By Abhishek Jha for Youth Ki Awaaz:
The District Magistrate, Gurgaon, had imposed prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC banning assembly of five or more persons around Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar Plant till July 19 in anticipation of a protest. The protest was to mark the four years of an incident in July 18, 2012 when a senior executive of Maruti Suzuki’s automobile factory in Manesar died following a fire that broke out at the factory and clashes between the workers and the management. As many as 147 workers including union leaders were arrested following the incident, over 500 permanent workers and more than 2000 contract workers were dismissed by the company. 35 of the arrested workers, of which 12 are union body members, continue to languish in jail without bail.
However, several hundred workers and representatives of trade unions from factories in the Gurgaon-Manesar-Bawal automobile region as well as local representatives of national level federations (AITUC, CITU, and HMS) joined a protest demonstration in Gurgaon by the Maruti Suzuki Mazdoor Sangh on July 18 from Rajiv Chowk to the Mini Secretariat. The protest happened in the presence of security forces, who flanked the protestors in riot gear. The Maruti Suzuki Mazdoor Sangh is a federation of unions from the four factories of Maruti Suzuki in Gurgaon.
The workers were demanding that the “all workers in jail be freed”, “the false charges registered against them be withdrawn”, “the sacked workers be re-employed and a tripartite talk be initiated in the matter”, and “a non-partisan judicial inquiry be initiated in the matter of the unfortunate incident of July 18, 2012”. A memorandum listing these demands was also submitted to the Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon.
Marching with red flags and banners listing their demands, the huge rally raised slogans against the state and central government, in support of the struggle of all workers. They finally gathered at the Mini-Secretariat where union leaders and representatives of various factories in the region spoke about supporting and intensifying the struggle of the workers of the Maruti’s Manesar plant.
Speaking to YKA, Ram Niwas, a member of the provisional working committee of former workers of the plant, said, “The Haryana Government had constituted an SIT with immediate effect. The SIT made a case against 216 people, that 216 people are guilty. Apart from that, there were 426 workers who were not part of any investigation. Without any domestic inquiry, they were removed from work”. He also said that none of the arrested workers have been convicted under Section 302 (Punishment for Murder) although 102 witnesses have testified in the case. “We went to a High Court for bail. Our bail plea was rejected saying that if these workers are released on bail, it will affect foreign investment in the area. The government is worried a lot about foreign investment, not about the workers here,” he added. It is for these reasons, he said, and for the reasons listed in the memorandum that “we gather every year to demand from the government that it open its eyes“.
“We are not satisfied at all with the investigation. We would, in fact, welcome a CBI probe. This SIT is the SIT of some chosen people of the management. We have no faith in it,” Kuldeep Jhangu, general secretary of the Maruti Suzuki Kamgar Union, one of the unions under the federation of the Maruti workers from Gurgaon, said while speaking to the media. “The law and the government are for the capitalists. Nobody (works) for the common man, the poor, the worker, or the peasant,” he said.
The father of Sarabjit Singh, who was the General Secretary of the Manesar plant union and has been in jail for the past four years without bail, told YKA that they have gone to the High Court too with their appeals, but even bail has not been granted to him. He said that they have also started experiencing financial troubles as a working member of the family is in jail. Sarabjit’s wife and daughter, who is five-year-old now and has started going to school while his father is in jail, live with Sarabjit’s father.
“At different places, the management is giving trouble to the worker. The administration and government is supporting the management. What kind of a democracy do we have if there is repression of workers?” Vijay Tyagi from the Rico Auto Workers Union, Dharoda, told YKA when asked why they are supporting the struggle of Maruti workers.
Various other activists, including filmmaker Rahul Roy who filmed the documentary The Factory based on the struggle of the Maruti workers, were also present at the protest.
Photos from the protest:
All photos by Abhishek Jha