Over the last fortnight at least two legal verdicts came out which are of grave significance for the democratic forces and peoples’ movements in India. The first is the conviction and life sentence of five political and cultural activists including Hem Mishra, Prashant Rahi and G.N. Saibaba at the Court of Session Judge of Gadchiroli. The second is the conviction and life sentence of 13 workers of the Maruti Suzuki Ltd in the case of ‘State of Haryana vs Jiyalal & Others’. We express deep concern at both these verdicts which unjustly convicts workers, adivasis and political activists and strongly condemn them.
For both the cases the teams of defence-lawyers have already pointed out several legal lacunae in the respective verdicts and they are confident of winning justice in higher courts (as happened, for example, with the Pricol workers). However, we consider both these judgements to be of nation-wide and sinister significance: as indicators that the Indian state is accentuating and reinforcing its anti-people and anti-democratic stance, and the judiciary becoming completely complicit in it.
While some of the recent attacks of the current Modi government on the Indian people are spectacular–attempt at destroying any economic autonomy through unleashing demonetization, attempt at muzzling freedom of thought and expression at institutions of higher learning–the decades-long current of orienting the fundamental economic organizations of the country entirely in favour of multinational and big capitalist entities and their allies has been continuing relatively silently. Two well-known primary aspects of this anti-people orientation are to abolish, if possible, any democratic control of the common people over land and natural resources of the country and the democratic and legal rights of the people at workplaces. Continual attempts at dismantling any existing legal safeguards of the people over land and forests, persistent brutal attacks of the armed forces especially on the Adivasi people in large tracts of Central and Eastern India, weakening labour rights to the extent of indirect legalization of even child labour are some of the clear recent examples of such designs of the Indian state (and the current government) in this regard.
The convicts in both these cases put up resistance precisely against this dangerous anti-people design. The activists convicted in Gadchiroli were openly vocal against the Indian state facilitating ruthlessly, with military and paramilitary let loose, loot of natural resources in the adivasi areas. The heroic struggle of the workers of Maruti Suzuki Ltd at Manesar for labour rights became iconic and has been inspiring several similar cases of resistance by the Indian working class in other parts of the country.
The extremely concerning aspect of this pair of verdicts is that even the judicial branch of the Indian state seems to have become explicit and open in upholding the interests of multinational and big capitalist entities. Both verdicts seemed to brush aside brazenly the obvious lack of evidence: in fact the Gadchiroli verdict considered several publicly available online materials as incriminating evidences for conspiracy and in the Maruti case, nearly 80% of the workers had to be acquitted after spending many years in jail! The judgements read overtly partisan: one of them even accusing the convicts of resistance to what the Indian state propagates as “development”. While these verdicts may act well to reassure the big capitalist entities that the Indian state is committed to safeguard their interests, these look ominous for the common people struggling to uphold their human and occupational rights.In a process that is happening all over the country, and by governments of different persuasions, as exemplified by the recent arrests and charging under UAPA of activists involved in the Bhangar peasant movement and its solidarity movement in West Bengal, the Indian state is baring its fangs to send a clear message to workers, peasants, students, activists, to all who stand in resistance against its pro-corporate and anti-people policies, that it will tolerate no dissent. It is a need of the hour for all struggling people and organizations to send out a united message to the Indian state, and the governments of the day, that notwithstanding this repression by all branches of the state, we shall persist in our struggles for justice and social transformation.