for building a democratic labour movement in India
Repression of demonstrators protesting against repression of Maruti-Suzuki workers
On 9th August 2012, a joint protest demonstration was organized by 20 organization and pro-people intellectuals against repression of Maruti Suzuki Workers at ministry of labour, government of India in New Delhi. However, rather than listening the concerns of demonstrators, the government unleashed repression on them. The demonstrators were marching from UNI building to the building of Ministry of labour, the Shram Shakti Bhawan to submit a memorandum and to raise their concerns on the recent development in Maruti-Suzuki. They were stopped by police on the way. However, the protestors broke out the police barricading and managed to reach the Building of Ministry of labour and started demonstration there. They wanted to meet a responsible official of the ministry to raise their concerns on the issue and submit their memorandum. However, this was also not acceptable to the labour ministry of the so called largest democracy of the world; rather the police was ordered to unleash repression on demonstrators. In order to stop demonstration, the police started abusing, beating and dragging people away. Thereafter they forcibly put demonstrators in a police Bus and detained them in Parliamentary police station for more than three hours. However, they could not stop protest demonstration by this repression. The demonstrators continued their protest demonstrations with in the police station, and finally the police agreed that a delegation of demonstrators can go to the ministry to submit the memorandum.
Maruti Suzuki workers were struggling since 2010 to form their independent trade union, and Suzuki management was not ready at any cost to accept the existence of independent trade union. When workers successfully formed the trade union, the management started repression and suspended large number of workers in 2011. Workers agitation continued for a long period against this repression. Most of the trade unions in Gurgaon region (where Maruti-Suzuki is located) formed a joint front on this issue and with their support the workers movement became stronger. However, the management was able to break the movement by compelling the leadership of the trade union to leave the factory and by giving them a handsome amount as parting payment. Thereafter the workers some how registered a new trade union in 2012 and the management again started repression. The 18th July incident in which violence happened from the both sides, was actually the culmination of the two years struggle of workers in which they were systematically denied their right to organize and collective bargaining and they were continuously facing repression in various forms. It is a well recognized fact that on 18th July a supervisor in the shop-floor abused a workers and made casteist comments, and the management rather than taking action against him, suspended the victim worker. When the workers protested against this, 150 bouncers (musclemen-goons) were called from outside and they surrounded the workers from all sides. It is in this situation the violence started from both sides. The union says that it were the bouncers who brutally attacked the workers with sharp weapons and arms and the workers had no other way but to jump in this fight. According to workers, actually the bouncers vandalized the plant and set fire in a portion of the plant. It is also interesting to note that the fire was set at a place that ensured that there was no greater loss to the company. Whether planned or unplanned, but the whole incident happened in such a way to push the workers in corner. Now workers are blamed for the violence and they are facing continued repression in the form of arrests, suspensions and terminations. After this incident, the management also successfully managed to lobby the state machinery, politicians and people in surrounding villages against the workers. Aftermath of the incident, 114 workers including all 12 union executives has been arrested and more arrests are apprehended.
In the demonstration the protestors demanded justice to Maruti Suzuki workers. The organizations participating in the demonstration included All India Federation of Trade Unions (New), Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, ICTU, Correspondence, Krantikari Lokadhikar Sangathan, Krantikari Naujawan Sabha, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan, Mazdoor Patrika, Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha, Mazdoor Ekta Committee, Shramik Sangram Committee, s, People’s Union for Democratic Rights, People’s Front, Peoples’ Democratic Front of India, Pragatisheel Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha, Pragatisheel Mahila Ekta Kendra, Radical Notes, Students For Resistance, Sanhati-Delhi, Centre for Workers Education, Caste Annihilation movement, Shramik Duniya, Vidyarthi Yuvjan Sabha, Workers Unity Trade Union etc.
In the memorandum it was demanded that:
• An independent inquiry by reputed agency of India is constituted immediately and the scope of enquiry be enlarged to include the role of management in background of incident and in the 18thJuly incident.
• Innocent workers who have been falsely implicated in this case be released immediately and witch hunt of workers be stopped immediately.
• All FIR registered against workers be quashed
• 103 point code of conduct imposed upon workers be quashed
• Bouncers involved in the incident of 18th July 2012 and management staff responsible for employing bouncers must be arrested immediately
• F.I.R. under S.C./S.T. prevention of atrocity act be registered against supervisor who have made casteist abuse against worker.
• Stop Atrocity on workers’ movement
• Restore labour laws and abolish contract labour system in Maruti Suzuki India Pvt Ltd as well as in other industries
• Stop super exploitation of workers and drastic decline in workers’ wages
• Restore workers rights