Government of Assam: Release Mrinal Kanti Shome and Dharitri Sharma NOW

Stop the New Silchar Airport. Hear the workers first.

23 May 2020: The New Trade Union Initiative demands the immediate release of Assam Majoori Shramik Union (AMSU) General Secretary Mrinal Kanti Shome and Dharitri Sharma, the union’s Cachar District Committee Secretary.

Com. Shome has been interned in the Silchar Sadar police station for 24 hours now and has been subject to sustained questioning. Com. Sharma was called into the police station this evening and has been held in captivity since. Both of them are subject to unlawful incarceration without warrant or even written requests to appear for questioning before the police.

The resistance of the Dolu tea estate workers against the illegal acquisition of land for the new Silchar Airport has carried on unabated 10+ days after the unwarranted imposition of CrPC 144 by the District Collector. Efforts by police to push workers of the land have failed. The plan to demarcate the land for the airport was further resisted by the workers over the last four days.
Having failed to break the workers’ resistance government is now following a know recipe of illegality and impunity, because it is unwilling to listen to people.

The tea estate has been surrounded by the police and workers cannot leave the tea estate. The arrests are aimed at spreading fear amongst workers and breaking their morale whilst separating them from their leadership.

The demands of the workers are simple and plain – they want their concerns to be heard and addressed which includes, exploring alternative proposals for the new airport location failing which the issue of re-employment, rehousing and rehabilitation. Workers have not once said that they will not vacate the land but they have indeed said that they must be heard through their legitimate representatives. Government is holding on to the memorandum of understanding the tea estate company entered into with trade unions who admittedly do not represent the workers nor can demonstrate that they consulted with workers.

Government says it will not respond to protests but is willing to dialogue. Yet government has not responded to even one of the umpteen memoranda sent to it by AMSU on behalf of the workers.
Workers have every right to resist peacefully, as they have done for several weeks, in the face of a tone-deaf government.

The unlawful arrests in the last twenty four hours mark government’s crass determination not to address peoples concerns but to move forward unilaterally to protect the plantation owners and itself while denying a just compensation to the workers. The arrests are aimed at breaking the peaceful protests and providing an alibi to government for engaging in violence against workers to clear the tea gardens.

What happens from here is and will be responsibility of the Government of Assam.

Gautam Mody
General Secretary

Our earlier statements can be accessed here –
Government of India, Government of Assam: Stop the New Silchar Airport. Hear the workers first
Solidarity with the Dolu Tea Estate workers