Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Do workers get more rights than me?

Yesterday, Gurgaon, Haryana, was witness to clashes between striking workers and the police. The workers were protesting four worker's retrenchment from the Honda Scooter and Motorcycle India (HMSI) fatcory in Gurgaon. They then mercilessly beat up several policemen who were trying to stop them from blocking a major national highway. The policemen then came back with reinforcements, and then they started mercilessly beating up workers. The government of Haryana moved to hospitalise the injured and instituted a time-bound inquiry into the incident. This should have been the end of a very sorry incident, the injured given their treatment, and the guilty parties punished.

But it wasn't. Within twenty-four hours of the incident, commie leaders of every stripe have descended on Gurgaon, and immediately started demanding the Haryana government's ouster. Indian news channels are full of shrill Communist leaders crying out against the bourgoise government (which they supportiin Parliament) that is clearly in league with the MNCs. How dare they interfere with the worker's right to break stuff and beat up people, they demand. Goaded on by such demagogues, the workers today have started beating up policemen, bureaucrats, doctors, nurses, and virtually anyone who comes in their path. As I type this, I can see lathi-weilding goons gratuitously attack unarmed people on the telly.

So the question is, do people get the right to beat up anyone they want, break anything they want, riot and generally cause chaos just because they're workers with a grievance? I mean, yes, an atrocity was committed against them, but does that give them license to go on a rampage through town? If I beat up a policeman, I would get soundly thrashed by his buddies, and get a jail sentence for my trouble. Am I missing something here? I thought I had the same rights as those guys on Gurgaon's streets, but obviously I don't. I don't remember special fundamental rights for striking workers allowing them to beat up anyone with immunity, but that's clearly my mistake.

The Indian Police have a justly deserved reputation for senseless brutality. But that doesn't mean that policemen do not have rights. You cannot just go around beating them up because you've had a bad day, or because your buddy lost his job. By all means, punish those policemen guilty of the atrocity we saw on TV yesterday. But doing that, and then allowing the miscreants among the workers (who are equally guilty) to go free because of some misplaced rants about workers rights will be a complete miscarriage of justice.

Posted in Politics and Economics.


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