued 50 days later by Assam police. The Indian Army has stepped up operations against the Songbijit.