The company’s CEO was killed by workers on Sunday

A day after the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Northbrook Jute Co Ltd was allegedly killed by workers, not many of the 4,000-odd workers dared to come out of their homes.

The murder of 60-year-old H.K. Maheswari, at Champdani in West Bengal’s Hooghly district, on Sunday has sent shock waves across the State and tension was palpable in the area adjoining the mill.

Workers are stalked by twin fears — another period of suspension of work at the mill running into months, and being detained by police for investigation of the brutal incident.

“What happened on Sunday should never have happened. But what happened was in a fit of rage,” Ramlal Tiwari, a retired employee said.

A few metres away from the closed iron gates of the 100-year-old jute mill, that prominently bears a “suspension of work with immediate affect” notice, are the blocks of dingy houses for the workers. While uncertainty clouds their future, anger and discontent against the mill administration are also evident.

“The mill was closed in the first week of March for no reason and opened days before the Lok Sabha polls in April and then on June 15, the management decided to bring down the working days per week to three,” Simanto Paswan, an employee of the jute mill said. He added that the mill had a history of unrest.

Binay Kumar, a prominent union leader affiliated to the ruling party, said the “mob violence” was triggered by a “momentary surge of anger” after the workers heard of the proposal to reduce the working days. After reports of the proposal to reduce working hours spread, the workers laid siege to the administrative office and attacked the CEO after an altercation with him, he claimed.

Six arrested

Meanwhile, six people have been arrested by the district police in connection with the incident; five of them have been sent to police custody for 15 days. While those arrested are from the trade union of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Left parties, workers said that the incident had nothing to do with political affiliations.

The issue also created a flutter at the State Assembly on Monday. “Militant trade unionism will not be tolerated,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said in the House, promising strong action against the culprits.