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Assam: Doloo Tea Estate workers out on streets in protest

Other tea estate workers also join the protest highlighting the cultural diversity of tea estate workers

Sabrangindia 21 May 2022

Protest
Photo-Credits:  Manas Das

Thousands of Doloo tea estate (TE) workers held a protest march in Assam on May 21, 2022, against an upcoming Greenfield Airport project. According to the supporting union, there is palpable tension within the community against what they have dubbed a sudden “eviction”.

Following the demolition of part of the estate by bulldozers, Section 144 was declared in the region located in the Cachar district of Assam, allegedly to keep workers from voicing their dissent, said the Assam Mazdoor Shramik Union (AMSU). However, the TE workers, tired of living in apprehension of job loss, marched about 15-18 km in a huge protest along the national highway and the tea garden on Friday.

“The movement has begun in all four divisions of the estate. Every division has thousands of workers. On Saturday, they will gather for a meeting at Lalbag,” AMSU President Mrinal Kanti Shome told Sabrang India.

Shome hoped that the meeting with the Deputy Commissioner will alleviate some of the stress among the workers. Either way, he said the AMSU was preparing to approach the High Court regarding the threat to workers. While sources managed to send one of the videos to SabrangIndia, Shome said he heard reports that the police are allegedly confiscating phones from the protest area.

Aside from the workers employed in the Doloo tea estate, nearby workers from Coombergram tea estate also promised solidarity with Doloo workers. They demanded that the authorities follow the directives agreed upon during earlier public hearings. Further they asked that Doloo workers be sent back to work and Section 144 be removed.

The united stand among workers is a testament to the common struggle of tea workers in Assam

Who are Doloo TE workers?

According to Tinsukia College Professor Sushanta Kar, Doloo’s tea estate workers first came to Assam in the nineteenth century when British colonisers resolved to bring in tribal folk from neighbouring states (then provinces).

“The British wanted workers for the tea estate but could not gather adequate labour from local communities. So, they brought in tribals from then Greater Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and adjacent areas,” he told SabrangIndia.

Kar said that Doloo’s workers came from both northern and southern India, some originally came from as far as Tamil Nadu.“Even today, some TE workers say they are Telugu or Tamil,” said Kar.

Unlike indigenous tribes, TE workers were new migrants. Most important, their people did not receive the “Scheduled Tribes (ST)” title that the communities enjoyed in their indigenous states after Independence. Kar blamed the missed opportunity on the usual political discourse surrounding any affirmative action. He said that while there is no real reason to deny the tag to the group, the central government does not award them the same.

“So, they are made into workers but collectively called the ‘tea tribe’,” said Kar, explaining the hindrances for the community in gaining necessary reservation in education and employment.

Some tea tribes continue to call themselves ‘Adivasis’ as their communities are known in mainland India. These tribes include Santhal, Kurukh, Munda, Gond, Kol and Tantis tribes among others. Across Assam, these groups suffer this same fate. Kept as contract workers even after independence, the workers lack the social security to improve their standard of living.

Time and again, workers have risen in protest against these hardships especially between 1930 and 1936. For instance in May 1921, labourers were forced to leave their tea gardens in the ‘Chargola Coolie Exodus’.

According to a book titled ‘Planter-Raj to Swaraj Freedom Struggle and Electoral Politics in Assam’ by Amalendu Guha, strikes broke out at Dholai-Valley in south Sylhet in the first week. Workers demanded a pay increase but like with Doloo workers met with Section 144 of the IPC. The restriction was issued within seven miles of Sylhet and in several other sensitive areas.

As such, they engaged in what Guha called “a pathetic endeavour to reach their village homes, hundreds of miles away”. These workers in Chargola and Longai valleys included many Hindi-speaking non-tribals from Uttar Pradesh’s districts. Guha estimates more than 4,000 people, i.e., half of those who left Chargola Valley returned to Basti and Gorakhpur in June.

Their rehabilitation was no problem since the wage rates there were found more attractive than in Chargola Valley. However, for the rest of the workers left in the tea gardens problems of deficit education, wages, job security persist.

Nowadays, the protests garnered in over 100 places by the AMSU strive to correct these injustices in Doloo. With the major trade unions affiliated to both the left-leaning and right-leaning parties gone, workers now agitate under the aegis of Adivasi rights groups like AMSU. According to members, workers only appeal that authorities adhere to the decision made during the two public hearings after the community learnt about the airport project in their workplace.

Related:

India’s tribal groups demand justice for Assam's tea estate workers
Still no recognition for non-ST tribes in India
Doloo tea estate workers protest Greenfield Airport project
Chhattisgarh police arrest tribal rights defender, allegedly on fabricated charges
Were only 1,064 Tribal families displaced in Odisha for mining in the last 10 years?

Assam: Doloo Tea Estate workers out on streets in protest

Other tea estate workers also join the protest highlighting the cultural diversity of tea estate workers

Protest
Photo-Credits:  Manas Das

Thousands of Doloo tea estate (TE) workers held a protest march in Assam on May 21, 2022, against an upcoming Greenfield Airport project. According to the supporting union, there is palpable tension within the community against what they have dubbed a sudden “eviction”.

Following the demolition of part of the estate by bulldozers, Section 144 was declared in the region located in the Cachar district of Assam, allegedly to keep workers from voicing their dissent, said the Assam Mazdoor Shramik Union (AMSU). However, the TE workers, tired of living in apprehension of job loss, marched about 15-18 km in a huge protest along the national highway and the tea garden on Friday.

“The movement has begun in all four divisions of the estate. Every division has thousands of workers. On Saturday, they will gather for a meeting at Lalbag,” AMSU President Mrinal Kanti Shome told Sabrang India.

Shome hoped that the meeting with the Deputy Commissioner will alleviate some of the stress among the workers. Either way, he said the AMSU was preparing to approach the High Court regarding the threat to workers. While sources managed to send one of the videos to SabrangIndia, Shome said he heard reports that the police are allegedly confiscating phones from the protest area.

Aside from the workers employed in the Doloo tea estate, nearby workers from Coombergram tea estate also promised solidarity with Doloo workers. They demanded that the authorities follow the directives agreed upon during earlier public hearings. Further they asked that Doloo workers be sent back to work and Section 144 be removed.

The united stand among workers is a testament to the common struggle of tea workers in Assam

Who are Doloo TE workers?

According to Tinsukia College Professor Sushanta Kar, Doloo’s tea estate workers first came to Assam in the nineteenth century when British colonisers resolved to bring in tribal folk from neighbouring states (then provinces).

“The British wanted workers for the tea estate but could not gather adequate labour from local communities. So, they brought in tribals from then Greater Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and adjacent areas,” he told SabrangIndia.

Kar said that Doloo’s workers came from both northern and southern India, some originally came from as far as Tamil Nadu.“Even today, some TE workers say they are Telugu or Tamil,” said Kar.

Unlike indigenous tribes, TE workers were new migrants. Most important, their people did not receive the “Scheduled Tribes (ST)” title that the communities enjoyed in their indigenous states after Independence. Kar blamed the missed opportunity on the usual political discourse surrounding any affirmative action. He said that while there is no real reason to deny the tag to the group, the central government does not award them the same.

“So, they are made into workers but collectively called the ‘tea tribe’,” said Kar, explaining the hindrances for the community in gaining necessary reservation in education and employment.

Some tea tribes continue to call themselves ‘Adivasis’ as their communities are known in mainland India. These tribes include Santhal, Kurukh, Munda, Gond, Kol and Tantis tribes among others. Across Assam, these groups suffer this same fate. Kept as contract workers even after independence, the workers lack the social security to improve their standard of living.

Time and again, workers have risen in protest against these hardships especially between 1930 and 1936. For instance in May 1921, labourers were forced to leave their tea gardens in the ‘Chargola Coolie Exodus’.

According to a book titled ‘Planter-Raj to Swaraj Freedom Struggle and Electoral Politics in Assam’ by Amalendu Guha, strikes broke out at Dholai-Valley in south Sylhet in the first week. Workers demanded a pay increase but like with Doloo workers met with Section 144 of the IPC. The restriction was issued within seven miles of Sylhet and in several other sensitive areas.

As such, they engaged in what Guha called “a pathetic endeavour to reach their village homes, hundreds of miles away”. These workers in Chargola and Longai valleys included many Hindi-speaking non-tribals from Uttar Pradesh’s districts. Guha estimates more than 4,000 people, i.e., half of those who left Chargola Valley returned to Basti and Gorakhpur in June.

Their rehabilitation was no problem since the wage rates there were found more attractive than in Chargola Valley. However, for the rest of the workers left in the tea gardens problems of deficit education, wages, job security persist.

Nowadays, the protests garnered in over 100 places by the AMSU strive to correct these injustices in Doloo. With the major trade unions affiliated to both the left-leaning and right-leaning parties gone, workers now agitate under the aegis of Adivasi rights groups like AMSU. According to members, workers only appeal that authorities adhere to the decision made during the two public hearings after the community learnt about the airport project in their workplace.

Related:

India’s tribal groups demand justice for Assam's tea estate workers
Still no recognition for non-ST tribes in India
Doloo tea estate workers protest Greenfield Airport project
Chhattisgarh police arrest tribal rights defender, allegedly on fabricated charges
Were only 1,064 Tribal families displaced in Odisha for mining in the last 10 years?

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