On 22nd December, the Jharkhand government announced the ban of the Mazdoor Sangathan Samiti (MSS), a registered trade union that has been in existence for 30 years. The state government invoked Section 16 of the draconian Indian Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1908 (CLAA). Following the ban, 10 office bearers of the organization were charged under Section 17 of the CLAA and arrested the next day. The CLAA empowers the state government to declare an organization “unlawful” if the government in its “opinion” believes that the organization “interferes or has for its objective interference in administration of law and maintenance of law and order or constitutes danger to public peace”. Acts such as giving donations or publishing any material or literature related to “extremist” policies, of which the MSS has been accused, become offences under CLA Act and invite punishment for up to five years.
MSS was registered as a trade union in 1989 and has 22000 members. Since its founding in 1985, it has been engaged in organizing workers in various industries in the state of Jharkhand, especially in Giridhi, Bokaro and Dhanbad. The organization works amongst the coal mine workers, thermal power plant workers, unorganized workers and agriculture workers, fighting for the realization of the legitimate demands of these workers. In recent times, it has been spearheading the protests against the fake encounter of an alleged Naxalite by the government. It has been actively mobilising and organising doliwallahs of Shikharji (a pilgrimage town). It has also been agitating among coal miners against the privatization of enterprises in the public sector, and organizing Adivasis against “Momentum Jharkhand” under which licenses have been given to various industrialists to plunder the natural resources belonging to the people of the state in the name of development.
Several organisations, including the National Committee of the Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), Mazdoor Ekta Manch, People’s Union for Civil Rights, Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra, Inquilabi Mazdoor Sangathan, All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) and Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan have condemned this fascist response of the state government to the activities of MSS.