Century Mill Factory Workers and Medha Patkar Beaten up by Police in Madhya Pradesh

More than 700 protesting men and women were arrested from the Century Satyagraha pandal. Many have sustained serious injuries.

Image: Screengrab of a video of police brutality posed by Meera Sanghmitra/Facebook

The Satyagraha movement of agitating workers of Century Rayon and Denim Mill of Birla group located in Khargone district in MP completed 1387 days on Thursday.

The mill management is forcibly giving VRS to the workers and employees, which is neither according to the rules nor in the public interest. The movement has been going on continuously since the year 2017 under the leadership of Mazdoor Shramik Janata Sangh. Meanwhile, the workers who struggled for even two meals a day because of the pandemic now only want employment.

For the past few days, social worker Medha Patkar, President of the Janta Shramik Sangh, also went on a hunger strike in support of the workers, but it did invoke any response from the Shivraj Singh government.

Also read: MP: Thousands of Adivasis Protest by Enlisting Crimes of the Oppressive District Administration

On July 19, thirty farmers and labor organisations all across Madhya Pradesh had submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister at the district headquarters and demanded that the BJP ruled Madhya Pradesh government should intervene immediately in the labour and management dispute and run the mill, fulfilling the demand of the majority of the workers.

The memorandum demanded the management to stop the forceful VRS and putting money in the accounts of workers against the rules. This ongoing struggle for the rights of workers is constitutional and just.

Violent Repression by MP Police

But on Tuesday, the movement was repressed by the Shivraj government that brought the police in large numbers which went on to engage in widespread brutality on the agitators, and all the items present at the protest site along with tents, etc. were confiscated.

Image: Patrika.com

Along with this, the indecent and violent treatment of the police forces against Medha Patekar and fellow women is shameful and highly objectionable. The police also arrested 700 people including Patekar and several other women who were present in the Satyagrah movement in large numbers.

The state government had employed police forces from four districts to violently remove the protestors. The protesting people were dragged into vehicles like cattle irrespective of their gender. More than 700 workers and women were arrested from the Century Satyagraha pandal. Not only this, in the midst of the rain, more than 200 were dropped near Kasrawad Phate. In this shameless incident, 20 workers have sustained serious injuries.

Also read: MP: State Forest Officials Beat Up Adivasis, Destroy their Houses and fields

Male police personnel beat up women protestors with batons. The clothes of hundreds of workers were torn. More than 350 workers were kept hungry throughout the day at ITI School Kasrawad.

More than 100 women were taken to Government College Kasrawad. Medha Patkar along with some women was kept in NVDA rest house.

The workers demanded to bring the arrested women and Shramik Janta Sangh president Medha Patkar among the workers first, which was not accepted by the administration, following which an indefinite fast was started.

More than 20 women and men suffered serious injuries due to the use of force by the police, in which 5 women were referred to Khargone Hospital. The rest were treated by doctors from Kasrawad Community Health Centre. After the arrest, the children of the workers staged a sit-in in front of the Mill gate.

Essential Defense Services Bill 2021

Meanwhile, on the same day, the Lok Sabha passed the ‘Compulsory Defense Services Bill, 2021’ on the strength of numbers of BJP members amid a severe backlash by the opposition members. The Modi government explained that this bill will replace the related ‘Compulsory Defense Services Ordinance, 2021’. The way in which the MP government has responded to the demands of the protestors it seems like Shivraj was aware that the Modi government was going to make such a law.

The ‘Essential Defense Services Bill 2021’ completely prohibits agitation and strike. It has been said in the notification that any person who organises or takes part in an illegal strike under the Ordinance, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with a fine which may extend to Rs 10,000, or with both.

NK Premachandran, MP from Kollam said in the house that the bill is going to end the democratic rights of the working class and if there is no order in the house, this bill should not be introduced. The Modi government got it passed in the Rajya Sabha. It is basically made for the defense-related factories but it clearly shows the intention of the government.

In this incident, the leader of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti Dr. Sunilam specially said that when this issue is pending in the High Court along with that memorandums have been given to the Chief Minister, then instead of informing the workers in any way, the path of police repression, which the government chose, is not only entirely wrong but also undemocratic.

Dr. Sunilam told about the incident of that day that the workers, women, and children of the Century Mill were sitting as usual in the Century Satyagraha pandal. Suddenly the sub-divisional officers, tehsildars, and hundreds of police and women police attacked them.

Dr. Sunilam said that earlier an attempt was made to remove the workers under the guise of section 144. Then it was said that the workers have encroached upon the government land, hence action has been taken to remove the encroachment. Late night, cases were registered against the workers under sections 107, 109, 151 and ordered to be released on a personal bond of Rs 20,000.

Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, National Coordination of Jan Andolan has demanded the withdrawal of cases registered against workers, cancellation of fake registry, providing employment to 1000 workers.

Overall, the condemnable and inhuman act done by the Shivraj government to crush this peaceful Century Satyagraha movement will have to bear the brunt of it in the coming Madhya Pradesh elections, and his rhetoric of calling himself a Messiah of the masses has become questionable.

The incident has left the Shivraj government exposed from all sides. It remains to be seen what the next step the state government takes. Meanwhile, the Satyagrahis have started getting the support of social workers from all over the country.

This report was first published on Janchowk. It is translated into English by Aparna Sanjay.


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May 2024


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