Cops prepare to face Maruti stir

Over 2,500 Haryana Police personnel will be deployed in and around Maruti Suzuki’s plant at Manesar on Thursday in anticipation of massive protests during the sacked workers observánce of “Chalo Manesar”, marking the anniversary of last year’s brutal violence. The Gurgaon district magistrate has also imposed Section 144 under the Code of Criminal Procedure, barring assembly of five or more persons.

On July 18, 2012, violence had broken out at the plant after a suspended worker allegedly slapped a supervisor. It resulted in the death of General Manager Awanish Kumar Dev in the plant premises, and left over 100 others injured. After the incident, the company dismissed around 2,300 employees, permanent as well as on contractual. Of them, around 150 workers — including the then union leaders — were jailed and are facing trial. The plant is presently running with an entirely new staff.

The sacked workers, however, demand reinstatement and a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry or a probe by a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court into the incident. They have also called upon workers and organisations to observe “solidarity” across the country on Thursday. 

According to a senior police officer, the department expects over 3,000 people, including the sacked workers, their family members and friends, to gather outside the plant on Thursday.

“The gathering is expected to be peaceful, but we can never be sure when dealing with huge crowds,” said the officer.

On Wednesday, around 1,000 police personnel were deployed in the area, who neutralised the plant and put up barricades every few kilometres from National Highway-8 to the plant.

More security personnel will be deployed from Gurgaon and Madhuban Police Training Centre on Thursday, and will stay in the area till 8 pm.  

“The barricades will not stop motorists from travelling in the area, as only vehicles carrying more than five persons will be stopped for checking. Passengers will be let off if they prove that they would not participate in the protests,” added the officer.
Several workers at the plant, however, seemed unaware of the latest development and claimed that they would not take part in any protest. “I joined the company in March and have not been informed about any protest. If former employees have decided to protest, it would be their decision,” said Satpal Singh, working with the dispatch department.

Another employee said that the atmosphere within the plant was very peaceful, and none of them were even thinking about joining the “Chalo Manesar” protest.

On the other hand, Maruti Suzuki spokesperson Puneet Dhawan confirmed that senior company officials were aware about the sacked workers’ decision to revive their stir. He maintained that the company has nothing to do with the protest, as the issue is now between the former employees and the state government.

“We would not like to make any official statement as the company or any of its employees would not be participating in any protest,” said Dhawan.  

Meanwhile, District Magistrate Shekhar Vidyarthi imposed Section 144 of the CrPc in the entire area of Industrial Model Township (IMT) Manesar, Devi Lal Park, National Highway 8 and Mini Secretariat in Gurgaon. The order also prohibits carrying of weapons like firearms, swords, spears, sickles, knives or cycle chains.

“Keeping in view the maintenance of peace and tranquillity, and to avert chaotic situations or untoward incidents, law-and-order problems, and inconvenience to citizens and business entities, these orders have been enforced in public interest,” said Vidyarthi.

Violators to be punished 

The order will remain enforced only on Thursday, and violators would be punished under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code.

Sarpanches of nearby villages have already unanimously decided not to allow any worker from the plant to hold any demonstration. They say that any untoward incident in the area, like the one last year, would not be allowed.

Gurgaon Police Commissioner Alok Mittal was also urged to not allow the workers' meeting, following which he too banned any kind of demonstration in Industrial Model Township Manesar and on National Highway 8. 

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