The ‘Maoists’ Of Manesar
By Anand Teltumbde
29 August, 2012
Predictably, the government insinuated a Maoist connection with the violent incident in the Maruti Suzuki plant at Manesar in Haryana on 18 July. Regrettably company’s general manager (HR) Avnish Kumar Dev lost his life and about 100 people, both workers as well as managers, were seriously injured. Predictably, because whenever the people at the receiving end tended to defy the multi-layered barriers put up by the state to express their anger, they automatically became the Maoists! Dalits and Adivasis easily fitted the bill. Adivasis in Bastar refusing to leave their habitat in defiance of the state’s desire are all Maoists to be butchered by the security forces. When Dalits gave up their ‘given’ framework and spontaneously poured in onto the streets of Maharashtra in protest against the Khairlanji killings, they were Maoists to be battered ruthlessly. Industrial workers, having been successfully tamed by economism of their own leaders however were not in this marked category until recently. But with the militant expression of the new genre of workers, interestingly in the industrial backyard of Delhi, since the Honda workers were publicly battered by police seven years ago and the Maruti workers’ exemplary struggle since last year, appear to be becoming ‘the greatest internal security threat’ of the prime minister Manmohan Singh’s making.
Method in Madness
Notwithstanding the sustained propaganda blowing up the challenge of Maoism out of proportion, the Indian state still appears unduly obsessed with the Maoists. The Maoists surely pose it a formidable ideological challenge. Its ideology, if gripped the masses, can surely be perilous to it. But objectively speaking that remains as a big if. The Maoists, by any sensible assessment are neither closer to that state nor are progressing in that direction. They have been physically holed up into the forested tracks of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Maharashtra with most of their important leaders incarcerated in various jails. Ideologically of course their influence extends beyond these tracks but certainly not to the extent the state projects. Paradoxically, but for the help from the state, in the form of alienating vast masses of the people with its elitist neoliberal policies, deceitful misdemeanor towards masses and harassment of innocent people, the Maoists on their own would not be in a position to attract even as many people as they do. As such, the state with its dismissive attitude towards majority of the people and repressive apparatus is proving to be the biggest recruitment agent for the Maoists.
Why does the state then dig its own grave? The answer lies in the irrationality of the neoliberal creed itself that it has internalized. This creed which valorizes human greed, legitimizes unbridled consumption, upholds social Darwinism in the name of free competition and thereby licenses a decreasingly small minority to enjoy practically at the cost of the majority is inherently irrational and is its own grave digger. While this irrationality is manifesting in terms of cancerous financial crises, nowhere it is more starkly marked as in the environmental crisis. It has brought the world to the brink of collapse. It is this basic irrationality that informs its adherents to be myopic, even unmindful of their actions being basically detrimental to their own self interests in the long term. They are therefore unscrupulously carrying on with their own terror machine in the name of ‘war on terror’ or in the name of ‘internal security apparatus’ or combating Maoism or such like. It is used to terrorize multitude of masses, prone to react to their deprivation into submission. This of course is in addition to the ideological fortification it has systematically constructed leveraging on the debacle of the socialist regimes and the resurgence of the capitalist system, which is maintained by its massive cultural indoctrination machine promoting individualism. However the galloping inequalities, massive marginalization of basic classes, blatant elitist policy bias of the regimes, and systematic erosion of democracy is slowly waking up the working class to its historical duty. Manesar showing potentially promising and scalable form of class struggle has to be threatened with an M-label!
Promise of Manesar
Manesar is located in the conservative Hindi heartland dominated by the notorious Khap panchayats, representing the semi-feudal reality of India. It also is a home for the modern car industry marking the rise of global sector in India. These two paradigms intersected in an interesting way as shown up in the wake of the clash between the workers and the management of two giant car factories in Manesar, viz., Honda Motors and Maruti Suzuki. It reflects on the character of politics in the state that unashamedly protects both social decadence and economic advancement. On 23 July, all the prominent local leaders irrespective of their political allegiance had in a meeting of Khap Panchayats resolved that the Union in the Maruti Suzuki factory should be suppressed with force and the factory be run at any cost. It also resolved not to allow the annual unity rally of the workers of Honda Motors. In such a hostile context the workers union in Maruti Suzuki has carried on its struggle in an exemplary manner. Unlike most trade unions which limit themselves to the regular workers, the workers union in Maruti Suzuki has embraced even the casual and contract labour in its fold and practiced the class unity. In fact, while the wage revision for the regular workers was underway the major issue the union was negotiating with the management was a fair deal to the contract workers. It has been thus conducting itself resolutely on principles and not succumbing to the lure of economism, the proven recipe for the defeat of the working classes.
The Maruti Suzuki Union had three strikes against the haughtiness of the management during the last one year. In this tense atmosphere, the spark for the recent clash was provided by an incident in the morning in which a supervisor abused a Dalit worker, Jiya Lal, in caste terms. The management suspended Jiya Lal, alleging that he slapped the supervisor. The union took up the issue and wanted Jiya Lal reinstated and an action against the supervisor. The meeting that started in the morning went on beyond 3 pm, both sides sticking to their guns. By 6 pm as the workers testified, 100 to 150 bouncers entered the factory premises and started beating the leading workers. Of course the management would deny it and attribute all violence to the workers. The exact truth about who started violence may never come out but it is largely established by the injuries the workers received that management had called the outside goons to deal with irate workers. If true, the entire responsibility of the incident, including the death of the GM should squarely be borne by the management. Even if one assumes that the workers had started violence, it was utterly criminal of the management to get the goons instead of police inside.
Issue of Violence
As violence deserved, many people including the communist trade unions condemned it. The condemnation from corporate leaders was of course louder. Wipro Chairman Azim Premji wanted the Government to act “ruthlessly” although he said he did not know the details of the incident. The anger of the business class was that such acts of violence would damage the image of India as a manufacturing base and as a safe investment destination, especially in view of the economic slowdown. In response to its wishes the Haryana police hounded up over 100 workers, not a single person from the management side. Although the Maoist insinuation is largely retracted, the manner in which the Police are arresting and harassing even relatives of the leading workers has a distinct tinge of anti-Maoist operation.
The problematic with the issue of violence is that it is always seen in a partisan manner and attributed to the weaker side. The fact remains that the other side represents the ownership of the oppressive system, the forces of the status quo and is inherently stronger. It is fought against by the victims of the system to secure a fair deal. The backdrop to their struggle is invariably the systemic violence pervasively perpetrated by the stronger side. But that conveniently gets ignored and violence is always blamed to the victims. Forget the systemic violence of the state that keeps crores of people in abject poverty and deprives them of basic nutrition, drinking water, healthcare, etc.; even when it directly kills innocent people it is hardly taken as violence and condemned. For instance just 20 days before the Manesar incident (28 June), around 100 CRPF and CoBRA commandoes had fired upon a meeting of 60 tribals in Kotteguda Panchayat in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh and killed 17 persons including six children, injured another six and molested at least five women, the incident was not condemned as violence but rather praised by people like the minister Chidambaram and the chief minister Raman Singh. Where are Azim Premjis, Narayan Murthys and others of their ilk who cry foul over the killing of a manager in Manesar when hapless Adivasis are being killed by security forces with impunity? When they demand ruthless action against the workers as happily assumed by them for killing the general manager, will they ask the trial of Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram, Raman Singh, CRPF chief Vijay Kumar and many others for the genocide in Bijapur?
Portents for Future
The new genre of trade unions comprising young, educated, middle class, Net and mobile savvy workers, sensitive to their honour and dignity represented by the Maruti Suzuki union that not only embraces the contract/casual workers but the issues arising out of the ugly Indian reality of caste, and uncompromisingly carries on the class struggle appears to be on the horizon of industrial relations. With the long drawn economic downturn the workers’ unrest which was effectively bottled up for too long is bound to burst forth in future. Manesar could well be taken as forewarning of the things to come. It is a veritable wake up call to the managements to come out of the state of neoliberal bliss. And to the state too for how long would it go with its farce of labeling every dissent as Maoist!
Dr Anand Teltumbde is a writer, political analyst and a civil rights activist with CPDR, Mumbai. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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