PENGERI, Dec 29 � Even as the mortal remains of Mridul Kumar Bhattacharya and his wife Rita were consigned to the flames as a matter of ritual at Tinsukia today, the tension could be felt at the Kunapathar Tea Estate here. The 150-bigha garden, set up about 20 years ago, is owned by the Bhattacharyas.
The ritualistic funeral was attended by thousands of relatives and admirers and the Bhattacharyas� two sons and a daughter.
The tea garden is rather well maintained, and it is a sorry development that this estate may now go to waste as the owners are not too enthusiastic on running the estate, according to reliable sources. Trouble started at the garden on December 26 when two labourers were picked up by the police following a complaint by the garden management. That evening, about 700 labourers surrounded the director�s bungalow, demanding steps to secure the release of the two workers from the police. Bhattacharya refused, and mayhem ensued. It is gathered that Bhattacharya and his wife were hacked to death before their bungalow was doused in petrol and kerosene and set on fire.
The workers at the estate seemed unrepentant even today that their employer was murdered in cold blood, whatever may be the reason. Curiously enough, the police, too, have not done anything beyond �identifying some of the miscreants� of the twin murders. More than 72 hours after the murders, no one has been arrested. Yesterday some ATTSA leaders petitioned the Tinsukia Deputy Commissioner, warning the official that any �premature arrest could have Statewide ramifications.�
Knowledgeable persons in Tinsukia and Digboi today told this reporter that the State Government is going slow on the investigations in view of the ensuing Panchayat polls. Tea labourers would this time be an important chunk of voters in the rural polls in the Tinsukia district.
Speaking to this reporter here today, village elders said certain tea workers of Kunapathar are at fault of a heinous crime. Non-payment of regular wages cannot be a reason to brutally kill someone, they said. They also said that several tea garden fracases in upper Assam resulted in the deaths of managers and directors, preventing redress of genuine grievances, if any.
Meanwhile, several student and youth groups, including AASU, AJYCP, All Moran Students� Union and All Assam Muttock Yuva Chatra Sanmilan have demanded of the Tinsukia Deputy Commissioner and SP to seek a judicial probe into the Bhattacharya murders and expeditiously nab the culprits. They also condemned the murders and asked individuals and organisations to refrain from making provocative statements.