A two week labor dispute turned deadly in the Indian state of Assam yesterday as tea workers, angered by their working conditions, surrounded the house of their boss and set it on fire with both the boss and his wife inside of it. Both perished in the flames. Kunapathar police have detained three suspects in the incident, according to the BBC.
Local police official SS Meenakshi Sundaram said that more than 700 workers had surrounded the boss’s house and set it on fire. They also torched two vehicles belonging to the couple.
Assam State is responsible for more than 50 percent of India’s tea production with more than 800 estates dedicated solely to teas growing and harvesting.
The charred bodies of Mridul Kumar Bhattacharyya and his wife, Rita, had already been found among the burned out remains of the house according to Meenakshi.
This was not the first time Mr. Bhattacharyya had been involved in such a dispute. He also owned dozens of other tea estates throughout the area and two years ago had also gotten into a dispute that turned violent, but he escaped that one with his life. In that dispute, angry workers set fire to his tea factory near the state capital, Guwahati, after he had allegedly fired on a crowd that had gathered near his house to protest against a reported attack on a local woman.
Dozens of incidents of attacks by tea workers have been reported in Assam in recent years. Tea workers are regularly employed under deplorable conditions for extremely low pay. Often the estate owners provide shacks for the workers to live in during harvests and kick out the weaker workers in place of the healthier and stronger ones leading to resentment and anger.
Do you think that violence is a way to act during a labor dispute?