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Maruti 2012 Violence Case: ‘Injustice’ to Terminated Workers Decried

Ronak Chhabra |
Two-day hunger strike, which began on Tuesday, saw solidarity being expressed by other unions in Manesar; reinstatement of those who were not found guilty in the high-profile case demanded.
A two-day hunger strike outside Gurugram's Mini Secretariat was launched on Tuesday. Image clicked by Ronak Chhabra

A two-day hunger strike outside Gurugram's Mini Secretariat was launched on Tuesday. Image clicked by Ronak Chhabra

Gurugram: A two-day public hunger strike was launched here at the city’s mini secretariat on Tuesday by the terminated workforce of Maruti Suzuki, who lost their jobs following a violent altercation between the management and the union back in 2012, to press for the reinstatement of those who were not found guilty in the high-profile case.

The violence on the shop floor of Maruti, which eventually led to the death of a senior Human Resource executive then, had put the spotlight once again on the simmering worker discontent within the country’s auto hub Manesar.

The protesting workers, who came together arguably for the first time since 2012, on Tuesday came down heavily on the company management for what they called “injustice” that was meted out to them a decade ago. According to them, the said management, over the years, has refused to reinstate even those workers who were acquitted of any crime by the state administration.

Services of over 500 regular workers were terminated by Maruti Suzuki back in 2012, following a fateful incident which saw the administrative block of the company’s Manesar plant being partially ablaze, in which Awanish Kumar Dev, general manager (human resources), lost his life.

The incident, which took place on July 18 that year, led to a lock-out and fleeing of thousands of Maruti workers, most of whom were in their 20s, overnight after a police crackdown.

A poster of the two-day hunger strike that was shared on WhatsApp. Image Courtesy - Special Arrangement

A poster of the two-day hunger strike that was shared on WhatsApp. Image Courtesy - Special Arrangement 

The case culminated in 2017 when, out of the 31 total convicted workers, 13 including office bearers of the then Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU), were sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of murder and attempt to murder relating to the killing of Dev and 18 were charged with rioting, trespassing, causing hurt and other related offences under Indian Penal Code after long-drawn-out legal proceedings.

Incidentally, while two convicts died during the parole period last year, all others are out on bail currently, after being granted relief by the Punjab and Haryana High Court through multiple pleas that were heard over the years.

‘Management Refuses to Talk’

On the other hand, having been found not guilty of any crime, the rest of the terminated workers at Maruti have been demanding the company's reinstatement for many years now. Following the granting of bail to one of the convicts in August this year, it was eventually decided to take the issue out to the streets, NewsClick was informed on Tuesday.

“We are demanding that as many as 426 regular workers of Maruti who were not charged for any crime must be immediately reinstated,” Ram Niwas, member of one Provisional Committee of the MSWU, told NewsClick. The said committee was formed in the wake of Maruti violence in August 2012 with the objective to provide legal assistance to the convicted workers.

Niwas, who himself is among those terminated, said that the committee is also now fighting legal cases in Gurugram district court for the reinstatement of the Maruti workers. “The workers were terminated without any domestic enquiry back in 2012,” he alleged, adding, “we demand the company management to hold talks and come out with a decision regarding our future.”

A Maruti Suzuki official was not immediately available to respond to the allegation. NewsClick has sent a questionnaire to the company through email. A response, if received, will be included in the report. 

Terming “whatever that happened” as “unjustified”, Rajesh Kumar, president, of Maruti Suzuki Mazdoor Sangh (MSMS) claimed that the permanent workers’ unions in at least seven manufacturing facilities associated with the country’s leading carmaker stand in solidarity with the terminated Maruti workers. Formed in 2015, MSMS is the coming together of these unions.

“The MSMS has been raising the demand of reinstatement of the terminated workers for many years now but every time, the company management refuses to talk on it,” said Kumar, while speaking to NewsClick on the sidelines of Tuesday’s hunger strike demonstration. He added that the permanent unions will hold a meeting to discuss the future course of action in the coming days.

“Everything including a tool-down strike across the units of Maruti Suzuki will be discussed,” he said.

Other Unions Come Out in Support

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, other unions in the industrial hub which have seen tensions being mounted within their respective factories in the recent past also expressed their solidarity with the demonstrating terminated Maruti workers. “The issue of 2012 Maruti violence cannot be considered as resolved until justice is provided to the terminated workforce,” Ajit Singh of Bellsonica Auto Components Employees’ Union told NewsClick.

Singh added that the “burning questions” regarding the unionisation of the temporary workforce, which were raised by the MSWU more than a decade ago, are still equally relevant today.  One of the issues that led to a tussle between the MSWU and the Maruti management in the early months of 2012 was over the demand of the former to grant union membership to the Manesar plant’s contract workforce.

Notably, the employees’ union at Bellsonica, which is also a first-tier vendor of Maruti, has also recently defended its decision to unionise the contract workforce – thus reigniting the long-running debate over the latter’s right to join unions.

Arun Singh, 25, who is spearheading the movement to form a union for contract workers at Japanese multinational company Hitachi’s plant in Manesar underlined that reinstatement of the terminated Maruti workforce would send a positive message across the industrial quarters.

Likewise, Shyambir Shukla of Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, also on Tuesday said that at times, when in the wake of the proposed implementation of the four Labour Codes, workers fear facing an onslaught on their rights, victory of the terminated workers of Maruti would indeed strengthen the trade union movement in the country. 

“Which is precisely why it would be very difficult to achieve,” Shukla, however, told NewsClick.

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