Tea planter burnt alive was a success story with aggressive streak


Mridul Kumar Bhattacharyya, the tea planter burnt alive along with his wife in Assam on Wednesday, led a life marked by success as well as aggression. He had stood up to the ULFA, faced a mob attack at least once earlier, and allegedly killed a student by firing on that mob.

Very few details have emerged about the motive for Bhattacharya's killing, apart from the fact that he had angered labourers by dismissing some of them. The Konapathar tea garden's manager and his wife, who were with the Bhattacharyas at the bungalow torched, escaped alive.

Bhattacharyya's success story began in the 1970s when he bought a piece of denuded forest land near Doomdooma. Today, the Doomdooma belt is considered the world's best tea-growing region due to its soil characteristics. Bhattacharyya's MKB (Asia) Pvt Ltd manufactures what are known as exceptional black teas.

He was killed in a manner more gruesome than Assam had ever seen. The mob confined the couple inside the bungalow and set it on fire. The wife's body has been identified by their son who flew in from Kolkata, while the planter's body has been left in ashes, Tinsukia deputy commissioner S Meenakshi Sundaram said.

"No such horrific incident had ever occurred in the 180-year history of the tea industry in Assam," said Bidyananda Borkakoty, chairman of Northeast Tea Association (NETA).

Assam has seen occasional incidents of labourers hacking managers to death, but the closest any incident came to this scale was two years ago, at another of Bhattacharya's tea estates. His factory at Rani, on Guwahati's outskirts, was set on fire after he had reportedly shot dead a school student and injured four others. This was while trying to disperse a crowd protesting near his bungalow against his alleged assault of a woman in March 2010.

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