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Deadly row at India tea plantation

From CNN New Delhi Bureau Chief Satinder Bindra


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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Twenty-one people have been burned to death amid a row over jobs at a tea plantation in eastern India, police say.

The incident happened in a remote area of West Bengal, about 435 miles (700 km) north of Kolkata, formerly Calcutta.

Police said the dispute began when a local union leader at the Dalgaon Tea Estate wanted to hire three "outsiders," sparking outrage among local workers who wanted other laborers from the area to be hired.

Hundreds of the union workers went to the leader's home to protest at which point the union leader pulled out a gun and fired, injuring one protester.

Later a group of about 1,000 protesters surrounded the house and set fire to the structure, trapping 21 people inside.

Police say the union leader managed to escape.

However the mob outside the house prevented 21 people escaping the blaze. Officials said all of the dead, two of whom were women, were burned beyond recognition.

Police reinforcements have been rushed to the area and have detained 106 people in connection with the incident.

They say there may have been some pre-existing personal rivalries between the workers and their managers which added to tensions.

Tea plantations are big employers in northeastern India and an important part of the local economy.


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