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September 15, 1997


Assam police arrest Tata Tea GM Dogra for nexus with ULFA

The Assam police on Monday arrested Tata Tea General Manager S S Dogra for having a nexus with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom.

Inspector-General of Police (special branch) N Ramachandran said that Dogra was arrested on Monday afternoon for knowingly helping the militants.

However, two other top executives -- Tata Tea's outgoing Managing Director R K Krishna Kumar and Executive Director S N Kidwai -- who were also interrogated, were allowed to leave the state.

"We had hard evidence against Dogra and he had full knowledge of the terrorist personnel and knowingly helped them," said Ramachandran, who is heading the special investigation team.

The SIT has been investigating Tata Tea's alleged nexus with the banned extremist outfit.

Dogra, general manager of the North Indian Plantation Division of Tata Tea, will be produced before a magistrate on Tuesday. "Dogra was arrested for aiding and abetting unlawful activities of the banned organisation ULFA and knowingly conniving with those who are waging a war against the state,'' the inspector-general said.

Regarding Krishna Kumar and S N Kidwai, he said, ''We do not have enough ground against them and hence we allowed them to leave. But we have direct and hard evidence against Dogra for having full knowledge of the terrorists and deputing Tata Tea's junior executives to accompany the terrorists to Bombay.''

Tata Tea's involvement with the banned outfit came into light when police recovered a visiting card of a senior Tata Tea executive from the possession of a hardcore ULFA militant arrested at Bombay along with the organisation's cultural secretary Pranati Deka.

Deka had gone to Bombay to deliver a baby at the upmarket Jaslok Hospital at the expense of the tea company. Senior Tata Tea executive Brajen Gogoi also accompanied the militants to Bombay, coordinating the entire arrangements. Deka was arrested in the last week of August at the Bombay domestic airport while she was on her a way to Calcutta with her newborn baby.

About the possible arrest of more Tata Tea executives, Ramachandran said, ''At the moment,we are only looking for Brajen Gogoi, because he is personally involved in the entire deal.

"Dr Gogoi is abroad and according to the last information available, he was in Chicago with no definite date of returning."

The IGP, however, ruled out the arrest of Tata Tea senior executive Bolin Bardoloi, the head of the Tata Tea office at Guwahati. ''We do not have sufficient evidence against him of conniving with the terrorists,'' he said.

Dr Gogoi, according to the police, accompanied the ULFA leaders and coordinated the entire process with direct orders from general manager S S Dogra in coordination with Bombay office. The police are in possession of documents and hotel bills involving the Tata Tea executives with the militants.

However, Tata Tea has been officially maintaining that the ULFA leaders might have availed their medical aid programme for the needy and it would go to the extreme step of discontinuing special medical scheme if there were further cases of misuse of the scheme.

The company said it was unfair to defame it for the aberration in the implementation of the scheme at the local level.

Earlier, an investigative team of Assam police officials on Sunday interrogated Krishna Kumar in connection with the company's alleged involvement in funding ULFA.

Official sources said that Krishna Kumar, who arrived in Guwahati by a special aircraft on Saturday evening, was directly taken to the police headquarters where he was closetted with the investigative team members. The police had interrogated Kidwai and Dogra on September 12.

Meanwhile, the ruling Asom Gana Parishad General Secretary and Rural Development Minister Shahidul Alam Choudhury on Sunday cautioned the tea industry against providing patronage to extremists in Assam.

Choudhury accused the tea lobby of "hobnobbing" with various extremist outfits with the ulterior motive to destabilise the present coalition government in the state headed by the AGP.

Choudhury said he was proceeding to New Delhi to join Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, who would call on several central leaders to impress upon them about the need to bring erring tea companies to book.

Choudhury regretted that big tea companies like Tata Tea and Williamson Magor had been regularly funding extremist organisations at a time when the Assam government was making all-out efforts to curb militancy.

Choudhury criticised the Congress for demanding President's rule in Assam instead of extending a helping hand to the democratically elected state government for solving the extremist problem.

Union home ministry denies interfering in Tata Tea case

Tata Tea refutes allegations of funding ULFA
Tata Tea officials grilled on nexus with ULFA

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