Tea Garden workers in Sylhet on Monday observed the historical ‘Tea garden workers killing day’, through different programmes to meet their fundamental rights including recognising their ownership to the land where they have been living for centuries, increasing their daily salary and ensuring proper medical facilities for them and their family members.
Declaring May 20 as the ‘Tea garden workers killing day’ by the government is also another major demand of the tea estate labourers.
Leaders and activists of the Tea Garden Workers Federation placed a floral wrath on the altar of Shaheed Minar at Malni Chara Tea Garden in Sylhet in the morning to express their respect to the martyrs who were killed on May 20 in 1921.
Later in the morning, they also brought out a rally from Lakkatura Tea Garden in the city marking the day.
Apart from the leaders and activists of the Tea Garden Workers Federation, leaders of Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal and student organisation Bangladesh Chhatra Front also participated in the rally.
The Malni Chhara Tea Garden was established in 1954 when the then East India Company brought hundreds of thousands of labourers from different regions, including Assam, Bihar, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh of India to work for the newly developed tea gardens in the Sylhet region.
The East India Company authorities became notorious for their use of the tea garden workers as slaves. Though they were salaried, the tea garden workers were the worst case of repression in the region, the workers said.
In 1921, around 30,000 workers of different tea gardens launched a movement led by their leader Ganga Charan Dixshit and Pandit Dewsharan, which is known as Mulluk Chalo Andolan to go back to their respective motherlands.
When they reached on the bank of Meghna at Chandpur, the British armed forces opened fire on the labourers on May 20 in 1921, leaving hundreds of them dead in the Meghna River. Workers who escaped the mass killing were subjected to inhuman torture.
The tea garden workers have been observing May 20 as the ‘Tea garden workers killing day,’ since then.