India: Workers at the Maruti Suzuki factory have been protesting for more than a year, after 148 union leaders were arrested and many workers fired following a dispute in July 2012. The union leaders are still in prison and have been denied bail for 18 …

Walton Pantland Asia, India,

padayatra

India: Workers at the Maruti Suzuki factory have been protesting for more than a year, after 148 union leaders were arrested and many workers fired following a dispute in July 2012. The union leaders are still in prison and have been denied bail for 18 months.

In January, they embarked on a Jan Jagaran Yatra – a Long March for justice. Pada Yatra – “foot pilgrimage” –  is an Indian tradition of peaceful protest, practised by Mahatma Gandhi, among others. The march highlights injustice and picks up support for the cause as it passes through towns and villages.

The Yatra started on 15th January 2014 from Kaithal, Haryana and walked through 300km across Kaithal, Jind, Rohtak, Jhajjar, Gurgaon in Haryana before reaching Delhi. The march ended in Delhi on the 31st of January. As the marchers put it,

“Sixteen days across cities, towns, villages of Haryana and through Gurgaon and Delhi, marching with our bare but united voice of anger and struggle against injustice, we organised a Protest Demonstration in Jantar Mantar today 31st January 2014.”

The marchers demonstrated in front of Parliament House, Delhi, as well as in front of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda’s residence. They were joined in solidarity by all Trade Unions of Gurgaon, Delhi-NCR and a number of student-youth, women’s and mass democratic and political organisations, as well as prominent intellectuals came together. They submitted a memorandum to the President of India.

Workers, workers organisations and Trade Unions were present in full solidarity: Suzuki Powertrain India Employees Union, Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union, Suzuki Motorcycles India Employees Union, RICO Employees Union, FCC Rico Employees Union, Nerolac Employees Union-Rewari, Venus Workers Union-Faridabad, Subros Employees Union, Bajaj Motors Employees Union spoke in solidarity. National Trade Union federations like AITUC, AICCTU, AIUTUC, CITU, HMS, ICTU, IFTU, AIFTU(New), NTUI and others were present. Among those present were also AITUC’s national president Amrajeet Kaur and CITU’s national leader Tapan Sen.

Yogendra Yadav and Arundhati Roy expressed solidarity with the struggle. Mass democratic organisations like Jan Sangharsh Manch Haryana, Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, Shramik Sangram Committee, Krantikari Naujawan Sabha, Mazdoor Patrika, Sangharsrat Mehnatkash patrika, Mazdoor Ekta Committee, PUDR, Samtamulak Mahila Sagathan were present who mobilised many democratic loving people.

Solidarity greetings came from across the country and even abroad, with messages from a number of worker organisations: CMM-Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee, Inqlabi Jan Awaz patrika from Punjab, Hyundai Motors Employees Union and CITU Tamil Nadu, Toyota Employees Union Chennai, and countless others.

Trade Union Solidarity Committee-Mumbai also organised a fund-raising campaign through postcards of working class murals. Solidarity greetings came from Thai Suzuki Workers Union from Thailand. The struggle on the streets as well as the legal battle is alive with the spirit of workers and pro-worker masses strengthened.

All the fired workers and a number of the families of both arrested and fired workers participated with vigour in the march. 2,500 families have been reduced to penury and joblessness, and face continuous harassment and repression from the police-administration and delay in justice. They have shown an indomitable spirit of struggle almost two years down this difficult road.

The marchers received tremendous support, solidarity and encouragement from ordinary workers, peasants, students and individuals in all the villages and towns of the state of Haryana and nearby areas that they walked through. These ordinary mehnatkash toilers say that in this election season, this is a just struggle against exploitation and injustice brought about by the combined might of the government, administration and police serving capitalists like Maruti Suzuki management.

The bail application for the arrested 148 workers was earlier rejected on the absurd ground that it would “hamper foreign investment”, making a mockery of the system of justice.  Cases against a 100 workers and a trial of 11 workers and activists in Kaithal are also ongoing. The labour cases are also pending, arguing against the complete illegality of the move of Maruti Suzuki management to have terminated workers without any domestic enquiry on speculative flimsy grounds.

In the rousing welcome and solidarity meetings in various towns and villages of Haryana and in Delhi, we saw another possibility of forging mass solidarity with the struggle of workers.

The marchers also demonstrated in front of the Maruti Suzuki factory in Gurgaon along with workers and Unions from the plant, and then marched to the Maruti Suzuki All-India Head Quarters in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, with these slogans:

  • Release the Arrested Workers
  • Stop Repression through slapping false cases and continued Harassment of worker families
  • Bring the conspiratorial anti-worker management to book

Demands

  • Release of 148 arrested workers who have been denied bail for the last 18 month,
  • Reinstatement of all terminated workers, and
  • An impartial investigation into the incident of 18th July 2012.

“In the last three years, our struggle has seen a long road. We have seen the pro-corporate, anti-worker, anti-people faces of the company management, labour and other administrative departments, the police and courts, and if our demands are not met, we shall intensify our struggle in the coming says. We appeal to all workers, trade unions, student-youth and women’s organisations, and mass and democratic organisations and individuals to join us in spreading the struggle.”

Send messages of support and solidarity to  marutiworkerstruggle@gmail.com


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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