Indian tea estate owner, wife in Assam burned to death by angry workers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 December, 2012, 4:57am

Hundreds of tea estate workers armed with bows and poison-tipped arrows surrounded the plantation owner's home in India's northeastern state of Assam and set it on fire over a labour dispute, killing him and his wife, police said yesterday.

Police recovered the charred bodies of Mridul Kumar Bhattacharyya and his wife, Rita, from the burned remains of their house in Tinsukhia district.

"The body of the planter was charred beyond recognition and reduced to ashes while the body of the wife was found lying in the kitchen," police officer A. Das said.

The grisly attack occurred in Assam's tea-growing Tinsukia district, 500 kilometres east of the state's main city, Guwahati.

The Indian Express newspaper said the violence was sparked by orders served by Bhattacharya on 10 estate workers to vacate their quarters and the detention of three employees by police over unspecified disputes.

On Wednesday, about 700 workers armed with home-made weapons surrounded the house and set it on fire, trapping the couple.

The house had burned down by the time police reached the remote estate.

Plantation workers were seen on local television channels admitting to having carried out an attack.

"We all came and attacked the bungalow and set it on fire. They deserved to be killed as the planter has exploited us for a long time and tortured us for petty things," an unidentified female tea estate worker said.

In a 2010 dispute with villagers, Bhattacharya was investigated and later released for shooting a 15-year-old boy when he opened fire at protesters in front of his house.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse