Sanhati supports the workers of Maruti Suzuki and their union

May 24, 2013

Sanhati has issued the following statement in response to the repression unleashed by the Haryana Government.

In the past several days, Haryana Government unleashed repression on the democratic protest of Maruti Suzuki workers. Sanhati condemns this repression and extends unqualified support and solidarity to the workers and the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union (MSWU).

Many of the workers were summarily sacked last year for forming an independent union. Accordingly, the workers have been demanding reinstatement of all their terminated colleagues including 546 permanent and around 1800 temporary workers. Another demand is for the release of 147 colleagues falsely implicated in an accidental death. The workers of Maruti Suzuki were therefore sitting on a peaceful dharna in Kaithal since 24th March, 2013 and some of the workers were also on hunger strike. The strike ended after the Chief Minister and the Industries Minister of Haryana promised that workers who do not have cases in their name will be taken back by the company. Importantly, this sequence of events demonstrates that Maruti workers were peacefully struggling for their constitutional rights. But the Haryana Government has never taken any negotiation or promise seriously; it constantly attempted to break the movement by issuing threats, implicating groups and individuals with false charges. When nothing else succeeded, Haryana Government unleashed brute force.

The recent chain of events roughly accords to this prior pattern of behaviour from the Haryana Government. Maruti Suzuki Workers Union called for peaceful protest on 19th May to press their democratic demands. But on the 18th, section 144 was imposed on all of Kaithal town to stop the planned demonstration. 96 workers and activists, including students from Jawaharlal Neheru University, were arrested although workers and their supporters were undeterred by this clampdown. On the 19th itself, about 1500 people consisting of workers from various factories, relatives of terminated workers, Pradhan of several panchayats, activists and representatives of mass organizations from all over Haryana and Delhi, gathered at Kaithal in solidarity with Maruti workers. But since morning Haryana Government was preparing for an assault. A huge police force armed with water cannons and tear gas vehicles barricaded the streets; CID personnel, posted at different entry points into the town, stopped people from joining the protest march. At about 6:30 pm, police unleashed water cannon and tear gas, and mercilessly lathicharged everyone not sparing even the elderly and children. Activists who have stood by the workers from the very beginning were specially targeted. 11 workers and activists were arrested on completely fabricated charges and police, who resorted to violence against the peaceful and democratic protest, have now brought non-bailable charges such as attempt to murder on the eleven activists.

It is self-evident that the state wants to isolate the workers in order to cut off the protesting workers from their supporters. Firstly, the workers were driven from Gurgaon. Secondly, when 150 panchayat leaders across Haryana came to Kaithal to support the workers, administration blacklisted 84 panchayats and announced termination of their funding. Finally, police targeted and arrested a group of activists on the 19th of May, who were providing the striking workers legal and political support.

The manner in which Haryana Government has sided with the Maruti Suzuki management is neither surprising nor unprecedented. State and its institutions have always served the interest of big capitalists and multinationals. The rich and powerful have always colluded to deny workers their rights – even the minimal rights that had been guaranteed under the constitution. The Maruti Suzuki company, just like all other corporations, was hell-bent on keeping the workers union under management’s control, a strategy that has been mastered by domesticating all mainstream trade unions affiliated to bourgeois political parties. However, workers fought vehemently to protect their rights because they knew that an independent union and unity between permanent and temporary workers is their only weapon against unbridled exploitation and dangerous working conditions. When the Maruti management failed to break workers’ resistance by issuing threats, suspending workers, or hiring private goons, Haryana Government came forward to offer a helping hand to a key member of its board of directors. State agencies hounded the terminated workers out of Gurgaon because big corporate houses were afraid that Maruti workers’ protest would spark wider agitation in Gurgaon and other industrial areas. The Haryana Government now wants to crush this movement for once and all.

Haryana has grown rapidly in the last twenty years. The state has been hailed in the corporate media for its so-called development – although caste atrocities have increased and Haryana has one of the worst child sex ratios in India. Gurgaon has been presented as the symbol of ‘shining India’. Haryana has been projected as a success story and a model: from providing land at throwaway prices to controlling labour unrest, it has consistently championed the interest of capital like no state government apart from Modi’s Gujarat. No stone has been left unturned to keep investors pleased. Maruti workers’ relentless struggle has become a thorn in the side of the big multinationals and their chamchas. Capitalists are afraid that the struggle may take root and spread across the region. Hence the state wants to crush the movement, not only because of its growth amidst all adversities, but because it represents a new workers’ movement in India. Corporate controlled media houses are also doing their best to keep the movement and the workers’ plight away from the public gaze. In fact, when a management staff was accidentally killed, media vilified the workers and tried to build public sentiment in favour of strong punishments.

This is a class war and the ruling classes are fighting on all the fronts. Ruling classes strive to isolate struggles, so that either these struggles run out of steam or else they can be crushed with relative ease. The recent events in Kaithal furthermore highlight the authoritarian tendencies of the Indian state. It shows how openly the state violates laws, trashing all democratic norms and trampling humanitarian values in order to serve and protect the interest of the economic establishment. The class war is neither confined to the forests of Bastar, nor the hills of Niyamgiri. A war against the working class is being waged across our country, urban and rural. In response to this onslaught, we need to forge new solidarities.

Sanhati collective