By Nayan Jyoti:
Not covered by the lynch-mob instigating corporate media, 10,000 students, teachers and their supporters including some workers marched on 18th February in Delhi. The same day thousands of people also marched in Guwahati, Patna, Bangalore and so on, firmly asserting the #righttodissent and calling out the bluff on the ‘nationalism of scoundrels’. Solidarity across universities primarily and many other spaces have come pouring in. This did not start with #standwithJNU, as slogans of ‘JNU toh bahana hain, Rohith Vemula ka mamla dabana hain’ were heard prominently in the rallies.
Among students in particular, the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula in HCU by the anti-Dalit administrations under influence of the BJP/RSS, and right-wing authoritarian attack on FTII students to completely control freedom of thought and expression on their lines earlier are fresh examples of the series of coordinated attacks on voices calling for a just society, a real azadi. The rise of student struggles in these and other cases like #OccupyUGC and #Pinjratod, and participation of mass of students point to a breed of the fighting spirit which itself is the target of the anti-democratic forces – to not let us think, not let us protest against injustice in society and hence not be political.
They even want to divide us among ourselves, like they are doing in the JNU case by wanting to separate supposed ‘fringes’ from the ‘mainstream’, for instance tagging some like Umar Khalid as a ‘terrorist’ and JNUSU President Kanhaiya as a ‘traitor’ within their bile of anti-nationalism! Students have said that we shall not be divided and pointed to the fact that this is how state power of the ‘great Indian nation’ operates, by dividing us and making us docile subjects of its rule. And now, this is being also coerced by the RSS goonda vahini in the society with active State support.
This ‘disciplining’ and silencing of students and other sections through State terror is not for its own sake alone, but also because it is profitable for them to do so. For the farce of Modi’s ‘development’ to work in times of a global economic crisis, they need docile workers – who do not question the owners and ‘produce for the nation’. It is here where workers also become ‘anti-national’ when they place as simple a legitimate demand as right to form Union, or even the right to take a piss! To make this a normal state of affairs, the Haryana CM has already announced setting up of more police stations in industrial parks (remember the uncannily similar UGC Guidelines of setting up of police stations in Universities which we got outraged about?).
This normal repression and undeclared state of emergency has made another kill 5 days back. On 16th February, a brutal crackdown on thousands of Honda workers happened and continues on the Haryana-Rajasthan border. The Joint Police forces of BJP-ruled Haryana and Rajasthan are raiding homes, beating, arresting and hounding anyone who looks like a Honda worker or seen supporting one in the entire districts of Alwar in Rajasthan, and Rewari and Gurgaon in Haryana. For the last 4 days, there was still no trace of hundreds of workers, including 5 workers’ leaders who had gone to negotiate with the management on 16 February when a peaceful strike was going on in the factory from 2.30pm. Now 44 workers have supposedly been sent to jail, though no counsel on behalf of workers could be present in Court because of the atmosphere of complete terror. Hundreds of workers among 4000 workers of HONDA have been arrested and/or are missing, 350 received injuries with 50 seriously injured, the entire region–the DMIC belt in the centre of Modi’s #MakeinIndia–has become a police camp and emergency-like terror situation prevails.
In the morning of 16th February, a supervisor physically attacked and verbally abused a contract worker in the Paint shop in HMSI (Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India, Private Limited) for refusal to work overtime. This contract worker was ill because of having continuously worked over-time for last few days, but was still being forced to work over-time that day, and when he protested, the supervisor caught hold of his throat and physically attacked him.
This was the normal state of affairs of normal repressive control that the management and government labour department deploys inside the factory and outside but the workers decided to get together to protest that day. Work was stopped and 2000 workers of Shift A, across categories of permanent-contract-trainee-apprentice, sat peacefully inside the factory, while 1000 more of shift B and C gathered at the factory gate. They tried to negotiate with the management on long standing legitimate demands.
The company management responded by immediately dismissing 4 workers and suspending 8 workers, and 5 including worker leaders Naresh Kumar and Rajpal were called by the administration supposedly for discussion, company bouncers were called in to beat up workers (just like in Maruti Suzuki in 2012) and the local administration came in with huge contingent of Rajasthan Police. Suddenly, at 7pm, a most brutal Police crackdown happened without any provocation, when they attacked the workers, chased them, brutally assaulted them and took control of the plant and the area. Hundreds of workers were seriously injured. They were then hounded in their rented accommodations or homes, while the workers absconded in the face of this State and lumpen terror. Phones were unreachable, and the entire Tapukakra area is still under complete police control in a state of undeclared emergency.
After this, the Rajasthan Police under Vasundhara Raje’s BJP government combined forces with Haryana Police under BJP’s Khattar government (directed by the Modi government from the Centre). On 17th February morning, when hundreds of workers started gathering in Dharuhera–since they could not enter Tapukakra–to protest, they were hounded out of autos and buses and immediately arrested by the Haryana Police. 44 arrested workers who were supposedly produced in Tijara Court (no one could appear on their behalf due to the terror situation in Tapukakra) were sent to jail on completely fabricated cases including ‘attempt to murder’ on the DCP, rioting and looting!
For 10-15 days before 16th February, the work pressure had increased tremendously and workers would be forced to work 2-3 shifts of 8 hours at a time. Because around 500 contract workers and the main Union leadership, including Union president Naresh Kumar, were already terminated from their jobs for ‘daring to form Union’. On top of this, the Honda management got 500 ‘bouncers’, related to the contractor lobby, who would be given workers clothes and roam around freely threatening workers with ‘dire consequences’ if they dared to say one word in protest.
Frustration and anger was going on among workers since the management, in collusion with the government, started attacking workers after they put in an application in August 2015 for the Right to Union formation. This was to collectively articulate various reasons, common in the industrial belt, like increasing work pressure and forced work, worsening working conditions, forced difference in work and pay between contract and permanent workers, and repression through bouncers to name a few. This lays bare the real design of the current government in ever-clearer relief – that cynical hatred and crushing of anything progressive in society combines to create ‘proper conditions’ for a ruthless control through repression of the larger mass of those who #MakeinIndia under already horrendous conditions in society.
On 19th February, thousands of Honda workers through increasing solidarity among lakhs of workers in Gurgaon, Manesar, Dharuhera, Bawal, Neemrana, Tapukakra primarily on factory-to-factory level and with support of struggling Unions in the region, could finally gather in Gurgaon. A 8000 strong workers march walked 8 km to the Honda HQ on Faridabad road where they now have set up camp. We walked through riot-torn streets due to the Jat reservation issue, against the pro-corporate BJP governments of Haryana and Rajasthan, saying firmly: ‘state terror down down’, ‘Mazdoor virodhi Modi sarkar murdabad‘, asking as a worker did in the rally, ‘are we workers anti-nationals too now’?
The sit-in in front of the Honda HQ in Badshahpur, Gurgaon was forced to be discontinued on the morning of 21st February by immense Police pressure. The pretext is the curfew in Gurgaon and Section 144 in the entire state of Haryana over the Jat reservation issue, where shoot-on-sight orders have been issued and the Army has been called in. With support from workers from Honda Gurgaon, Maruti Suzuki, Hero MotoCorp and many others, an indefinite dharna will start in front of the Jaipur Labour department from 23rd February, Tuesday from 12 noon.
Many are calling today’s time an ‘undeclared emergency’. We need to remember that when Indira Gandhi got the iron hand law to come in, it was precisely also to crush the series of workers struggles in Faridabad and Kanpur for instance and the 1974 all-India Railway workers strike whose slogan was ‘stop the arteries of the Nation’. It was to crush the rise of the militant assertion of the Dalit Panthers, who were fighting pitched battles with the right-wing and state forces in the streets on Bombay. It was to crush the mass movements of peasants, and of all voices of dissent of students in Gujarat and Bihar. And the media, well, when they were asked to kneel, they decided to crawl.
If it is any different, then probably it is in the extent of the corporate-state collaboration and the ideology of a virulent Hindutva nationalism directed by the RSS to buttress the same. From attacks on already disposed sections like Dalits and Muslims, to attacks on students from FTII to HCU to JNU, to intensifying attacks on lawyers and intellectuals, and now this brutal crackdown on Honda HMSI workers, goes hand-in-hand with the mad frenzy of ‘pro-corporate development without people’ and ‘development without dignity’. We have come rapidly away from a sense of absurdity of ‘how can they do this’.
They are attacking us in an organized manner, and we must collectivize to fight it out together, and for this we cannot be limited to saving one or the other institution only but join hands with the daily and nightly pain and unrest of the toilers of this land. As they attack us, we must advance this struggle.
Images by: Nayan Jyoti