It was a hot and humid afternoon on July 30, 2012. Narender Kumar was at his Om Nagar home in Gurugram when his father’s mobile phone rang. A policeman told him to send his son to the Manesar police station immediately to help identify a few fellow Maruti workers.
“I was called for questioning on July 21 as well and later let off, so I did not suspect anything. My parents also accompanied me. A few hours later, a policeman asked my parents to leave me there assuring them that I would be let off after a meeting with a senior officer,” said Mr. Kumar, vividly remembering each detail.
‘Signed blank papers’
“The police beat me up and threatened me. Made me sign a few blank papers. I was arrested and sent to Bhondsi jail the next morning,” said Mr. Kumar, recounting the sequence of events leading to his arrest for the Maruti violence that left a company’s senior manager dead and several others injured.
While Mr. Kumar languished in jail for 32 months only to be acquitted early this year with 116 other Maruti workers, his wife, and parents suffered emotionally and struggled financially.
Ordeal for family
“My elder daughter was only a year old when I was arrested. Shocked by my arrest, my wife Lalita went into depression. She remained in hospital for 4-5 days but the court did not give me bail. My younger brother, a final-year commerce student, was preparing to become a chartered accountant. He was forced to give up his dreams and look for a job to support the family,” said Mr. Kumar.
Ms. Lalita joined a playschool as teacher and also took up sewing to help her father-in-law, a chowkidar in a Delhi school, to make ends meet.
Mr. Kumar finally stepped out of jail on May 6, 2015, but that was not the end of his struggle.
“Almost a month after my arrest, I got a letter from Maruti asking me to return to work after production started. But the joining was put on hold since I was in jail. After I was granted bail, I went to the company hoping to join work but I was not allowed inside the premises,” he said.
“I am still in touch with my superintendents and friends in the company. They told me a salary slip is generated in my name every month marking me as absent,” he added.
Mr. Kumar, who joined Maruti’s Gurugram plant in 2005 as apprentice in the assembly department, won several best operator awards and appreciation letters during his seven-year stint in the company.
“I worked with utmost honesty. I gave it my all,” said Mr. Kumar. He was employed in the vehicle inspection branch of the company when the violence broke out in 2012.
Shadow of past
After getting bail, Mr. Kumar went to a couple of automobile companies seeking a job but his past continued to haunt him. He took up the job of a chauffeur at a businessman’s house without revealing his past but police verification nailed him.
“I was sacked without payment,” said the a native of Rewari.
He is now working as chauffeur at another businessman’s house. “My fellow workers in Maruti earn around ₹40,000 per month but I am forced to work 12 hours a day for a meagre ₹10,000. I was not part of the mob. Even the court has acquitted me but I continue to
suffer for no fault of mine,” said Mr. Kumar .