India: labour rights leader arbitrarily arrested, threatenedEvent
- Initial Date
- May 22, 2022
- Event Description
About the Human Rights Defender: Mr. Mrinal Kanti Shome is the General Secretary, Assam Majoori Shramik Union (AMSU). He is a retired school headmaster and who has been working to highlight the plight of tea garden workers since 2008.
Background of the incident: Since April 2022, there has been an ongoing protest by the Dolu tea estate workers against the illegal acquisition of land of tea estate for the new Silchar Airport and clearance of tea bushes which will affect the livelihood of more than 2000 tea workers of the Dolu tea estate. On May 11, 2022, CrPC 144 was imposed on Dolu and the protest gained momentum with more tea estate workers joining in. On May 12, the eviction was started and the tea estate surrounded by the police and the workers were asked not to leave the tea estate and leaders of tea workers were targeted and arrested. The tea workers are demanding that their concerns be heard and addressed which include, exploring alternative proposals for the new airport location, failing which the issue of re-employment, rehousing and rehabilitation must be addressed. Workers say that they must be heard through their legitimate representatives. They allege that the government has a memorandum of understanding with the tea estate company entered into with trade unions, who do not represent the workers nor can they demonstrate that they consulted the workers.
Amidst growing unrest among Doloo Tea Estate workers, Asom Mojuri Shramik Union (AMSU) General Secretary Mrinal Kanti Shome was detained by the Silchar police on May 22, 2022. Local democratic groups gathered in front of the District Magistrate’s office in protest of this detention on Monday.
On Sunday afternoon at around 3 PM, Silchar Sadar police officials picked up Shome from his house. Officers said that the Superintendent of Police (SP) wanted to meet him. However, after being taken to the SP’s office he was taken to the police station where he went through medical testing procedures.
Shome’s wife asked the SP about his condition but was only informed that Shome was being interrogated. According to AMSU member Arup Baishwa, as of Monday, “The police still haven’t stated the reason for his detainment nor confirmed his arrest.”
The local trade union leader was working with Doloo Tea Estate workers in opposing the Greenfield Airport project to be built on a part of the estate that could affect workers' livelihood. Recently, even other tribal groups like the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) and even the Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan voiced their support for the workers. Therefore, multiple democratic forces in Assam called for a mass rally in front of the Silchar District Magistrate's office on Monday afternoon to condemn police harassment.
“Arresting of engaged leaders is a tool to fracture the strength of mass movements,” said the AMSU in a press release.
Meanwhile, a Congress delegation led by Opposition leader Debabrata Saikia visited the tea estate on the day of Shome’s detention. Saikia claimed he wanted to understand the issue in the region. However, state police blocked the group from entering the area.
To this, Saikia reportedly said, “The manner in which the Opposition was obstructed is a bad omen for democracy! We the people of Assam are the evidence that the BJP is destroying democracy in recent times!”
Mr. Shome said that the SP also threatened him that his son’s visa will be affected if he continues his activism and that his pension will also be stopped. She also falsely accused him of taking money from a certain Mr Rajendra Agarwal. He alleges that Ms. Kaur also treated him discourteously in a manner not befitting a senior citizen.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- (Arbitrary) Arrest and Detention
- Intimidation and Threats
- Rights Concerned
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to liberty and security
- Labour rights defender
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 22 May 2022, Mrinal Kanti Shome, General Secretary of Assam Majoori Shramik Union(AMSU) and labour rights leader arbitrarily, was arbitrarily arrested for 30 hours, after being interrogated and threatened by the police as result of the tea workers ongoing protest against land expropriation in Silchar, India.