Mass demonstration to free framed-up Indian workers

Free Maruti Suzuki workers

From the World Socialist Web Site:

Maruti Suzuki workers lead protest demanding freedom for 13 workers jailed for life

By a WSWS reporting team

24 March 2017

More than 8,000 workers joined a protest in Manesar, Haryana yesterday to demand the immediate release of 13 Maruti Suzuki workers who have been sentenced to life in prison on trumped-up murder charges, as well four other workers sentenced to five-year jail terms on lesser charges.

The 13 include all 12 office-bearers of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU). Workers at Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar car assembly plant established the MSWU in bitter struggle against a company-controlled union as part of their fight against poverty wages, contract labour jobs, and a brutal work regime.

Just months after Maruti Suzuki was forced to recognize the MSWU, the Japanese-owned automaker staged a provocation, working hand-in-glove with the police and Congress Party-led Haryana state government. Maruti Suzuki seized on a company-provoked factory-floor altercation and a fire, which mysteriously broke out in the middle of the melee, to mount a legal witch-hunt against the workers and purge its workforce.

In joining yesterday’s march and rally, workers defied a blanket ban state authorities have imposed on all gatherings of five or more people in Gurgaon, the district in which Manesar is situated, until May 14.

An MSWU spokesperson told the World Socialist Web Site that police initially tried to prevent workers from marching from their respective plants, at the end of the day shift, to a Manesar park. However, when they saw the size of the protest—especially at the Manesar Maruti Suzuki plant where some 3,000 workers were gathered—they decided to let it proceed.

The government deployed five hundred police on the streets of Manesar to surveille and intimidate workers. It also let it be known that “two battalions” of additional security forces were standing by.

Yesterday’s protest involved workers from dozens of factories in the Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt, a huge auto-making and manufacturing centre on the outskirts of Delhi, India’s capital. There were also delegations from other industrial suburbs of Delhi, including Noida and Faridabad, and as far away as Alwar, in Rajasthan.

The Manesar rally

Addressing the rally, MSWU Provisional Working Committee member Ram Niwas said, “We are holding peaceful protests, but that does not mean we are weak. We will hold an all-India protest against the state and the Maruti management on April 4 and will continue doing it until our 13 brothers are given justice.”

Niwas went on to denounce the monstrous frame-up of the 13 workers for the death by asphyxiation of a Maruti Suzuki Human Resources (HR) manager, the arrest and years-long imprisonment of close to 150 other workers, and Maruti Suzuki’s firing of more than 500 permanent and 1,800 contract workers after the July 18, 2012 altercation.

“When the post-mortem report held suffocation due to fire as the reason behind the death of the HR manager, how come the workers are charged for murder?” asked Riwas. “They ruined hundreds of lives by rendering them jobless, and now they have finished the lives of these 13 workers. We are in touch with international labour organisations to gather support.”

Kuldeep Janghu, general-secretary of the Maruti Udyog Workers Union, told the rally, “These convicts are innocent and we will appeal against the District Court’s judgment in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. We will request the court to conduct a judicial inquiry as well so that the truth is revealed. We want all the 13 workers convicted of murder in the case to be released.”

Both the rally speakers and workers interviewed by the press denounced as a sham the “investigation” that a police Special Investigation Team made of the 2012 events. They noted that even the judge who convicted the 13 had had to admit that the police had colluded with management and had fabricated evidence. They also pointed to the incontrovertible evidence that police beat and tortured many of the 148 workers with the aim of extracting phony confessions from them.

Khushi Ram, head of the MSWU Provisional Working Committee, said the union is fighting for the reinstatement of all 546 permanent workers the company fired during its August 2012 workforce purge. “They terminated 546 workers,” said Ram, “despite the special investigating team naming only 214 of them in its report. Now, even the [District] Court has acquitted 117 of those who were implicated in the case. The company should now take them back.”

The Maruti Suzuki workers are the victims of a company-state vendetta aimed at intimidating workers in the Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt and reassuring investors that India’s political establishment will ruthlessly suppress worker opposition to the sweatshop conditions that furnish their massive profits.

At the March 17 sentence hearing, the prosecution pointed to the Indian government’s “Make in India” policy, which aims to entice foreign investors to turn from China to India for cheap labour, in arguing for the court to sentence the 13 to hang.

No time can be lost in rallying workers and all those who uphold democratic rights, in India and around the world, to demand the immediate release of the Maruti Suzuki workers, the vacating of all the convictions against them, and the reinstatement of all the victimized workers.

The Japanese-owned automaker has said it intends to press the authorities to appeal the acquittal of the 117 workers and to seek harsher penalties for those convicted. In other words, it is pressing to have the 13 men whose only “crime” was to have challenged their brutal exploitation executed.

There is intense anger among workers in the Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt and across India at the horrific “class justice” meted out to the Maruti Suzuki workers. …

Indian supporters of the International Committee of the Fourth International and the World Socialist Web Site intervened at a rally in Chennai yesterday to call for the mobilization of the independent strength of the Indian and international working class to fight to free the Maruti Suzuki workers.

The rally had been called by the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), which is affiliated to the Maoist Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML), to commemorate Bhagat Singh, a revolutionary terrorist executed by the British colonial regime on March 23, 1931.

The ICFI supporters distributed copies of the ICFI statement “Free the Framed-up Maruti Suzuki Workers!” and won a warm response from many of the nearly 300 workers in attendance …

Nadaraj, a 27-year-old Renault-Nissan worker, said, “I am also working in a global company which manufactures cars. I believe it is important that through this international campaign we should develop interaction with global autoworkers. Since Maruti Suzuki is also a global company, challenging it would require the international mobilisation of workers.

Anandan, a driver said: “The international campaign to defend the Maruti Suzuki workers is important. Keeping the workers who fought for legitimate rights, such as the right to form a union and wage hike, in jail for four years without bail shows the courts are not for workers. Rich people like Sekar Reddy could come out of jail in bail within a week even if he did carry out a murder. … It is painful to imagine how the families of the jailed workers would have suffered. Now 13 are given life sentences. Their families will be thrown on the streets.”

Venkatesan said, “In India the cheap labour contract system prevails in all industries including in public industries. The jobs are not secure even in the government-owned companies. Maruti Suzuki workers were framed up by the collusion of company, police and the government. The political parties serve the capitalist class. Workers and the masses don’t get anything by these parties and the courts. Therefore, this international campaign is useful.”

Another worker, Surender said, “I strongly condemn this verdict. I am confident the Maruti Suzuki workers will win. The global companies think they can do anything with money. But the unity of the international workers is more powerful than that. We are not hesitant and we would like our comments and photos published. This will reflect the international unity of the workers and through the united struggles of the young workers a change can be made.”

Also from the World Socialist Web Site:

“We should be outraged by what is happening in India.”

US, Canadian autoworkers speak in defense of framed-up Maruti Suzuki workers

By a reporting team

25 March 2017

The campaign by the International Committee of the Fourth International to defend the framed-up Maruti Suzuki workers in India is winning support from autoworkers in North America.

On March 18, the Gurgaon district court in the northern Indian state of Haryana sentenced 13 Maruti Suzuki workers to life imprisonment on bogus murder charges and handed down heavy prison sentences against 18 other workers on lesser charges.

The case against the Maruti Suzuki workers has been concocted by the multinational auto company, working in tandem with state officials to make an example of these workers. Their only crime was fighting against the brutal conditions at India’s largest car manufacturer. The ICFI, which has launched an online petition, has called upon workers and youth throughout the world to fight for their release.

World Socialist Web Site reporters spoke to autoworkers in the Detroit area as well as to workers in Ontario, Canada about the significance of the defense campaign for the interests of the working class as a whole.

A Socialist Equality Party campaign team spoke to autoworkers Friday at the Fiat Chrysler Warren Truck Assembly Plant north of Detroit. They distributed copies of the most recent WSWS Autoworker Newsletter with a statement on the Maruti Suzuki case.

A young worker told the WSWS she was “horrified” by the facts that she had just heard about the Maruti Suzuki frame-up. “They don’t want us to know anything about this. It seems like the union has flipped over to management.”

Another young worker stopped to speak to the WSWS. He said, “Everyone wants the same thing, but we are strong when we are united. They are always telling us they are going to send our work overseas, so I can see that international unity is important. No one should be forced to work in an unsafe environment “

The worker said he appreciated the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter for keeping workers informed about the case and other important issues. “It definitely lets us know what is happening. They don’t let us know anything in there,” he said pointing to the factory, “besides what they want us to know.”

Several workers noted the complete silence by the media as well as the United Auto Workers on the Marui Suzuki case. “They don’t want us to know anything about this,” one worker said. “They don’t want us to read and know the truth.”

Jenny, a former temporary worker at General Motors‘ Indianapolis Stamping Plant, also spoke in support of the Maruti Suzuki workers. In 2010, the workers at her plant fought against wage cuts imposed by the company … . The workers won support all over the world for their fight.

“Arresting these workers and giving them life sentences, all that is is a fear campaign to make them silent. The Maruti Suzuki workers are fighting for what they deserve.

“The government in India wanted to kill the workers at first, for standing up for what’s right. That is terrifying. What they are fighting makes what we faced in Indianapolis look like a cakewalk. We stood up against GM … . They shut our plant. We had to move to another state to get work.

“It doesn’t matter if you are American or Indian—people have to put that aside. We are all fighting for a decent living, to stop breaking our backs for the companies and to get what we deserve to live. The bigger companies use scare tactics to keep people down.

“We’re told workers in other countries are taking away our jobs. No, they are trying to live. They have babies to feed and bills to pay. It’s not about ‘Made in India’ or ‘Made in America.’ …

“It will take a global effort by the working class. Everyone in every country should go out on strike for one day all over the world and everything would collapse. They would realize it is the workers who are making them rich.”

Tiffany, a young Fiat Chrysler worker in Detroit, said, “I signed the petition and read about this. I was shocked. There were so many people willing to take a stand, striking and standing up.

“It’s incredible that 13 workers were given life sentences. They’re using the workers as scapegoats. There is no proof that they killed anyone. It’s not surprising that the US government backs the Indian government because they want to do the same thing to us here.

“The jailed workers are hopeful and not giving up. That says a lot about their character. They were sentenced to life for standing up. If the Indian government thinks nobody knows about this case, then they will try to get away with it. We have to share their story. I didn’t have any idea about it until I read it in the World Socialist Web Site. We have to bring awareness of this case to other workers.

“American autoworkers should stand with them. That could just as easily be us. They’re there and we are here, but there’s no difference. Their struggle is our struggle. They all stood up, they did not waver and they fought for what they believed in.

“American workers can learn a lot from them. We take a stance for a while, like when we rejected the contract in 2015, but when we get threatened and things taken away, we give in. The workers in India are not doing that. That’s the kind of conviction we need. We need to stand up like them. You have to fight to the bitter end. …

“I read that a temporary worker makes $214 a month, half of what a full-time worker makes. That is horrible. They are billion-dollar corporations, and they don’t give us what we deserve—and we’re not supposed to stand up for our rights?

Sue, a worker at the General Motors assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, also spoke in support of the Maruti Suzuki workers. The Ingersoll factory was opened in 1989 as a joint venture between Suzuki and GM. Located southwest of Toronto, it was originally operated under the name Canadian Automotive Manufacturing, Inc. (CAMI). GM took full control of the plant in 2009 when Suzuki withdrew, and it expanded the plant in 2016 after it received a half a billion dollars in government tax breaks and other incentives.

“It’s my pleasure to speak up against the corporation. Suzuki used to have joint ownership of this plant with GM. We read the article about the Maruti Suzuki workers and sent the link to some friends in our industry who had also seen it shared on social media. We plan to print it and distribute it around the plant.

“Just this week GM unjustly fired some of the temporary part-time workers [TPTs]. Our management team has made standardized work impossible, yet they discipline and/or terminate workers based on their [managerial] failures.

“It is a sad reality when workers are attacked by the corporation, our own unions and the media as lazy, greedy autoworkers. The laborers’ ethics and morals are the focus of questioning and scrutiny while they turn a blind eye toward the blatantly unethical, and immoral operations by these same corporations in other countries where they exploit workers.”

Bruce, a retired autoworker at the General Motor Delta Township plant near Lansing, Michigan said, “We should be outraged by what is happening in India. We have the same interests as these workers.

“The courts are following the corporate line in the face of little evidence. I can’t believe they wanted the death sentence. They want to go ahead and apply this case as a rubber stamp around the world.

“There has to be some sort of discrimination going on. The judge even admitted they were having problems with the evidence. It reminds me a little of the situation in Flint in 1937 when they brought in the National Guard. They set up machine guns on top of the hill and goons were trying to intimidate workers.

“You won’t see anything about this case on any American media outside of the World Socialist Web Site. The American worker has been told forever that we don’t have classes, that there is upward mobility. It takes a realization that we have the same interests as workers in Japan, in Korea and everywhere.”

An article by Hindustan Times journalist Aman Sethi sheds important new light on the sham police investigation, prosecution case, and trial that has resulted in thirteen victimized Maruti Suzuki workers being sentenced to life in prison: here.

Campaign for release of Maruti Suzuki workers wins support in India and Sri Lanka: here.

“The 13 workers are political prisoners”. South Asian filmmakers Rahul Roy and Prasanna Vithanage back campaign to free Maruti Suzuki workers: here.

UK: Strikers at Fujitsu support release of framed-up Maruti Suzuki workers: here.

Australian workers and youth speak out against Maruti Suzuki frame-up: here.

German auto workers oppose Maruti Suzuki frame-up: here.

So far over 1,000 people have signed the petition to the Indian government, with many leaving comments denouncing the frame-up and expressing their solidarity with the courageous workers. The signatories are from 33 countries on five continents: here.

One year since India’s courts condemned framed-up Maruti Suzuki workers to jail for life: here.

More than a thousand workers joined a demonstration called by the Provisional Committee of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) to demand freedom for the 13 auto workers who have been jailed for life as the result of a monstrous frame-up mounted by the Indian state and the Japanese-based transnational Suzuki Motor Corp: here.

10 thoughts on “Mass demonstration to free framed-up Indian workers

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  4. From the USA:

    After ten years of organizing, thousands of Nissan workers in Mississippi will vote next week in an National Labor Relations Board election on establishing a union. Management has stepped up their Vote No campaign. Join me in sending the CEO of Nissan a message to let the workers decide.

    Just a few months ago Senator Bernie Sanders traveled to Mississippi with Our Revolution President Nina Turner, Representative Bennie Thompson, Sierra Club President Aaron Mair and actor Danny Glover to march with the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan and automotive workers in their effort to bring a union to the Canton auto plant.

    That effort is currently under attack, as workers are reporting widespread anti-union activity despite management’s professed support for fair labor standards. In meetings, one-on-one interviews, posters, mandatory video screenings, powerpoints, and more, management has threatened to fire workers or close the plant if its majority African-American workforce elects to unionize and join the United Automobile Workers. Sign our letter to Chairman Carlos Ghosn and demand Nissan end their interference in the upcoming union election.

    We’ve seen these anti-union efforts play out before, like the torpedoed effort to unionize Boeing workers in South Carolina earlier this year. We have to stand up to Nissan and ensure workers have a fair shot at organizing. Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn needs to hear your voice before this critical vote.

    Send a letter to the Chairman of Nissan

    The National Labor Relations Board has already found Nissan and a contractor agency at fault for their efforts to intimidate workers, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to stop a union before it can start. Workers already deal with low wages, unreasonable production quotas, and unsafe working conditions. We can’t let worker power be diminished to give Nissan executives an even bigger share of the profits.

    Click here to send an email to Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn telling him to stop interfering in the Canton workers’ union election.

    Thank you for continuing to stand by the Canton automotive workers and Our Revolution in our struggle for economic justice.

    In solidarity,

    Larry Cohen
    Board Chair
    Our Revolution


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