India South Asia

The Rising Class Struggle and State Oppression in Modi’s India

By Lal Khan

Under the garb of Hindutva chauvinism, the rhetoric of development, poverty alleviation and gimmickry of anticorruption the Modi regime in today’s India has launched an aggressive onslaught against theproletariat and oppressed masses ever since it has come to power. These brutal assaults on the working class are worsening with every passing day. Neo liberal economic policies are being ferociously imposed in a country that has already the highest concentration of poverty in the world. The political modus operandi is called the ‘largest democracy’ on earth! The Modi Sarkar is trying to prove to the imperialist corporate capital and the Indian bourgeois that it’s doing the job for what they had doled out money from their ever-bulging coffers. India now is going through delicate and adverse phase for the toilers in this class conflict.

Maruti workers chants protest slogans

On Saturday 10th March 2017 Gurgaon session’s court sentenced thirteen Maruti Suzuki workers to life imprisonment. Four others have been given five-year prison terms, and 14 more sentenced to three-year jail terms. The 13 workers condemned to life in prison include the entire leadership of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU). Life imprisonment in Indian prisons notorious for their harrowing living conditions, abuse and torture, as elsewhere in the subcontinent, is no less than being subjected to a protracted death sentence. Many of the workers were previously subjected to torture, including severe leg stretching, electric shocks and water immersion, carried out in an attempt to extract forced confessions.

However the vicious anti-people role of the corporate media and the contemptuous attitude of the bourgeois state’s judiciary towards the toiling masses stands exposed. The media portrayed the workers being guilty of all the crimes even before any verdict was announced. According to the dictates of capitalism some media channels dubbed it as, “a black mark on India’s economic image”. As is the usual mantra of media in Pakistan, its Indian counterparts blast every workers struggle as anti -national. It is slandered as ‘a grave negative impact for the foreign investors and the companies and damage to the state in terms of economic activity’.

The Judiciary’s pro capitalist character and an imperialist lackey were laid bare during this class conflict. The Haryana High Court in rejecting the bail application had observed that, “The incident is a most unfortunate occurrence which has lowered the reputation of India in the estimation of the world. Foreign investors are not likely to invest money in India out of fear of labour unrest”. The reality was that due to his role of supporting overtly and covertly the Japanese automobile corporation, the largest vehicle manufacturer during this dispute let the then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi to strike a deal with Maruti Suzuki to set up a new factory in Gujarat with his hostile and tough stance against such strikes.

According to a report published in The Hindu, “The Gurgaon CIA investigation did not seem to be directed at solving the crime or probing the involvement of the arrested workers in the incidents and crimes recorded in the FIR but instead was based on their involvement in trade union activities…the use of third degree torture in police custody, and the securing of arrestees’ signatures on blank papers by the police, gives rise to grave doubts regarding the ability of such an investigation in effectively identifying or arresting those guilty. The police seem keener to reassure Maruti Suzuki Ltd. and ensure that production continues.”

These workers are infact victims of aoutrageous frame-up launched by the Maruti bosses, the police and judiciary with the full complicity of India’s principal political parties— the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),  the Congress and other bourgeois parties that dominate today’s Indian political spectrum. The Maruti Suzuki Workers Union called this sentencing of the Maruti workers as “class justice.”

In 2011, the Manesar assembly plant had become the centre of workers militant struggles against low wages, brutal working hours and replacing regular workers with contract labour. These conditions prevail today throughout India, Pakistan and else where to prop up profits by reducing costs of ‘variable capital’. The Manesar Maruti workers came out with a series of walkouts and tool-down strikes. Their militant struggle gained support from across the Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt located in the state of Haryana, on the outskirts of Delhi.

On July 18, 2012 the workers union started negotiations with the management of the factory. With the negotiations failing, violence ensued. The private security posted by the bosses instigated it by attacking the workers. Fire broke out and gutted down a sector of the plant. The General Manager, Awanish Kumar Dey, was killed and 90 others injured. Some international labour activists have acclaimed the General Manager’s killing being a premeditated murder conspired by the bosses.

It was the MSWU leaders whom the police arrested first on the basis of “suspects” list provided by the management. After the arrests of the union leadership Maruti Suzuki bosses backed by the state government, unleashed a purged at its workforce. The Japanese-owned Corporation fired and replaced more than 2,300 permanent workers. With over 1500 police officers deployed, the Manesar plant was turned into a veritable fortress.

In the verdict of 10th March the court ignored its own findings of collusion between the Haryana police and Maruti Suzuki management. Prosecution witnesses mostly failed to identify those against whom they had testified. The court acquitted some of the workers to create an alibi and to prop up a legitimacy of the MSWU leadership’s prosecution. This entrapment of militant workers had started under the Congress led Indian and Haryana state governments, and has continued with an increased vengeance under the now BJP-led governments.

Maruti workers at the Manesar plant have continued to build their support for the imprisoned comrades in every manner—financial, judicial, political and moral. In the whole industrial region of Gurgaon-Manesar there is huge support of workers for the prosecuted trade union activists. On Saturday 10th March, just hours after the verdict was announced, workers in four major Manesar factories, including Maruti Suzuki’s Powertrain plant and a Suzuki Motorcycle plant, went on a one-hour “tool-down” strike. On Thursday the 29th of March more than a 100,000 workers from over 50 plants came out in a show of solidarity with the victims of this ‘class justice’.

However the left leaders and traditional mainstream union federations have remained elusive of the plight of the struggling Maruti Suzuki workers. Instead of mobilising the workers in support, these leaderships only ‘advised’ the MSWU workers to take the path of appealing for support to the bourgeoisie politicians and beg relief from the corrupt, biased and anti-people judiciary. In fact some of these leaders have opposed a strategy of protest demonstrations etc. by the workers in support of the victimised workers with the mobilizations of the industrial workers in India and internationally.

However struggles by workers in Honda Motors Scooters India, Hero Moto Corp, Bellsonica, Rico and Daikin against all odds shows the increasing class consciousness and solidarity of the workers in the Gurgaon-Manesar region of Haryana and Neemrana in Rajasthan. In a Hindustan Times interview, Gautam Mody, general secretary of the New Trade Union Initiative said, “Now, there is a palpable fear among first generation workers that they will be persecuted, or rendered jobless simply for demanding a union.” A worker from Bellsonica, a Suzuki subsidiary told HT, “today it is Maruti, tomorrow it could be us in jail… want our comrades to be released, but Maruti has already united workers more than any trade union could.”

The frame-up of the Maruti Suzuki workers is but one example of the vicious attacks of the corporate capital on the working class across the world. It is a class obligation for the workers across India, Pakistan and around the world to come to the defence of the framed-up Maruti Suzuki workers. This fight of the workers in mobilising solidarity and support for the victimised Maruti workers will prove yet again to the new generations the profundity of the basic motto of the class struggle— ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’. The subcontinent’s massive proletariat is involved in thousands of struggles scattered in different regions and at different times. Once they arise in a united class struggle and enter the arena of politics in a militant movement, they will become conscious of the epic strength of class unity and shall be able to fight this class war to the finish. Such a victorious socialist revolution will overthrow these states and systems that are for the rich and controlled by the rich.

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