Tea Feeds Terror, Despite Security Force

Tea Planters Still Paying Ultras Secretly: Indian Army & Police Blamed

Eti Koli Duti Paat (that is, two leaves and a bud), the strains of this popular song are resonating in the blue hills and the red rivers, and valleys of Eastern Indian State, Assam’s Tea-Gardens or Tea-Estates. Hitherto known for its scenic beauty, oil and mineral deposits also, the northeastern hilly-river state is slowly carving out a niche for itself as a producer of quality tea in the world. At the vanguard of this movement are tea-estates that have been exporting its produce for many years. However, today, the famous brand ‘Assam Tea’ (See Table I & II) loses its own ‘taste’ due to ‘unexpected weather’!

North-East India, specially, the State Assam is still now a heaven of extremism. There are militants the length and breadth of the region, which has brought corrosion in all spheres of social, political and economic life, here. There are more than 100 extremist organizations in this Eastern part of India and their hiding huts lie in and around the tea gardens or tea-estates.

Tea Garden 1
Women tea labourers are plucking tealeaves from a teagarden of Eastern Indian State Assam.

Photo: Shib Shankar Chatterjee

“In 1980s, the noted militant group, the outlawed so called ‘Assamese extremist’, the United Liberation Front of Asam (ULFA), in 1990s, the so called ‘Tribal extremist’ and the ‘Adibashi extremist’, the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) and Adibashi Cobra Militant Force (ACMA) and in 2000s Dima Halom Daoga (DHD), United People Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF) et cetera extorted millions of rupees from major tea companies in Eastern Indian State, Assam to fund their militant activities,” uttered the officials of the Indian Assam State Intelligence Bureau (IASIB).

“In fact, since 1986, the situation turned critical for the tea-estates of Assam state, when the outfits started eyeing the tea-gardens for easy money to raise their funding of the organisations and late 1980s to 1990s was the worst period for the ‘green-gold’ (that is, Assam-tea) of India.

In the world of tea, despite the crash of tea prices in India, both Indian Assam State Police officials as well as leaders of militant groups say that major corporate groups are still paying protection money to banned organizations,” claimed an official of TATA Tea.

.” .. the ULFA dominates in Eastern-Assam tea-gardens and the NDFB and ACMA are infested in the tea-estates of Western-Assam and Central-Assam, while other small groups like DHD, UPDS, KLNLF et cetera in Southern-Assam respectively. In fact, their hunting grounds are 50% to 60% of the Assam tea-estate or tea-garden areas on the Northern and Southern banks of the mighty hilly red river, Brahmaputra in Assam, because, this is the ‘easiest way’ to collect money for their respective organizations to buy arms and ammunition to fight against the Union of India. And in this ‘matter’, everyone from a tea-planter to Government officials (including forces) are entangled …..,” said a spokesperson of the Tea Association of India (TAI).

“We the inhabitants and the workers of these gardens are very much frightened with the activities of these outfits, which not only terrorise us in different ways but also put obstacles to the extension of tea-garden areas and in the collection of Government revenue. Therefore, we are badly in need of sufficient securities to get rid of these people,” claimed the tea-garden owners and the workers of Labour Unions (that is, Mazdur Sangha) of tea gardens of Assam.

Tea Garden 4
Women tea labourers are plucking tealeaves from a teagarden of Eastern Indian State Assam.

According to the people and the officials of the state department, that is, State Government Police or Home Department, these outlawed militants have made these tea gardens and other industrial units of these regions, their vital points of extortion for the last 15 years to 20 years. The State Government also alleged that the major tea groups of companies like TATA Tea, Williamson Magor, Rossell Industries, Assam Frontier and Assam Company, Goodricke, et cetera were regularly paying ‘protection tax’ to the extremist groups of Assam.

“This is not a new case and once again proves that there is a nexus between tea companies and the extremists groups in Assam. Not only that there were as many as more than 14 to 15 such group in Northeast India, whose bases lie in and around tea-estates.

All the factors have long made the tea industry a favourite target of cash-seeking militants. Tea companies and owners declare that they are paying a heavy price for buying peace and security forcibly,” expressed the officials of the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IIB).

Tea Garden 5
Women tea labourers are plucking tealeaves from a teagarden of Eastern Indian State Assam.

“Seeing this, the other groups of extremists of Northeast India, specially, in the States like Tripura, Nagaland and West Bengal have also jumped into this profitable venture, ripping off crores from the tea-industry. Between 1989 to 2005, more than 20 to 25 tea-garden persons and workers were killed and more than 40 to 50 of tea-estate workers were kidnapped,” according to statistics from the Indian Home Affairs Department.

In this connection, it may also be noted here that the idea of having a Tea Protection Force (TPF) against the extremist groups was mooted by the erstwhile late Hiteshwar Saikia – led Congress (I) Government to bail out the tea-planters from being extorted. Therefore, being disgusted with this, the tea-industry of Assam had decided to raise its ‘own-force’ and the State Government agreed to this.

“The tea-industry of Assam had been demanding a special security protection force since 1990, when the ‘tea-magnate’ Surendra Paul, brother of Lord Swaraj Paul of England was assassinated near Tinsukia district of Assam and the managers and their families of Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL), including TATA Tea personnel were airlifted in the face of persistent threats from the outlawed militants of Assam.

Not only that NDFB attacked a tea club in the state, Assam’s Sonitpur district and opened fired indiscriminately to create terror. As a result, at that time, a number of tea-clubs were closed down fearing attacks by the extremists. A mass exodus of tea-executives happened,” said a prominent planter of the State Assam’s Dibrugarh district.

HLL, in keeping with the global policy of its parent body, Unilever, of not paying terrorists, did not pay.

Indeed, the outfit groups emphasized, “Indians living in the State, Assam, would have to pay tax, and it is mandatory to all.”

Tea Garden 6
A view of a teagarden of Eastern Indian State Assam.

However, the idea of a protection force still did not take off. But, when the outlawed militants had been attacking the tea-estates of Assam and carrying out different types of atrocities like abduction, threatening, killing the tea-garden’s officials and looting or plundering and extorting money from the tea-estates et cetera (See Table III & IV). and the Government failed to provide full security to the tea-gardens, pressure came from the tea-gardens of Assam for the State Government to provide proper security to them.

Then the Assam State Government decided to raise the Indian Assam State Tea Protection Force (IASTPF) to combat the unhealthy situation in the tea gardens of Assam. And as a result of that, in early 1994, a compromise ‘deal’ was struck in which the State Government decided to provide the security personnel to the tea gardens of Assam. It was also decided that the burden of expenditure incurred in connection with the security force would be borne by the State Government.

But, the Indian Tea Association (ITA) refunded the expenditure, which was incurred by the state machinery for imparting training to the IASTPF personnel (that is, the tea-industry agreed to bear the cost of their training and upkeep), which is today an additional burden for the tea-estates of Assam (this force was created by drawing men from State Home Guard Force). At the outset, Rs. 07-08 crores to Rs. 10-15 crores were spent on weapons, uniforms and communication gadgets.

“IASTPF is a voluntary organisation and we can take in only volunteers. But, for rendering training and better security to the tea-planters, the Indian Army is deployed for imparting training to them for a couple of months,” claimed an official, Director General of Home Guards and Civil Defence.

He also expressed, “The IASTPF jawans are directly under the headquarters of State Home Guards Department and rendered active service for 4 years. They are now released and new young and energetic youths are recruited into the force.”

Tea Garden 7 Security
Private tea security force of a teagarden of Indian State Assam guarded the teaexecutives during their supervision of the tea-estate.

A few years ago, there are 450 to 500 newly appointed (IASTPF) personnel deployed in 13 more ‘sensitive’ tea-gardens in Central-Assam to ensure ‘security’ of tea captains in North-East India. The sixth batch of this force are soon to be sent to tea-gardens after completing their training course, according to a headquarters source in Indian Home Guards and Civil Defence (IHGCD).

IHGCD sources also revealed, the new recruits are being trained at the fourth Indian Assam State Police Battalion (IASPBn) headquarters at Kahilipara, Guwahati in the Assam State, in the use of modern high-calibre sophisticated arms and ammunition in addition to traditional weapons as well as commando warfare so they can effectively thwart rebel raids.

After completion of their course, the first batch of the ‘new’ force has already been deployed in the more ‘vulnerable tea-garden areas’ of Darrang, Nagaon, Jorhat, Sivsagar, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Tinsukia, Dhubri and Sonitpur districts of Assam respectively in February, 1995. Presently, there are 2,020 IASTPSF personnel in 95 teagardens in the state of Assam.

With the induction of the sixth batch, their number will increase up to 2,480. According to the ATPF, at present, the organisation also has nearly 9,000 Indian Home Guard (IHG) personnel, 456 Indian Border Wing Home Guard (IBWHG) volunteers, and 2,400 Indian Assam State Special Reserve Force (IASSRF) personnel. The monthly salaries of IASTPF personnel are however paid by tea-companies, according to tea-industry sources. The sources also disclosed that this cost has compelled them to increase (deploying the IASTPF) Rs. 00.50 (paisa) for each kilogramme of tea.

In fact, no tea-estate or tea-planter of Assam feels fully safe despite the employment of the Indian Assam State Tea Plantations Security Force (IASTPSF) or Indian Assam State Tea Plantation Task Force (IASTPTF). It was formed in the year 1994. This force was specially created to protect tea-estate personnel from killings, abductions, threats and from extortions et cetera. Drawing men for IHGs created this force. About 1,200 to 1,300 personnel were deployed in 60 to 66 tea gardens located in more dangerous and vulnerable places.

Currently, nearly 85 to 90 tea gardens are under IASTPSF protection. It may be noted here that the Indian Tea Security Force (ITSF) was the result of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the Assam Government and the ITA as per the Government Home Guards Act. The first batch of security men was deployed in the month February, 1994. The entire expense of this force is required to be borne by the tea-estate.

“Most of the tea-executives become easy targets of the extremist groups because the tea-estates are located in isolated places. Though the number of such incidents has come down of late, the outfits are still targeting the tea-garden-persons for easy and quick money. However, for years the tea industry has been the only milk-cow for the terrorist groups. Not only that, the terrorist groups are very much aware that it is becoming difficult for them to kidnap tea-executives and keeping kidnapped planters in safe places, yet finding no other means, the militant groups are kidnapping the tea-officials,” admitted the officials of the Indian Assam State Police Force (IASPF).

The tea industry may have turned over a new leaf, producing the cup that cheers with renewed vigour and forgetting the travails of insurgency, time-to-time. However, it still harbours a grudge against the IASPF.

Every time, a tea-executive is abducted, the IASPF launch a ‘massive combing operation’ to trace the hostage. Days, months and sometimes, even years after the kidnap, IASPF would maintain that the ‘intensive search operation’ is ‘still on’. On every occasion, before the IASPF close in on the hostage, the outfits would ‘set free’ their captive. At what cost the militants became ‘soft’ towards their hostages has remained a mystery. The IASPF cannot trace or rescue any of the tea-executive despite their ‘intensive combing operations’.

Nearly all the hostages said they have been released on either ‘humanitarian ground’ or ‘compassionate ground’. Even, the hostage also showed off the gamosa (the symbol of gratitude, brotherhood and friendship), the extremists have given them as parting gifts.

Today, no tea-estate or tea-planter of Assam, even, Tripura and West Bengal feels completely safe despite the Indian Tea Plantations Security Force (ITPSF)’s existence. The militants continue to extort and that is the irony of the situation.

Northeast India, specialising in Northeast Affairs

References :



01. Name : Tea

02. Local Name : Cha in Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit et cetera. Chah in Assamese

03. Scientific Name : Camelliathea ‘Tea’ is the dried and prepared leaves and buds of Thea (= Camellia) assamica and T. Sinensis and several hybrids of the family Theaceae. Tea infusion is now a universal drink.

04. Detected by : Maniram Dutta Baruah (alias Maniram Dewan) in 1806 to 1858

05. Discovered By : Major Robert Bruce in 1826

06. Manufacturing Process : a) Plucking, b) Withering, c) Rolling, d) Shifting, e) Fermentation, f) Firing, g) Sorting and h) Grading.

07. Country : India

08. State : Assam

09. Latitude : 200 (North) to 280 (North)

10. Longitude : 900 (East) to 960 (East)

11. Altitude : 600 metres to 700 metres above sea level

12. Rainfall: Maximum 03,678.4 millimetre to Minimum 01,171.1 millimetre

13. Temperature : Maximum 390 centigrade to Minimum 050 centigrade

14. Humidity : 83.00%

15. Total area under Tea cultivation : 02,30,000 Hectares

16. Number of Tea Gardens : 860

17. Number of employees (Permanent & Temporary) : 8,00,000

18. Total annul production of Tea : 400 million to 450 million kilograms

(55% of all India production)

19. Estimated turnover of the Industry in Assam : Rs. 2,200 crores

20. Major Tea- Companies : Assam Tea Company, Tata Tea, Williamson Magor,

Rossell Industries, Assam Frontier, Goodricke,

Warren Tea, Jayshree et cetera.

21. Major Tea-Associations : Assam Tea Planters Association, Assam Cha Mazdoor Sangha, Assam Branch of India Tea Association, Branch of Indian Tea Association, Tea Association of India, Indian Tea Association, Bharatiya Chha Parishad, et cetera.

22. Tea Students’ Organisation : Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association, et cetera.

23. Tea Unions : Assam Tea Employees’ Industrial Co-operative Organization Limited, Chha Shramik Union, All Assam Small Tea Growers Association, et cetera.

24. Tea Training Centre : Tea Training Co-operation of India

25. Tea Trading Corporation : Assam Tea Corporation, Tea Trading Corporation of

India, Consultative Committee of Plantations Association

26. Contribution to State exchequer : Rs 140 crores

27. Money earmarked for welfare activity by ABITA : Rs 01 crore per annum.

28. Tea personnel killed in extremists attack : 12 to 15 (approx)

29. Tea Executives kidnapped but subsequently released : 40 to 50 (approx)

30. Tea Protection Forces : Assam Tea Protection Force, Assam Tea Plantation Security Force, Tea Security Force, Assam Tea Plantation Task Force, Tea Garden Protection Force etc.

31. Tea-Gardens of Assam threatened by Extremist groups of North-East India : National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), Boro Liberation Tiger (BLT), United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Birsa Commando Force (BCF), Adibashi Cobra Militants of Assam (ACMA), Adibashi National Liberation Army (ANLA), Dima Halom Daoga (DHD), United National Liberation Front (UNLF), Peoples’ United Liberation Front (PULF), National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Chishi Swu & Thuingling Muivah) – NSCN (IM), United People Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF) BNLF, et cetera.



STATE # Tea-Gardens Area Encroached
(In Bigha-Katha-Lecha)
Of Use
Year of
Sibsagar 119 2,181 – 4 – 7 Plantation & Houses
Golaghat 74 265 – 4 – 10 Plantation
Jorhat 81 398 – 1 – 16 Plantation
Nagaon 21 568 – 4 – 3 Plantation
Morigaon 2 98 – 4 – 1 Plantation
Dhubri 3 70 – 0 – 0 Plantation 1995
Kokrajhar 3 181 – 2 – 1 Plantation 1993-1994
Bongaigaon 1 7 – 1 – 12 Plantation 1985
Goalpara 2 Nil Does not arise
Cachar 60 1,877 – 4 – 4 Plantation
Hailakandi 16 Nil Does not arise
Karimganj 30 421 – 1 – 4 Plantation 1975
Darrang 35 543 – 01 – 13 Plantation 1966-1977
Lakhimpur 10 7,882 – 0 – 9 Plantation 1980-1985
Tinsukia 86 1,55,349 – 3 – 9.5 Plantation 1970
Dhemaji 103 521 – 1 – 19 Plantation 1978
Barpeta 1 Nil Does not arise
Nalbari 3 Nil Does not arise
Kamrup 7 2,818 – 2 – 16 Plantation 1994
Sonitpur 72 6,702 – 4 – 9 Plantation 1986-1995
Dibrugarh 139 1,955 – 1 – 13 Not available
Total Assam 768 1,78,874 Bighas-02 Kathas-03.5 Lechas.

Source : Department of Land Records & Reforms, Tea-Gardens of Assam (INDIA)



Executive Name Tea-Estate(TE)/ Assassination Date
D. Choudhury, Assistant Manager Ledo-TE 15-02-1989
Amal Paul, Field Clerk Corramore-TE 15-08-1989
P.C. Scaria TATA Tea Limited 13-03-1990
Surendra Paul, Director Assam Frontier Tea 07-06-1990
Jawaharlal Jain, Manager Dheria-TE 19-10-1990
D.K. Choudhury, Manager Romai-TE 12-02-1991
Chandrashekher Chakraborty, Manager Panbari-TE 04-04-1992
Rameshwar Singh, General Manager Assam Frontier Tea 15-02-1994
Koilee Baisnav, Permanent Worker
(Mistaken identity)
Attrekahat-TE 15-10-1995
Tezindar Kaur, Manager Nagrijuli-TE 03-03-1997
Durgadas Mukherjee, Manager Choibari-TE 21-12-1997
Surendra Roy, Manager Borghora-TE 10-12-1998
Rajanikanta Chaturvedi Shankar-TE 20-07-2000
Suresh Modi, Owner Modi-TE 20-10-2000
Juin Suma Basumatry, Asst. Manager Fatemabad-TE 16-12-2000
Surendra Sharma, Officials Langrijan-TE 06-07-2003
Mohan Singh, Owner Daishajan-TE 03-08-2003
Suresh Limbu, Manager Rongmola-TE 10-08-2005
Haren Das, Manager Hailanga-TE 23-09-2006
Gautam Kumar Kataki, Deputy Manager Coramoor-TE 23-12-2008

Source : Indian Assam State Police Force.



Executive Name Tea-Estate Abduction Date Release Date
Subir Roy, Manager
(Williamson Magor)
Dimakuchi-TE 18-03-1992 07-04-1992
K. K. Mittal, Managing Director Manabari-TE Dec., 1992 NO TRACE
Bolin Bardoloi, Deputy General Manager TATA-Tea 08-04-1993 11-03-1994
Jayanta Choudhury, Managing Director
& R. K. Gohain, Assistant Manager
Fatemabad-Tea 12-06-1993 13-07-1993
S. K. Baruah, Managing Director Bhergaon-TE 23-03-1994 30-03-1994
D. V. Singh, Manager
& A. Dutta, Assistant Manager
(TATA Tea)
17-10-1995 18-10-1995
O. P. Siwal, Assistant Manager Tyroon-TE 19-10-1995 26-10-1995
N. N. Kilpadi, Manager Saola-Tea 26-01-1996 30-01-1996
D. K. Baruah Bhergaon-TE 17-09-1996 03-04-1997
Arup Kumar Bhadury, Owner Sonapur-TE 29-01-1997 26-06-1997
P. K. Choudhury Menoka-TE 29-07-1997 August,1997
Amalesh Chakraborty, Head Assistant Mornoi-TE 05-01-1998 18-01-1998
Badrilal Hiduwani, Manager Sapoi-TE 27-03-1998 12-08-1999
Hitesh Puri, General Manager
& Gautam Roy, Manager
Chandighat-TE 03-08-1999
Dibyajyoti Sharma, Assistant Manager Baladhan-TE
(Joyshree Tea Company)
04-08-1999 12-08-1999
Bimal Das, Manager, Priyankar Pujari,
Assistant Manager, Nabajyoti Phukan, Deputy Manager
Fatemabad-TE 28-08-1999 07-11-1999
Ranjit Banerjee, Senior Assistant Manager
& Subir Dev Roy, Labour Welfare Officer
(Grob-Tea Company)
21-08-1999 28-08-1999
Bhupen Mahanta, Accountant Salona-TE 28-06-1999 06-09-1999
Laxmikant Sharma, Head Clerk Jiyajuri-TE 28-06-1999 12-09-1999
Rakesh Singh, Assistant Manager Binnakandi-TE 06-11-1999 14-11-1999
A. K. Upadhayay, Assistant Manager Amaranagar-TE 01-12-1999 —–
Radha Kanta Trivedi, Manager &
Rathsurat Gowala, Driver
Lakhipur-TE 11-03-1999 —–
Sagarmoy Pujari, Tea Executive
& Dinesh Chaube, Assistant Manager
Bhuban Valley-TE 01-02-2000 15-02-2000
Keshab Bhattacharjee, Assistant Manager, Martycherra-TE 16-02-2000 26-02-2000
Ashok Chakraborty, Assistant Manager, Choibari-TE 27-05-2000 16-06-2000
Raj Kumar Pandey, Manager Lakhipur-TE 08-06-2000 08-07-2000
Shambhu Nath , Manager &
Ram Avtar Chakraborty, Manager
Binnakandi-TE 05-08-2001 —–
Kishore Kurmi, Assistant Manager Dholai-TE 16-12-2002 13-01-2004
Bimalendu Gupta, Assistant Manager Jatinga Valley-TE 05-02-2003 —–
Dwijendra Narayan Roy, Executive
Engineer, Akshay Choudhury &
Subhash Roy
Dokmoka-TE 08-07-2003 —–
Sarat Dutta, Assistant Manager
& Rakesh Kumar
Bhagabati-TE 22-02-2004 —–
Sandip Satodia, Director Jagadamba-TE 06-04-2005 —–
Birendra Kumar Chaudhury, Manager Lungchung-TE 19-09-2005 22-01-2006
Paresh Nath Singh, Assistant Manager Koomber-TE 03-05-2006 03-05-2006 (Released After 4hrs)

Source : Indian Assam State Police Force



Registred Small
Tea Growers
Tea Growers
Total Area of
Tea Plantation
(In Bigha)
Tea-Worker Tea Farmer
Sibsagar 80 4,004 40,172 13,045 6,977
Golaghat 212 3,730 40,843 12,781 6,390
Jorhat 71 1,115 9,872 10,022 2,112
Nagaon 13 32 1,496 486 170
Morigaon 7 16 203 119 20
Dhubri 1 80 659 291 83
Kokrajhar 2 15 370 124 15
Bongaigaon 850 245 45
Goalpara 89 615 337 94
Cachar —- —– —–
Hailakandi —- —– —–
Karimganj —- —– —–
Darrang 12 48 384 159 24
Lakhimpur 9 79 1,809 596 313
Tinsukia 84 8,855 95,131 22,998 10,541
Dhemaji 1 13 —- —– —–
Barpeta —- —– —–
Nalbari 1 11 71 41 16
Kamrup 4 83 215 71 25
Sonitpur 67 184 6,185 1,906 1,218
Dibrugarh 104 6,530 88,481 46,740 10,606
Karbi Anglong 50 79 3,250 1,084 130
Assam Total 718 24,963 290,606 111,045 38,779

Source : All Assam Small Tea Growers of Association (INDIA)


Tax Paid By Assam State (india) Tea-Garden to Extremist Group

Tea Company Tax Paid By Tea-Estate
Williamson Magor 3 Crore
TATA Tea 50 Lakhs
Bhergaon Tea-Estate 25 Lakhs
Badlapur Tea-Estate 9 Lakhs
Chandana Tea-Estate 5 Lakhs
Nandan Nayer Tea-Estate 10 Lakhs
Ambika Tea-Estate 3 Lakhs
Macneil Magor 24 Lakhs

Source : Paper seized from outlawed Bodo militant group-National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)

by Assam State Police Force, Government of India.

Shib Shankar Chatterjee is a former BBC, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Statesman & The Telegraph Contributor-cum-Correspondent from Northeast India, who specializes in investigations of important issues affecting the people of South Asia, specially, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan & Myanmar.