‘The Factory’, a documentary by Rahul Roy on the legal travails faced by workers of Maruti Suzuki, was screened at Marx’s Library in Chennai on 31st of October. It was organized by the Solidarity Committee for Maruti Workers- Chennai Chapter. The 2 hour long documentary travels with the workers, lawyers and the family members of the incarcerated workers as they struggle to negotiate an arduous legal process while making ends meet. It captures the disruption of social life among the families and lays bare the painful dimension of Indian legal system which can penalise the poor and the powerless without even finding them guilty.
Around 50 people, workers and students, viewed the screening and participated in the discussions that followed. Union leaders from NDLF (New Democratic Labour Front) discussed their own encounters with corrupt management. They also mentioned their role in supporting the Maruti workers in 2012. Questions were also raised as to the effective means to counter such systemic violence against working class interests. The organizers also appealed to people to help raise funds for ongoing legal challenges as well as the support to families left without their principal bread winners.
In July 2012, after violence erupted at the Maruti Suzuki factory in Manesar, Haryana, over 147 workers had been charged for the death (alleged murder) of a HR manager Avnish Kumar Dev, and on charges of causing arson at the factory. Inspite of very poor evidence against them, most of them suffered pre trail detention for over 2 years. Over 2500 workers were suspended, many contract workers lost their jobs and families of workers were ruined due to loss of income and heavy burden of legal costs. The workers have argued that they were falsely targeted by Maruti management and Haryana Government only to destroy their young independent Union and stop them from demanding rights for contract workers. After sustained struggle by workers inside and outside the court rooms, around 100 workers have been released on bail in the recent months. Over 30 workers remain incarcerated in Haryana prisons (without bail pending verdict) for almost 3 years since violence erupted at Manesar Plant in July 2012.
As the court case has reached a crucial juncture and verdict is expected soon, activists and former union members are on a campaign across the country to enlist the support of workers from across the country, for the crucial phase of the struggle ahead. They will be in Chennai between 11th and 14th of November. Many events have been planned by Chennai solidarity groups and we will keep you updated on these events.