Riot kills one at Maruti Suzuki plant

Indian workers beat Japanese, other managers after attempt at discipline, alleged caste slur

Kyodo

One person was killed and 90 others, including two Japanese executives, were injured after riots broke out at the strike-prone Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. plant in India’s northern state of Haryana, a senior Maruti Suzuki official said Thursday.

The official said by telephone that production has been halted since the workers went on their rampage and torched the company’s office in Manesar, about 15 km from the city of Gurgaon.

The Manesar plant is one of two in India run by Maruti Suzuki, a Suzuki Motor Corp. subsidiary. Suzuki employs more than 9,000 people in the country.

The two Japanese employees were assaulted by a mob of workers who broke into the car plant’s office, Suzuki officials said. There were about 10 Japanese working at the office at the time, they said.

Police arrested 88 Maruti Suzuki workers involved in the melee, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Indian newspapers quoted the company as saying in a statement that the workers turned violent after one of their ranks beat up a supervisor on the shop floor and the worker’s union prevented management from taking disciplinary action.

The workers then attacked and injured 40 executives and managers on the office premises and took them hostage while setting fire to property and damaging the facilities.

The workers reportedly accused the supervisor who was beaten of making disparaging remarks to the worker, who is a member of a historically disadvantaged caste.

The Times of India daily quoted a senior police official as saying that around 3,000 people were involved in the rampage and nearly 4,000 policemen were pressed into service.

NDTV news channel reported that Haryana police confirmed that a charred body was found on the factory premises. It said 87 people, mostly workers, were arrested, although later reports put the number at 88.

It quoted Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union General Secretary Sarabjeet Singh as saying the situation in Manesar remains tense, with at least 1,500 workers still at the complex, and that “if the management does not take back the (suspended) worker, we may stop our work.”

The Maruti Suzuki plant at Manesar was at the center of labor unrest last year as well.