Tea growers in Assam face threats from militant outfits
Guwahati – Militant outfits regularly harass people through illegal practices like extortion, taxation and abduction. Workers and small tea garden owners at Assam-Nagaland border are increasingly facing threats from various militant outfits.
Twenty-year-old Damu Gour, who works as a daily wager in a tea garden, was recently abducted and severely beaten up by suspected cadres of NSCN (K) outfit.
He was kidnapped with three other workers. The motive was to extort money from the tea garden owner they were working with. Although they were released after 4 days, the workers are scared to go back to work.
The incident still haunts Damu Gour and he is yet to recover from injuries inflicted on him by the militants.
“That day we were working when some unknown persons came to the garden. They started enquiring about the owner of the garden. There were around 60-70 workers, but many of them fled away in fear. They selected four of us and took us away. We went a long distance to their camp. Even at the camp they kept asking about the owner and said that they wouldn’t release us until the owners came. They also demanded 1.5 lakhs,” said Gour.
“We have only one son. He got married recently and is the sole bread earner of the family. If they take him away, how will we live?,” asked Monglu Gour, father of Damu Gour.
Naga militant outfits are quite active at Assam-Nagaland border and they frequently target small tea growers for extortion. Those who do not comply with their demands are abducted and physically tortured.
Recently, tea growers in Assam’s Dibrugarh and Sibsagar districts have also received extortion notes from cadres of ULFA’s anti-talk faction, demanding hefty sums.
“We live in the border area where lots of disturbances take place on a regular basis. There are frequent bandhs and other such issues. Due to such disturbances, we are not able to go to work and face problems,” said Rajkumar, owner of small tea garden from Mogray.
Though the overall level of violence in the Northeast has come down in recent times, kidnappings, extortions and frequent violation of ground rules by members of underground groups under ceasefire agreement are a cause of concern.