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Notes from the warfront: Maruti workers ‘on trial’: Rakhi Sehgal

August 21, 2012

Guest post by RAKHI SEHGAL

Friday, 17 August 2012  – Gurgaon Civil court

There is a ‘list of 162’ workers that has not been disclosed but which forms the basis for the police to either arrest or let go of Maruti workers once they are picked up. The family members of these 162 are being harassed and intimidated and being visited thrice a day by local police, sometimes accompanied by Gurgaon police – at times 12-15 police show up.

After they pick up one of the workers (who is on this list of 162) he is processed as an accused under the same FIR 184 under which the union leaders and the earlier batch of 91 workers were arrested.  The FIR names 55 workers and then says ‘500/600 others’, so anyone being picked up is being processed as part of this unnamed 500/600 others.

Under intense questioning by Advocate Rajender Pathak, the SHO Manesar PS, Om Prakash Bishnoi, admitted that the ‘list of 162’ is based on a list given by management. Although Adv. Pathak requested that the judge note this point, the judge did not do so. Instead the judge merely directed that the statements of the SHO are unsatisfactory and has asked him to come back on 22 August with more satisfactory explanations.

Saturday, 18 August 2012 – 7:30 pm, Rohtak Bypass

Three Maruti workers, Birender, Ram Prasad and Sunil were picked up from Rohtak bypass. Sunil and Ram Prasad were let go next morning while Birender was arrested.  After ‘catching’ the workers, they were taken to their rooms which were searched. Workers say they fear that although nothing was found the police will show that they ‘recovered’ weapons used to assault management – iron rods etc – as if the workers (even if for a minute one assumes they were the perpetrators)  would be dumb enough to store the weapons at home, waiting for cops to come and discover them!

In this incident, the rest of the workers report being chased through the fields by two vehicles (Tata Sumo and another) filled with cops and burly youth. Earlier in the day, buses on this route were stopped and checked for Maruti workers.

The 162

Advocate Pathak has confirmed that there is no fresh FIR. All arrested are being processed in the ‘500/600 others’ category of the original FIR.

It is clear that the ‘162’ that the police is after consist of -

(a) those workers who have been the backbone of the internal union movement, setting up the union not once but twice and if they stay out of prison (even if not taken back by MSIL), they’re capable of setting it up again a third time. The cops have said as much during their many raids that ‘they are running their system on phones so they must be put out of action’.

(b) also consists of those workers identified by management and police as ‘comrades’ (including those above) – outspoken, unwilling to take management injustice lying down, those who have challenged management at every step

(c) the list also includes the 150 ‘coordinators’ who served as the liaison between the workers on the shopfloor and the union leaders & executive committee members.

So it’s clear that one aim or the major aim of these continuing police raids is to destroy the independent union at the MSIL-Manesar plant and then set up a management controlled union union like it has at its Gurgaon Plant (because they’re aware that if the Gurgaon plant union was to take over right now they’d have more egg on their face, so they’re hoping to destroy MSWU and then rebuild it as they want in the mirror image of the Gurgaon plant union).

Postmen/Police

Earlier in the day on Saturday 18 August there were reports that ‘postmen’ were showing up at the homes of the 500 terminated workers and delivering letters without question in the homes of most workers except the ‘162’ where the ‘postman’ inquired/interrogated the family members regarding the whereabouts of the Maruti worker and refused to deliver the letter to a family member, insisted that only the worker can sign for it, left instructions that the worker should be sent to the post office in the next day or two to collect the letter otherwise it will be sent back to the company.

Family members have said that they suspect it was policemen in the disguise of postmen delivering these letters and hoping to nab the worker.

Those who received the letters say that 2 letters have been sent home. One is a straight forward termination letter detailing the money deposited into their accounts (3 months’ salary in lieu of termination notice, 15 days salary for every year worked, July salary for 15 odd days of work). Second letter is a 4-5 page long description of 18 July events, on which the decision for termination has been based.

Workers named in the FIR and who have also received termination notices have only received half month’s salary for July and no other severance amount.

Tales of torture from police custody

Workers are also reporting that they are being forced to sign on 3 blank sheets of paper and they are being tortured in police custody.

Union leaders have reported that when they were arrested and taken to police custody they were all stripped naked, hung upside down, beaten, given electric shocks with tasers and heads were dunked into water tanks until they could not breathe. On one of them, the police ran a 90 kg roller on his body while at the same time as the roller was running over his body two policemen took turns to jump on and off sensitive parts of his body.

Due to police torture and custodial violence, Sohan Lal cannot lift his left arm beyond his waist, it just flops down.  Ram Vilas has pain in the area near his kidneys and hearing loss in one ear.  Workers’ lawyer is moving court today to request an immediate Medical Examination of all arrested workers.

In further violation of the law, at no point were the arrested workers given access to their lawyer during interrogation and their advocate was only able to meet them after they were sent to judicial custody and that too after he filed ten applications in Gurgaon Court.

 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2012 9:25 PM

    Before indulging in violence, the workers should have known the high handed way in which the police deal with the suspects. Why crib now ?

    • bilal permalink
      August 22, 2012 3:56 PM

      really?? Are you condoning these horrific torture methods by the police?? So one should take all the injustice lying down and do nothing in response (not that i am for the violence.)

  2. Narayan permalink
    August 21, 2012 11:02 PM

    At the outset, let me state that I condemn outright the various acts of violence committed by workers at the Manesar plant, The culprits must be brought to justice and punished for their horrifying crimes.

    However, the methods of “interrogation” used by the Police, as reported in this article, are unimaginably cruel. Even innocent people will “confess” if subjected to such extreme methods of torture. Are our law enforcement agencies so singularly bereft of professionalism and expertise that they resort to such medieval methods of investigation?

    All such evidence should be summarily rejected by courts and the perpetrators of such torture should be given exemplary punishment. I wonder what human rights organisations are doing?

  3. Avinash permalink
    August 22, 2012 8:06 PM

    On another article in Kafila it was stated that the troubles at Maruti Plant were due to some upper-caste workers abusing some Lower-caste/Dalit workers.

    I am curious to know whether all the “500 terminated workers” are Lower Castes/Dalits. Any idea?

  4. August 27, 2012 2:59 PM

    I have been reading Kafila contributors’ write-ups on the Maruti violence and consequent events over the last few weeks. What I read in this one did not take me by surprise. In India, a large section of the police force serves as the agents of those who can pay them off or manipulate them through other means.

    While I feel for the family of the HR manager who was murdered at the Manesar plant and for the several others who were greviously injured in the violence, I also find it extremely difficult to believe that not all the 150+ workers chargesheeted had murderous intentions and actually committed murderous deeds on that day. Even if one of the arrested workers or any one whom the police is still huniting, did not actually indulge in any violence, arson or killing on that day, then what the police (at the behest of the Maruti management) , is nothing less than the crime that was committed by the actual offenders on that day at Manesar.

    I own a Maruti Swift LXI car and just today I have sent the company the following email:

    From: Rajesh Gajra
    Date: 27 August 2012 14:41
    Subject: Feedback
    To: ATM Queue

    Hello,

    I bought a Maruti Swift LXI on 1 April 2009 from Apra dealer in Delhi. It was in the name of my wife, #####

    On technicals, its performance has so far been below average — the mileage is far below claimed by you, body parts are not strong as they should ideally be etc etc.

    On your dealers service standards, again my experience has been that they charge exorbitantly (much of which goes back to you as fees to act as their dealers, and so in a way it is Maruti which is charging us exorbitant rates) and their service quality is among the worst in the country.

    On your company management’s ethical and governance standards, after watching the recent tragic developments at Manesar plant, I have to say that while my heart goes out to the family of the manager who was murdered and to those who were grievously injured, I am completely apalled at the disregard for fairness and truth in the company’s endevaour to bring the offenders to justice.

    If you have concrete records and evidences which conclusively prove the murderous intentions and act of over 150 workers (as named in the police FIR) please reveal it to the public and us, your customers. Otherwise, as a customer, I am forced to speculate that you, as a company, are using very powerful political influence to manipulate the police into brutally torturing and terrorising the arrested workers, harassing their family members etc for the purpose of crushing any future legitimate, independent union movement in your company.

    As a customer, let me tell you this right away. You sold me Swift LXI in April 2009 at Rs 4.2 lakh (including registration & other costs). I would have had no hesitation in paying you Rs 4.5 lakh for that car if it meant you would pay fair wages to your workers and also provide them with decent working standards.

    But while your MD’s salary, royalty paid to Suzuki and salaries of other senior management personnel have shot up substantially over the last one decade, you deny the same to your workers on the plant floor. Your company management’s working conditions are nowhere as brutal as your workers who get only a few minutes of tea break and 30 minutes of lunch break.

    Even if one arrested worker was not truly behind the tragic violence at Manesar, and which is what I am being force to believe (since there is no transparency from your end), I will boycott Maruti’s cars for the rest of my life.

    Please do not take car buyers for granted and assume that they can be managed with lower selling price of your cars. Like diamond buyers who avoid blood diamondd, gradually the movement of car buyers to avoid blood cars will grow.

    Regards,
    Rajesh Gajra
    Faridabad/Delhi.
    9911835179

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