India: Why are Suzuki automobile workers in jail?
Date Written: 2017-03-28
Publisher: Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20587
Why are automobile workers being jailed for murder? The story at Maruti is a familiar one in India's industrial scene.
Where Unionisation Is A Crime
In 2011, workers at Maruti Suzuki ‘s Manesar plant had formed an independent union and demanded recognition for it. Gurgaon-Manesar, not far from Delhi, is an industrial belt, where managements fear that an independent union in even a single factory would be contagious, emboldening workers in other factories to unionise. Labour law violations are rampant in the entire belt – but labour departments and governments turn a blind eye to these. Indian labour laws do recognise the right to form unions – on paper. In reality, every attempt to form a Union is met with immediate victimisation – those who are seen as leaders and organisers are either transferred to some other factory or sacked on some pretext.
On July 18 2012, Maruti workers agitating outside the factiry gate heard that their comrades who had been invited for talks inside the factory, were being subjected to a beating by the management’s ‘bouncers’ – a common practice in the industrial belt. They stormed into the factory to rescue their comrades. Soon after, a fire broke out in the factory, in which a human resources manager lost his life. Immediately after, workers and union leaders were accused of conspiring to murder the HR manager, and indiscriminate arrests followed. The fact that there is no evidence that any murder took place has not mattered.
Laughably, prosecution witnesses in the Maruti case named 89 of the accused workers in an orderly, alphabetical manner. That is, police arrested workers indiscriminately, listed and grouped them alphabetically, and then assigned each group an 'eyewitness' who claimed to have seen them 'rioting'! Not only that, they arrested 91 of the workers before any witness gave any statement against them; in court defence lawyers could establish that the workers had been arrested on the basis of a list provided by the Maruti management, and witnesses were then fabricated to fit the list.