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September 23, 1997


Assam govt alleges Tata Tea had tacit deal with ULFA, Bodo ultras

The Assam government on Monday accused Tata Tea company of having a tacit understanding with the banned United Liberation Front of Asom and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.

In a hard-hitting official statement, which came in response to the Tata Tea's advertisement in some newspapers on Monday, the state government wondered how Tata Tea or any other Indian tea company could be forced by the ULFA of NDFB to meet outside India unless there was some tacit understanding.

In the advertisement on Monday, Tata Tea admitted that they had a forced meeting with the militant organisations abroad. The state government also took note of the fact that Tata Tea did not keep the state government informed, on such a clandestine meeting abroad with persons or organisations who were waging war against the state.

The Assam government also clarified that during the past 16 months it had not received any complaint from Tata Tea or its employees working in the state regarding any security infringement.

The state government's notice pointed out that the Tata Tea's schemes, or providing specialised medical assistance to a women had links with ULFA, was initiated on September 2 last year for treatment of heart, cancer, and eye ailments in the BM Birla Hospital at Calcutta, Tata Memorial Hospital at Bombay, and Shankar Netralaya at madras for the respective ailments.

However, cultural secretary of the ULFA Pranati Deka was taken to Jaslok Hospital in Bombay for delivery at Tata Tea's expense. She had her two companions, both hardcore ULFA militants, who stayed at Hotel Kemps Corner and Hotel Shalimar again at the expense of the company. These three ULFA militants were also escorted to Bombay by a Tata Tea executive, Dr Brajen Gogoi,who stayed at Hotel Shalimar with Pranati Deka, the statement said.

All these activities were outside the scope of the specialised medical assistance scheme of the company, the state government pointed out, adding that the company's senior officials at the Calcutta office were not only aware of these illegal activities but also provided support to their Guwahati counterparts .

Regarding Tata Tea's letter written to the then Congress government informing them of the company's close contacts and regular dialogue with ULFA, the state government said the letter contained an assurance from Tata Tea that the government would be kept informed of further dialogues that the company might have with ULFA. No such information had, however, been received by the state government during the past one year and nine months, the statement said.

It added that in the meeting between the Consultative Committee of the Planters' Association (CCPA) and Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta last November, the chief minister had advised the tea companies to apprise the state officers of any threat to their security and to seek protection whenever required.

Meanwhile, the bail petition of the arrested Tata Tea General Manager (North Indian Plantation Division) S S Dogra will come up on Wednesday at the Guwahati high court.

It was to be taken up on Monday but was deferred till Tuesday after the state government sought more time. On Tuesday, it was once again deferred because the Guwahati high court Chief Justice M Ramakrishna referred the case to a different bench.

Mahanta vows tough action against cos backing ULFA
Gujral did not meet Ratan Tata; Dogra remanded to 14 days judicial custody
Assam police arrest Tata Tea GM Dogra for nexus with ULFA
Union home ministry denies interfering in Tata Tea case
Tata Tea denies charges of nexus with ULFA
Tata Tea officials probed on alleged nexus with ULFA

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