On 18th July 2016, the fourth anniversary of violence in the Manesar plant Maruti Suzuki, 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 joined a massive protest demonstration in Gurgaon. The demonstration from Rajiv Chowk to the Mini Secretariat was organised and led by the Maruti Suzuki Mazdoor Sangh.
The workers raised militant slogans in support of the struggle of all workers and against the state and central government. They marched in an orderly manner, with red flags and banners listing their demands. They finally gathered at the Mini-Secretariat where union leaders and representatives of various factories in the region spoke in support of intensifying the struggle for justice for the workers of the Maruti’s Manesar plant.
The workers demanded that the “all workers in jail be freed”, “the false charges registered against them be withdrawn”, “the sacked workers be re-employed and a tripartite talk be initiated in the matter”, and “a non-partisan judicial inquiry be initiated in the matter of the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.
The protest was in defiance of the prohibitory orders imposed by the Gurgaon District Magistrate under section 144 of the CrPC banning assembly of five or more persons around Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar Plant till July 19. The workers took out this militant demonstration under the heavy presence of security forces who flanked them in riot gear. This is in consonance with the attempt of the State to portray the workers of the Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt as dangerous! In fact, supporting the denial of bail application to 34 workers, the public prosecutor in the case has been quoted as saying, ““The workers committed a very heinous crime, if they come out, they will cause more problems.”
It may be recalled that the Maruti Suzuki management, with the full support of the Haryana state, attacked the workers’ struggle for their right to form a union of their choice and for their right to permanent jobs. They tried their best to break the workers’ unity and refused to talk to them. Finally, on 18th July 2012, they brought in goons, who under the very eyes of a huge contingent of armed police, organised the mayhem which led to the unfortunate incident of the death of a manager insider the plant. The “problems” the public prosecutor is worried about is the fact that if the workers are released, they will continue the militant struggle that they had been carrying on for more than a year before July 2012. They will also step up the struggle against the false cases foisted on them and their comrades by the management.
It is important to recall the fascist offensive of the state post this incident. The police went on a rampage, arresting workers in the middle of the night from their homes in and around Gurgaon. 147 workers, including the workers' union office bearers were charged with rioting and murder. In 2015, 113 workers who had already spent nearly three years in prison were granted bail. However, 35 workers continue to remain behind bars. Further, the company dismissed 426 workers who were not part of any investigation. They were summarily removed from work, without any domestic enquiry.
The attack of the State on the Maruti Suzuki workers has been one of the most fascist offensives, in recent years, to suppress the struggle of the workers for their rights. The State clearly acted on behalf of the Maruti Suzuki management to give a clear message to all investors that they will face no “trouble” from the workers, after they have been taught such a lesson.
Right through these four years, the capitalist owners of Maruti Suzuki and the Haryana government have been spreading disinformation through the monopoly print and electronic media, to cover up their role in creating the situation in 2011-12 and on July 18, 2012. They have spread the lie that the violence on that day was the result of a "conspiracy" on the part of workers. Sensationalised programs were aired on TV channels, in which the Chairman of Maruti Suzuki in India, RC Bhargava, alleged, without a shred of evidence that the violence in the plant was “pre-planned” and the handiwork of Maoists. The reason he advanced for his belief was that allegedly there was ‘no outstanding problems between the capitalist owners and the workers of the plant, after the settlement reached at the end of the last strike in October 2011’! This is a total falsification of the truth.
The lies of the capitalists have not gone unchallenged. A group of the dismissed workers, who formed a Provisional Working Committee (PWC) of the MSWU, continue to fight the court battle on behalf of their former colleagues in jail. Several progressive lawyers have been fighting in defence of the workers accused of “murder”. It is reported that 102 witnesses have testified in the case so far. The prosecution has attempted to plant more and more lies to fortify its case, but hasnot succeeded in getting any of the workers convicted so far under Section 302 (Punishment for Murder).
The Maruti workers, both inside and outside the jail, have no illusions about this system - that it is anti-worker. Along with them, in jail, are a group of extremely poor youth, who worked in garment factories, imprisoned after they protested against the management at their work-site. They too have been denied bail for over a year. As Kuldeep Jhangu, general secretary of the Maruti Suzuki Kamgar Union, one of the unions under the federation of the Maruti workers from Gurgaon, pointed out while speaking at the rally, “The law and the government are for the capitalists. Not for the common man, the poor, the worker, or the peasant.”
CGPI condemns the attack on and injustice done to the workers of Maruti Suzuki by the management and the government. CGPI applauds the fighting spirit and unity of the Maruti workers, which have inspired many more struggles in the automobile and other sectors.