Mob ‘burns alive’ Assam tea planter and his wife

A tea planter and his wife are suspected to have been burnt alive when an armed mob set their house on fire in Tinsukia district in upper Assam on Wednesday following a labour dispute.

According to Tinsukia deputy commissioner S S Meenakshi Sundaram, the incident occurred around 4.30 pm when the mob, numbering about 700, surrounded Kunapathar tea estate owner Mridul Kumar Bhattacharyya's bungalow and set it on fire. The mob, mostly tea plantation workers, were reportedly armed with stones and bows and arrows.

"While four persons have been reported missing, two bodies burnt beyond recognition are suspected to be that of Bhattacharyya and his wife Rita. The manager of the tea garden and his wife were also in the bungalow when the mob set it on fire, but their whereabouts are not known," said Sundaram.

The deputy commissioner said the tea estate was having labour problems for the past few weeks.

"The management had served notice to 10 workers two days ago and asked them to vacate their quarters. Following an FIR lodged by the management, the police had detained three workers this morning," said Sundaram.

While a case has been registered at the Bordumsa police station, no arrests have been made so far.

Two years ago, Bhattacharyya had faced similar labour trouble when a mob set on fire the factory of his other tea estate at Rani, on the outskirts of Guwahati. The incident had occurred after Bhattacharyya reportedly shot a school student and injured four others while trying to disperse a crowd that had gathered near his house to protest against his alleged assault of a woman on March 22, 2010.

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