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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 18:02 GMT
Indian tea estate dispute 'kills 19'
Nineteen people have been burned to death in eastern India in a dispute between two trade unions, police say.

Tea workers
The tea industry is one of the main employers in the region
Two factions of a Marxist trade union clashed over the recruitment of clerical workers on a tea estate in the Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal.

Police officer Chayan Mukherjee said that about 500 people attacked the house of the secretary of a local trade union and burned it down.

The attackers also set fire to the adjoining three houses.

Two of the dead are said to be women.

"The bodies are badly charred and have not been identified," said Mr Mukherjee.

Police say more than 100 people, including 25 women, have been arrested in connection with Thursday morning's incident.

Hiring of workers

Tension had been rising in the Dalgaon tea estate in Jalpaiguri since last month when a group of workers supported hiring of outside workers, while another group opposed it.

Both groups belong to the ruling Marxist government affiliated Centre for Indian Trade Unions (Citu).

The groups clashed late on Wednesday over fresh hiring by the garden management.

Jalpaiguri district police chief Siddhinadh Gupta told the BBC that the mayhem continued for at least three hours before the police intervened.

This is the worst clash in the troubled tea gardens of West Bengal so far this year.

Several incident of attacks on tea executives by angry workers have been reported from the neighbouring state of Assam in recent months.

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