A labor dispute in eastern India took on a horrific turn when a mob of tea plantation workers allegedly burned their boss and his wife to death in Assam.
The Indian Express reported that some 700 angry workers armed with stones, bows and arrows set afire to a house at the Konapathar estate in the Tinsukia district in upper Assam on Wednesday.
Another bungalow, as well as two vehicles, were also destroyed on the property.
Tinsukia deputy commissioner S. S. Meenakshi Sundaram identified the victim as tea estate owner Mridul Kumar Bhattacharyya and his wife.
“While four persons have been reported missing, two bodies burnt beyond recognition are suspected to be that of Bhattacharyya and his wife Rita,” the commissioner said.
“The manager of the tea garden and his wife were also in the bungalow when the mob set it on fire, but their whereabouts are not known.”
Sundaram explained that the tea estate was undergoing serious labor troubles over the past few weeks.
“The management had served notice to 10 workers two days ago and asked them to vacate their quarters. Following an [First Information Report] lodged by the management, the police had detained three workers,” he said.
Three arrests have been made in connection with the case.
However, the Calcutta Telegraph reported that the arson amounted to a protest over the arrest of two tea workers, Ajit Murah and Suraj Murah, on theft charges.
This is not the first time Bhattacharyya faced labor unrest. The Express noted that in 2010, a mob burned down another tea estate he owned near the city of Guwahati. That incident occurred after Bhattacharyya allegedly shot a student and injured four others while trying to break up a demonstration at his house protesting his alleged molestation of a woman.
Assam is one the world’s most important tea growers – BBC reported that half of India's total tea production comes from Assam's 800 tea estates. Reports of labor unrest have festered in the region for years.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.