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Dalgaon tea men threaten boycott

The Dalgaon Tea Estate killings have come as a major setback for the CPI(M). Tea garden workers in Jalpaiguri district have threatened to boycott the general elections.
PTI | By Pramod Giri, Jalpaiguri
PUBLISHED ON APR 28, 2004 01:55 PM IST

The Dalgaon Tea Estate killings have come as a major setback for the CPI(M). Tea garden workers in Jalpaiguri district have threatened to boycott the general elections.

Unlike other tea gardens, Dalgaon workers are neither demanding regular wages nor seeking the state government’s intervention to reopen the garden. They have only one demand—unconditional release of those arrested after the November 6 mayhem in which 19 people were killed and burned.

The Dalgaon incident took place when hundreds of tea garden workers voiced their anger against Tarkeswar Lohar, a local Citu leader infamous for exploiting the workers. Though Lohar managed to flee away, angry workers killed 19 people before setting his house on fire. Lohar, however, was arrested later and is now in jail. The Dalgaon workers alleged the CPI(M) did not come forward in their times of need.

Manik Sanyal, CPI(M) Jalpaiguri district committee secretary, agreed that there was widespread resentment among the workers. He, however, said though a section of workers might boycott the votes, majority of them would take part in the election. When asked about the workers’ grievances, Sanyal, however, said the law would take its own course.

Meanwhile, the Congress, which was trying to make inroads in the tea garden that falls under Alipurduar, is working overtime to cash in on the situation.

A senior Intuc leader from Jalpaiguri said the Citu supporters at Dalgaon would join the Intuc en masse in a couple of days. Few Citu leaders on Sunday met the PCC president Pranab Mukherjee and the issue was discussed with the local Citu leaders. Citu had been ruling the Dalgaon estate union since 1987. Before that the RSP was at the helm of affairs.

Both Congress and Trinamool feel the tea garden problems and Dalgaon killings would play a decisive role in the constituency. Jawakim Baxla of the RSP is contesting as the Left Front candidate from Alipurduar. A senior RSP leader said if the CPI(M) had fielded its own candidate here, the party would have taken measures to solve the problem.

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