Sudhir Roy and Sameer Roy, the tea estate owner duo who fired indiscriminately on labourers and injured at least 15 people were sent to judicial custody on Thursday. The labourers had gathered to demand for a bonus of 14% against the 8.33% they were getting previously. However, the discussion turned violent soon when the owners started firing from their licensed pistol.
Speaking exclusively to Eclectic Northeast, Shankar Dayal, the investigating officer of the case said, ‘The brother duo have been sent to judicial custody. They said they had to open fire as the labourers came charging on them.’
Tea garden labourers have been exploited in Assam since time immemorial and the Bogidhola incident showed that the mindset of the owners hasn’t changed much. Speaking to Eclectic Northeast, renowned activist Kamal Medhi said, ‘The mindset of the tea plantation owners are still in the feudal age and they continue to exploit the labourers. These labourers get daily wage of just Rs 137. Is it possible to live in today’s age with such a measly income? But they have been deprived from their rights again and again because the ruling governments have also sided with the owners.’
Medhi also said that the political representatives from the tea garden community don’t help the community once they get elected. ‘Now there are 2 MPs and 3 MLAs from the community. Labour minister Pallab Lochan Das is himself from that community. So, they have got political voice. But, still the condition of the labourers hasn’t improved a single bit’ he said.
Assam tea gardens have a history of violent confrontation between owners and labourers. In 2012, labourers had attacked planter Mridul Kumar Bhattacharya’s home and finally setting it on fire, killing him and his wife Rita. In May 2003, tea workers dragged deputy manager of Sapoi Tea estate in Sonitpur district Anthony D Unger and senior assistant manager Susmit Kumar Singh out of their homes and hacked them to death. Again on September 29 that year, the manager of Khobang Tea Estate in Tinsukia district was dragged out of office by labourers demanding more bonus. But the manager was rescued by his personal security officers, who resorted to firing in defence, killing seven labourers in the process and injuring 20 others.
On February 11, 2005, 250 labourers beat up the managing director of Gobindupur Tea Estate in Golaghat district, Rupak Gogoi, and later burnt him following dispute over daily wages. Gogoi’s wife Bismita Gogoi later became minister under Tarun Gogoi’s regime.