The world of illiterate widow Nanhi was suddenly turned upside-down when her eldest son Naveen, the sole breadwinner of the family, was put behind bars three months ago in the Maruti violence case and the younger one, forced by circumstances, dropped out from school to work as a daily-wager to support the family.
Fifty-year-old Nanhi vividly remembers the day when policemen in plainclothes took away her teenaged son from their Krishna Colony house in Rohtak on January 27, while she had gone to her relatives’ for a condolence meeting and the struggle thereafter.
“It took us three days to eventually find out that he had been taken away by the police in the Maruti case and was lodged in Bhondsi jail. And it took us another month before we could meet him in jail for the first time since the arrest. But we could not talk…the words just choked in throats,” recalled Nanhi, as she once again broke down.
Nineteen-year-old Naveen, a fresh Industrial Training Institute diploma holder, had joined Maruti’s Manesar plant as an apprentice just three months before the July 18 incident. He had little to do with the tussle between the management and the union. However, the police investigation suggested that he was one of the 147 accused allegedly involved in the violence.Languishing in jail for the past eight months, almost every worker has a similar story to tell. While some are sole breadwinners of their families, others have young children and ailing family members to take care of. And all of them plead innocence. But the refrain they come across each time is “the law will take its own course”.
As almost all of these workers come from humble backgrounds, their families neither have the means nor the understanding to fight the legal battle for them. It is now left to over 450-odd regular workers, sacked in the wake of the incident, to take up the cudgels on their behalf and continue the fight.
Contending that these jailed workers are being denied their basic legal rights, defence counsel Rajender Pathak is of the view that the battle ahead may not be an easy one.
“It took us three weeks and a slew of petitions in the court to get the medical examination of the jailed workers done, which is otherwise their right.”
“Similarly,’’ he said, “though none of the jailed workers has any previous criminal record, even eight months after the incident we have not been able to secure bail for any one of them and the matter has now reached the High Court.”
“The prosecution has not even revealed the names of witnesses to us, as is done in ordinary cases of murder and arson. It seems the workers are being treated at par with terrorists,” quipped Mr. Pathak
Dismissing the investigation into the case as mere “eyewash”, one of the sacked workers actively involved in the legal battle on behalf of his colleagues inside the jail, claimed that the State government and the police appeared to be acting at the behest of the company. He said an attempt was being made to make an example out of the case to instil fear among the workers in the region.
“We are not against the probe. But we want a fair probe. We have been demanding a judicial probe by a senior retired judge to bring out the truth, but it has not been accepted,” he said.