Sandeep Dhillon and Suresh, two of the 13 Maruti workers who had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017 and incarcerated in Bhondsi Jail, Gurgaon, over the alleged charge of attempt to murder of a Maruti official in 2012 during a workers’ protest in the Manesar plant of Maruti, has been granted bail on Wednesday, 19 January 2022, by the Chandigarh High Court. After repeated denials of bail to all the accused for years, the bail has came as a ray of hope for the other co-accused, as well as, all struggling workers in Maruti Suzuki and elsewhere, because the Maruti workers’ movement has been iconic in the history of workers’ struggle in liberalised India in many ways. A Groundxero report.
20 January, Gurgaon : Two more among the 13 leaders of Maruti Suzuki workers union, undergoing life imprisonment, got bail on Wednesday from the Chandigarh High Court. Earlier, Rambilas was the first worker leader who was released on bail in the case on 24 November, 2021.
After spending nine and half years in prison, two members of Maruti Union, Sandeep Dhillon and Suresh, got bail on 19 January. The bail petition of another worker Sohan Lal in the same case was however rejected and he has been implicated in the criminal case of setting fire to the factory. In total, 8 workers leaders are still in prison, while two workers – Jia Lal and Pawan Dahiya – died under tragic circumstances (electrocution and cancer respectively) last year.
The workers in the Manesar plant of Maruti had launched a struggle in June 2011 demanding the right of workers to form a union and secure respectable working conditions and their labour rights. The valiant and spirited struggle of the Maruti workers had become a symbol of workers’ power and unity for the exploited working class in Haryana and all over the country.
In July 2012, a HR manager of Maruri died in clashes which happened between the workers and bouncers employed by the management. After this incident, the services of 546 permanent and 1800 contract workers were terminated without any enquiry. An FIR under stringent criminal acts was registered against 213 workers including all worker leaders of the plant.
In spite of putting such a large number of workers and worker leaders in jail and other repressive measures, the Maruti workers’ struggle continued. A ‘provisional committee’ consisting of sacked worker leaders was formed to guide the struggle from outside.
On 18 March, 2017, five years later, while 117 workers arrested in 2012 were acquitted and released by the Gurgaon Sessions Court, all 12 members of the Union body and a worker Jia Lal were sentenced to life imprisonment. It was first time in history of India that so many workers were sentenced to life by falsely implicating them in murder and arson case in course of their struggle to get the right to form union.
TUCI general secretary and senior advocate Sanjay Singhvi says that this case will not last long in the higher courts as it is not yet decided how the manager died and what was the hand of these workers in it.
The life imprisonment of the worker leaders of Maruti was a signal to the working class of the likely consequences they will face in case of their struggle against unfair working conditions and exploitation. It was also meant to pacify and assure the Capitalist that they need not worry about workers’ resistance to their unjust labour practises. The government and the judiciary will ensure their interest.
The fact is that, ultimately, the Maruti management has to recognize the workers union. It is the independent Maruti workers’ union, born out of the struggle launched in 2011, that is carrying on the legal battle to secure the release of their jailed comrades. Time and again, in an exemplary show of class solidarity, the Maruti union has collected money from worker members and distributed it among the families of the jailed workers.
The article was first published in groundxero.com