From Pricol to Maruti to Idinthakarai, working class unity was the point raised when an awareness and signature campaign were launched in Tamil Nadu to build solidarity for jailed pricol workers. The meeting organized by AICCTU and CPI-ML(L) in Ambattur held on 6th January, 2015 was attended by a packed audience of more than 300 workers from various factories and unorganized sectors and activists, who raised slogans in solidarity with the jailed workers of Pricol.
Eight pricol workers have been given double life sentence by a trial court in Coimbatore. They have been accused of murdering a HR manager in 2009 in the aftermath of labour unrest in which 42 workers were suspended in the factory. According to the prosecution, 27 workers and activists of AICCTU including 4 women were charged with murder and conspiracy to murder Roy George, VP of Pricol. On December 3rd, 2015, the trial court discharged the case against 19 of the accused dismissing the conspiracy case. However, 8 workers have been given double life sentences on the charges of murder and forceful entry with intention to murder.
Workers,unions and movements have shown solidarity with the jailed pricol workers. On the eve of the judgement, more than 500 workers and women had assembled to protest the judgment. On December 3rd and 4th, several protests were organized by AICCTU across Tamil Nadu. Central Trade Unions of Tamil Nadu released a solidarity statement in support of the jailed workers and demanding their release. A protest was organized in December 8th, 2015 by AICCTU. In Bhagalpur, Bihar, a solidarity protest was organized by AICCTU. AICCTU and CPI-ML(Liberation) have launched a signature campaign for mobilizing solidarity for the jailed workers and to demand that the jailed workers are released in the absence of evidence.
Launching the campaign, Comrade Palanivel, Chennai District President of AICCTU, articulated the capitalist conditions in which the pricol sentences have to be contextualized. The workers everywhere, he said, are being penalized for trying to unite and unionize, whether it is at a factory floor or against capital’s exploitation as in the case of Koodankulam project.
Initiating the signature campaign, Comrade Udayakumar, member of All India People’s Forum and coordinator of Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy explained the neoliberal attitude of the State and Judiciary that aim to make exemplary treatment of Pricol and Maruti workers as its servile offering to the neoliberal agenda of Capital. He discussed at length, the forms and content of neo-liberal capitalism where a mirage is constructed of material progress for all classes when in actuality, it only serves the interests of the capitalist class. He critiqued the liberalization, globalization and privatization as the expropriation of wealth, generated through both natural resources and labour, by the capitalist class. By drawing analogy on how workers cannot move to US insearch of their own material progress, while a capitalist can move from US to India to setup unfettered access to market, he explained how the WTO – IMF – World Bank engineered capitalism is an imperialist capitalism imposed by western capitalism to exploit workers world wide.
According to Udayakumar, these find expression in the privatization of education, healthcare, water, natural resources and transport where profit becomes the primary motive and not social justice. The impact is all there to be seen in the paradox of privatized education institutions encroaching legally in eris and flood regions(and thus one of the cause factors of the floods) and a unskilled workforce emerging unemployed from these private institutions.
One such expression is the articulated and normalized energy security through which unsustainable and harmful energy productions are allowed, accepted and operated. While, the entire country is struggling to achieve food security, fertile plains of Tanjavore are being privatized to mine for coal and methane. Fishworkers are displaced to build private ports and nuclear plants. Those who oppose these unregulated greed for profit have to be chained in legal battles so that such voices are never heard.
According to Udayakumar, the capitalist character of the state is exemplified by the justice that was denied to Bhopalis when Warren Anderson, then CEO of Union Carbide and responsible for the death and continued sufferings of thousands of Bhopalis, died naturally in a ripe old age of 98 and in contrast, workers are penalised and jailed on unsubstantiated evidence and live their life in enslaved in chains.
Comrade S Kumarasamy, National President of AICCTU and one of the acquited in the Pricol conspiracy case, added to the narrative when he explained how the prosecution was unable to substantiate its case with evidence. A CCTV camera, which was purported to have recorded the direct actions of the accused, was said to be non functional. The dates and times reported by the police contradicted medical reports. Yet, the judiciary was willing to give such a harse sentence, he said.
Comrade Kumarasamy said that there has been a image built around Chief Minister Jayalalitha as a powerful leader and the recent floods exposed the fallacy in this image when the leadership failed both in proactive and reactionary measures to the floods. He asked how a leadership which cannot handle floods can react to a reenactment of Fukushima or a Chernobyll here. He said that the fascist, casteist nature of the political leadership can only be defeated by constant comprehensive democracy which incorporates genuine and different voices of the feminist, secular, anti casteist and communist progressive voices.
Comrade Kumarasamy recalled the non violent but militant nature of the Pricol strikes when a road roko was done by workers and women for more than 17 hours and general strikes were taken up by the workers. Comrade Kumarasamy announced the revolutiary voice of the jailed workers as continuing struggle that will be celebrated and in celebration will the struggle move. He also praised the unimaginable kindness,as voiced by Tehelka journalist who collected 5 lakh rupees for the victims of Chennai floods even as their own brethren wer,e facing long term jail.
The struggle for the release of jailed workers will be taken forward in the streets through awareness and signature campaigns, he said. He requested the working class of Chennai, Sriperumbudur and other industrial belts to come forward and express their solidarity for the jailed workers in the All India Protests planned on January 18th. The workers of Gymkhana Club, who themselves have been fighting for decent working conditions donated Rs10000 for the cause of pricol workers.
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