Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On the Worker’ Strike at RICO, Gurgaon

A pamphlet by Correspondence.

Ajit Kumar Yadav, a worker in Rico Auto, Gurgaon was murdered by goons of the management. Four other workers were shot at and sixty others sustained injuries.

The management had been evading the workers’ demand to form a union for long. A month back sixteen workers were expelled in this regard and others (all 4,800 of them) were prohibited from working for engaging in ‘illegal activities’. Meanwhile, the management hired around 1,000 goons to prevent workers from coming back to work. In addition to this, the management’s goons, with the supervision of the police, brought around 300 workers from the unorganised sector to resume work in the factory. It should be noted here that these workers are not allowed to leave the premises of the factory and there are reports of torture by the goons. The workers sat in peaceful protest outside the main gate, demanding work and their unionisation. On 19th October the goons attacked the protesting workers and murdered Ajit, shot at four others and injured sixty. In response to this, more than 1,00,000 workers from more than 150 factories in Gurgaon participated in the strike on 20th October.

The Hindu reported the incident on the 19th as ‘a clash between two groups of workers’. Such an explanation begs the question: Why should there be such solidarity amongst the workers if it was a ‘clash between two groups’? Furthermore, both The Hindu and The Times of India have lamented the fact that production has been affected. Whether it is the Maoist question or the incident at Rico, the media turns to the establishment to create a narrative. To understand this aspect of the media we need to locate its position as an industry in the capitalist system. There is a unity of logic that binds the media to the capitalist state. In times of need, notwithstanding their contradictions, all organs of the capitalist state come together as a whole.

This is nothing new. Workers have time and again asserted their right to determine their conditions of work. Workers’ agitation at the Honda factory in 2005 is not a separate incident. It comes from the same strain for self-determination. In Coimbatore, Pricol workers’ demand for the recognition of their unions is met with pressure from the management to withdraw from the road of struggle and sever ties with ‘Marxist-Leninist’/’Maoist’ forces. The unfortunate death of the Vice President of the Human Resources Development of Pricol Ltd in the workers’ agitation has led employers and sections of the corporate media to demand a ban on trade union struggles and advocate labour reforms to give employers a free hand. A single day’s tragic incident is now being deliberately sought to be used to prejudice public opinion against the Pricol workers and suppress the truth of the nearly one thousand days of their united and determined struggle. Similarly, in Gorakhpur three activists and one journalist have been arrested for participation in workers’ demands for implementing labour laws.

When we condemn the war against the Maoists, or express solidarity with people’s struggles anywhere, we see things through the prism of geo-political distance that separates us from them. True solidarity however will not exist unless we realize that though there is a distance separating us, and the forms of struggles that others engage in are not relevant to our own context, the larger questions raised are the same. The struggle for self-determination and true democracy is one of which all of us are a part. A tribal in Chattisgarh faces the state in its most brutal forms, and as we see here, so does the factory worker. And to push it further, the student confronts the same state, may be in a seemingly milder form. Even as the above mentioned events were unfolding elsewhere, a multi-party meeting was organized on 20th October in North Campus to take up the issue of fee-hike in colleges. The struggle is to ensure that we have a say in the decisions that affect us and to make sure that no decision that goes against the students’ interests goes unchallenged. All these are moments of contradictions when the facade of equality and democracy that the state covers itself with is exposed as a facade and nothing more. At these moments it is our task to make sure that the state does not go unchallenged, and that we recognize that each challenge to the state is part of our own larger struggle.

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