In a strongly-worded statement, the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) has said that it “rejects the falsehood” being spread by the prosecution, which led to the life sentence to 13 of the Maruti workers on “baseless” charge of ‘murder’ on March 18.
Circulated through a Dalit media network, the statement announces that March 23, the day of martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, the Maruti Suzuki Mazdoor Sangh (MSMS), the joint platform of six Maruti Suzuki factories, have decided to give a call, Chalo Manesar, to protest against the death sentence.
A local court in Gurgaon gave the sentence on Saturday in connection with the alleged murder of a Maruti Suzuki manager, who was killed after violence and rioting at India’s largest carmaker’s plant in Manesar in 2012.
Commenting on the Gurgaon Additional Sessions Court judgment, which also sentenced four workers five years’ imprisonment and 14 workers three years’ imprisonment, though they have already spent four years in prison, hence were released, MSWU said, “Of the earlier acquitted 117 workers who spent over four years in Jail, we do not yet know as to who will return the lost years.”
In all, said the statement, 148 have already spent four years in jail without bail since 2012, and as many as 2,500 workers were “illegally terminated and then faced continual state repression.”
Referring to the details of the arguments, the statement says, “Workers had no involvement in the unfortunate death of the pro-worker manager who helped in registering the Union, Avanish Kumar Dev, this is conclusively proved in the legal case from the defence.”
“The conflict on the day of July 18, 2012”, it said, “started with a supervisor attacking a Dalit worker Jiyalal – who was later made into ‘prime accused’ in the case – with caste-based abuse, and the worker’s suspension.”
“The entire case is part of management conspiracy to finish off the union, an attack on the right to union formation itself, and the demands – particularly of abolition of contract worker System – it was raising and symbol it became for workers struggle”, it added.
According to MSWU, “The nature of the legal case was informed from the outset by the vitriolic repressive manner in which thousands of workers were continually hounded after July 18, 2012 by the nexus of the management and government, including the police, administration and labour departments.”
Taking strong exception to the prosecution’s final arguments which led to the rejection of bail for workers and favoured death penalty, the statement said, it “talked of the need of restoring ‘confidence’ of capital, and the Prime Minister’s initiative of inviting global investors for ‘Make in India’.”
“By specifically targeting the entire union body”, the statement says, the company “wants to tell us that the workers movement, the right to union formation and other trade union rights as well as human rights of workers in the country will be simply crushed by capitalists and the state.”
Pointing towards how the union was registered after a “a legitimate long struggle for trade union rights” in March 2012, the MSWU said, it was the demand for “the abolition of the contract worker system, dignity in the workplace, and an end to exploitative practices … was not acceptable to the management.”
Insisting that this led the management to “conspire and escalate the conflict July 18 2012, the statement said, the struggle expanded and workers fought in other industries as well -- Honda, Rico, Asti, Shriram Pistons, Daikin AC, and Bellsonica.
“This collective workers assertion needed to be crushed and ‘taught a lesson’ in the interests of the company managements”, the statement asserted, adding, “Similar conflicts and cases of repression on workers movements have happened from Graziano Transmissions. Noida, Regent Ceramics, Puducherry, Pricol in Chennai and so on.”