Fear replanted in tea estates
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"Twenty-one planters and executives have fallen to militants' bullets since 1990," said Kakati, questioning why the government has not been able to wipe out militancy.
The first killing of a top tea executive in Assam happened on April 9, 1990. The executive was Surrendra Paul, younger brother of Lord Swarj Paul and managing director of Assam Frontier Tea Ltd, a subsidiary of the Apeejay Group. 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.
For the killing of Rahman, who was the proprietor of two estates, Mahaluxmi and Tejalpatti, the police have blamed the anti-talk faction of the NDFB, or National Democratic Front of Bodoland. The outfit, whose founder and chairman Ranjan Daimari, currently lodged in the Guwahati central jail, has been named prime accused in the October 2008 serial blasts, has promptly denied involvement in the murder.
Tuesday's killing was also 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.