The terminated workers of Maruti Suzuki, Manesar plant launched their mass hunger strike today in front of the District Magistrate Office, Gurgaon demanding an impartial inquiry into the incident of 18th July, immediate release of all arrested workers and the withdrawal of all the false charges put on them, immediate reinstatement of all terminated workers, including the contract workers.
The 149 workers in Bhondsi jail, arrested after the July 18 incident also embarked on a parallel hunger strike despite repeated threats of torture by the jail authorities since yesterday. They were threatened to be beaten up, separated and removed to different jails across the state, but have continued their hunger strike since early morning, even boycotting the early morning tea.
Majority of workers in the Manesar plant were also planning a solidarity action of lunch boycott. But just as they embarked on the solidarity action, immense pressure was put by the management and a heavy deployment of around 1000 police was brought in, in the already fortified company premises, to ‘dissuade’ them. The Union President and workers from Gurgaon plant also joined in solidarity with the workers in front of the DC Office, Gurgaon.
From the very beginning, the police and the administration vehemently displayed their anti-worker attitude. In gross violation of the democratic right to protest, the police dismantled the tent and other amenities (eg. Water tanker and sound system) that the workers had set up for the peaceful sit-in event in front of the mini-secretariat. The workers remained determined and vowed to continue the protest as planned in assertion of their rights. In response, the police continued its attack on the workers and detained about 40-50 workers who were packed off to Bhondsi thana. It is only after continued pressure from the workers and the unions present did the police release the detained workers. However, 2 members of the Provisional Working Committee, O.P.Jat and Ramnivas, have been illegally detained inside the police station for so-called further questioning and enquiry. We fear that, as the Haryana police on orders from the company has done, will again put false cases on the workers.
However, despite all these attempts at disruption and intimidation by the police, the first day of the dharna has proved a success and the hunger strike was continued at the decided venue. Representatives from different trade unions and other organizations across India came in solidarity to the protest and spoke at length about the immense injustice faced by terminated/jailed Maruti workers, the highly exploitative working conditions of workers across the country and committed themselves to taking this struggle forward. The speakers emphasized how the united struggle of the Maruti workers is very crucial and that it has served as an inspiration to workers across the country. The assembly was addressed by leaders of various factory unions in the Gurgaon-Dharuhera-Bawal industrial belt, including Rajkumar of RICO Employees Union (Dharuhera), Jaspal Rana of HMS, Anil of AITUC, Satbir of CITU, Animesh of IFTU and Shivmangal Sidhankar of ICTU. Workers’ Rpresentatives from Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh, Chattisgarh (like Kaladas) and Sangrami Shramik Karmachari Union, Hindustan Motors, West Bengal (Amitava Bhattacharyya), as well workers from Ghaziabad, Noida, Delhi, and Uttarakhand also spoke in solidarity.
The hunger strike will continue throughout the night, and tomorrow. There is a massive rally planned for 4pm tomorrow that will culminate at the local minister’s house, which is expected to be attended in large numbers by students, teachers, other members of the civil society and workers from across the industrial belt.