Tea workers at a plantation in Assam, a northeastern state in India, have burned down the home of their boss killing him and his wife. The blaze followed a labor dispute. The incident took place at the M.K.B. Tea Estate, which is privately owned.
Close to 1,000 workers attacked the owner’s bungalow at the plantation Wednesday and set the structure on fire. The violence was blamed on the labor unrest that has been festering in the region of the country were tea is grown, said law enforcement officials.
Mridul Bhattacharya along with Rita, his wife were burned alive inside the bungalow as workers with weapons prevented the police from trying to rescue the couple. Police said the plantation owner’s body was charred and had been reduced completely to ash, while his wife’s body was found inside the kitchen.
The gruesome attack took place in the Tinsukia district where tea is grown about 300 miles from the main city in the state Guwahati. One local newspaper in India said the violence broke out after Bhattacharya served orders on a group of 10 workers to vacate the property as well as the detention by police of three workers over disputes that were not specified.
Local television stations carrying coverage of the attack broadcast interviews of plantation workers admitting their participation in the grisly attack.
One worker said everyone came and attacked the owner’s bungalow and set it ablaze. The female tea worker said the couple deserved to die as the owner had exploited the workers for too long and tortured them for small petty things.
Assam state produces close to 55% of the entire annual tea production in India, which was roughly 2.17 billion pounds in 2011. The state also has over 800 tea estates.
Thus far, authorities said only three workers have been detained for the killings.