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