Committee finds police excesses during garment workers’ protest last year

Updated - May 08, 2017 08:07 am IST

Published - May 08, 2017 12:47 am IST - Bengaluru

A file photo of the garment workers’ protest.

A file photo of the garment workers’ protest.

A fact-finding report by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties-Bengaluru (PUCL) and the Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) has found police excesses during the garment workers’ protest in April last year.

The leaderless protest that erupted in the garment hub of Bommanahalli, Peenya and Jalahalli in the city after the Centre’s decision to prevent garment workers from withdrawing their employers’ contribution to Provident Fund was quelled with police brutality and illegal detention of women, the report released on Sunday stated.

The joint report, titled ‘Thread and Tension-An account of the historic uprising of garment workers’, was compiled after interviews with workers, union leaders and police officers.

The report states that though more than 20,000 garment workers took to the streets, workers were anxious since February when the rules were first notified, and the precipitating factor for the protest was a report in a Kannada daily on April 16, 2016.

The protest, which was initially peaceful with workers blocking the national highways leading to Hosur and Tumakuru, turned violent after police used force, including lathi-charge and firing tear gas shells, the report said. “Despite 90% of the protesters being women, no women police officers were present. All the workers interviewed consistently state seeing their female colleagues violently beaten up by male policemen without justification, [and this] was the turning point of the protest,” the report stated.

Trouble for garment workers, it noted, continued even after the protests. Workers were arbitrarily arrested and tortured, delayed arrests were made, abuses were reported during arrest and investigation, and FIRs were illogical, and in many cases omnibus, naming 1,000 to 2,000 workers without specifying the details, the report said. Getting bail also became a problem.

While the report seeks a comprehensive investigation into police brutality, it has also asked Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to drop all charges against the workers and release those in the custody. “No new arrests must be made. All police officers who flouted procedures of arrest and used criminal violence and intimidation must be suspended, and disciplinary and criminal action taken against them,” the report said.

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