18 March 2019 marks two years of the violent atrocious judgment sentencing 13 workers of Maruti Suzuki Workers Union to Life Imprisonment by the Sessions Court, Gurgaon. The 13 workers, the entire Union body of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union – who spearheaded resistance against contractualization, brutal working conditions and for Union formation – continue to languish in Gurgaon Central Jail since July 2012, almost seven years now. The appeal is pending in the High Court which had once dismissed the workers’ bail petition as ‘labour unrest lowers India’s reputation in the world and has adverse impact on ‘foreign investment’’. Cases of over 300 workers also goes on in the Labour Court Gurgaon. The resistance on the ground reconsolidates and moves forward.
The incarceration of Ram Meher, Sandeep Dhillon, Ram Bilas, Sarabjeet Singh, Pawan Kumar, Sohan Kumar, Ajmer Singh, Suresh Kumar, Amarjeet, Dhanraj Bambi, Pradeep Gujjar, Yogesh and Jiyalal was made without a shred of evidence. The conflict in July 2012 saw one HR manager dying and 2500 working class families were destroyed. The ‘public’ prosecutor had demanded death sentence for the 13, and contested the acquittal given to 111 workers who already had spent over 4 years in Jail without bail as of 2017. The vindictive anti-worker legal case by the State of Haryana was bankrolled by the Japanese transnational company.
Similarly, two workers of Pricol Pvt Ltd, an auto company in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, are on Life Sentence since 2015. So are 4 workers of Graziano Trasmissioni in Noida on in jail for Life since in September 2008, in a judgment given by Surajpur court in August 2017 (where the then Labour Minister was forced to retract his statement on how the situation evolved out of company practices).
This is the tip of the iceberg, as criminalization of workers under criminal and even terror laws (like the 8 Reliance workers under UAPA) is the rule rather than aberration now. And with its intensification, the government dutifully turns workers disputes with management into a ‘Law & Order problem’. Maruti Suzuki CEO RC Bhargava had (correctly) said this is a ‘class war’.
*Disciplining workers, then and now*
This attack on Maruti Suzuki workers happened under the then Congress regime, and continue unabated more generally under cruder forms under the BJP. And we have no reason to assume that the same will not continue post 23 May 2019. The criminalization of workers, dismantling of regime of Labour Laws, appropriation of natural and public resources, and the pervasive denial of civil and political rights, intensify under the Modi regime, spiralling to a bottomless pit. This is the precise promise of Mr Modi to Mr Ambani and Adani. In fact worldwide, a crisis-ridden capitalism brings in fascists to power everywhere. In a parallel, one of the first acts of the fascist Jair Bolsanaro, the current Brazialian President, after coming to power, was to slash minimum wages and move to expropriate the Amazonian rainforests.
The added promise that the fascists today make is to better control and discipline the rage of the toilers. Example from the industrial belt here is the continuing jail term of 18 workers of Daikin AC factory in Neemrana Rajasthan since the all-India workers strike in 8-9 January 2019. They have taken forward what the Maruti workers began, in a direct fight against contractualization. The attack on workers includes jailing of the President of the Daikin AC Mazdoor Union, Rukkumuddin. The management and government makes attempts to deride him as ‘a Muslim heading a Hindu workforce’, as ways of further control over toilers. Towards further entrenching the historical social divisions, like how Jiyalal, one of the 13 Maruti workers, was attacked on the shop-floor on the day of the 18 July 2012 incident on the basis of him being from the Dalit caste. On top of these, is of course the attack on those who speak up for the rights of the exploited, the incarceration and attack on human rights defenders like in the Bhima Koregaon case or during the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
In fact, more than the stark cases of injustice, this ‘class war’ as the Maruti CEO pointed takes shape in the normal circumstances of life and work itself. The employment contract is itself banished as general form of precarity and anxiety becomes pervasive today. This is precisely what the Maruti workers had challenged, and why the 13 are in Jail today. Changes in labour relations make labour more ‘flexible’: inhuman work pressures on one hand and rampant unemployment on the other. Social and communal divisions entrench themselves. To control these, the earlier forms of liberal democratic institutions and arrangements are done away with. That the Judiciary in these above cases, and the Legislature and Executive toes line tightly with capitalists on a more authoritative manner follows almost logically. And less said about the media, the better.
*Resistance inside and outside Jails of the Republic*
We had written in 2015 in the wake of the judgment on Pricol workers, “If this is your condition of existence and this is your ‘justice’, can mass scale anger bursting out as ‘sedition’ be far behind?” This general form of bursting of anger by toilers continues from Graziano (2008), Maruti (2011 on), Pricol (2015), Regent Ceramics (Puducherry, Jan 2012), the mass militant actions on a much broader scale by largely contractual workers during the 21-22 February 2013 general strike to the 2nd April Bharat Bandh by the Dalit working classes in 2018. The intensity and unmapped character of these assertions of organic collective power of the most oppressed, has continued to catch the rulers unawares.
The Jails of the wounded Republic are bulging today. In fact making ways towards the prison industrial spiritual complex, they professionalize under the PPP model! The two letters from Jailed Maruti workers in 2013 and in 2017 puts their case before the public. But resistance and even sheer life force continues inside and outside prison walls. Ajmer, one of the 13 Maruti workers continues to sing his ragnis. The workers collectivizes to assist the families of the jailed workers financially, operate in the factory and outside in society. They also makes attempts to link with more militant struggles of workers shaping up in the industrial belts facing newer challenges despite severe repression. Resistance continues with clear eyes preparing to work on the long road of social transformation.
Free the political prisoners of class struggle!