Three held for murder of tea planter, wife

The Assam police on Sunday arrested three persons in connection with the murder of tea planter Mridul Kumar Bhattacharyya, 70, and his wife, Reeta, in their Konapathar tea estate in Tinsukia district, 570 km east of Guwahati, at around 4:30 pm on December 26. The police are on the lookout for two others.

State Home Secretary G D Tripathi said that the police have identified five persons who hatched the conspiracy to kill the planter. "They conspired to kill the tea planter whose company owned the tea estate. They had played a significant role in mobilising the crowd to set afire the bungalow in which Bhattacharyya was put up," said Tripathi. Both the husband and the wife were charred to death when an irate mob of around 700 people surrounded the bungalow and set it on fire.

Tripathi said of the three arrested on Sunday, "two or three" were not labourers employed by Bhattacharyya's tea estate. "Preliminary investigations confirm that not all the people in the mob and those who conspired were from Bhattacharyya's tea estate. There were a few from outside the tea estate, including some from nearby tea estates," he said.

Meanwhile, Tinsukia SP P P Singh said many persons, identified by the police after a probe in the past three days, were trying to flee. "We are confident we will be able to arrest the main culprits in the next 24 hours," Singh said.

The tea estate was facing labour-related issues over a notice to some non-workers to vacate quarters in the labour lines. Two persons were arrested by the police on the day the murder took place.

A mechanical engineer, Bhattacharyya had developed the tea estate, situated on the Assam-Arunachal border by buying government land in the early 1970s. He made it one of the finest estates producing black tea.

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