The Tata Tea/ULFA Story

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Case Details:

Case Code : BECG008
Case Length : 09 Pages
Period : 1997-2001
Pub. Date : 2002
Teaching Note : Available
 Organization : Tata Tea, ULFA
Industry : Food and Beverage
Countries : India

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"If we don't pay the militants, we get kidnapped or even killed. And when we buy peace with money, we are dubbed anti-national."

- An Assam based tea company official, in 1997.

"The lack of security cannot be an excuse for the industry to help the militants financially."

- The Assam Government, commenting on the Tata Tea/ULFA controversy, in 1997.

"The Tatas refused payment to the Assam Gana Parishad before the last assembly election and Mahanta was upset. Now he has got a chance to settle scores with them."

- Paresh Barua, ULFA Commander-in-Chief, in 1997.

A Scandal Unravels

In August 1997, the Bombay police arrested a woman along with her newborn baby and two bodyguards from the Santacruz airport as she was leaving for Delhi. The woman was Pranati Deka (Pranati), cultural secretary of the banned militant organization United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and the wife of ULFA's finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika. Prior to this incident, the Assam and Delhi police had been following Pranati for a few months.

The primary reason for the police's interest in Pranati was not her link with the ULFA. It was her association with India's leading tea company Tata Tea Ltd. (Tata Tea) that had led to her arrest.

Tata Tea was alleged to have borne the expenses for her check-up at the Jaslok hospital, plus travel and hotel charges for her and her two companions.

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