IUF logo; clicking here returns you to the home page.
Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

Police Violence/Repression Against Unionists Intensifies in West Bengal - IUF Calls for ILO Intervention

Posted to the IUF website 09-Feb-2007

Share this article.

The IUF on February 9 called on ILO Director General Juan Somavia to intervene with the government authorities in response to escalating police violence and repression in West Bengal, India. Leaders of the IUF-affiliated PBKMS are facing serious criminal charges which carry lengthy prison sentences. The PBKMS has been lending support to agricultural workers and small peasant farmers in the West Bengal community of Singur, who are resisting the eviction of 6,000 poor families from 420 hectares of farmland to make way for a small car factory to be built by the Tata Group, India's powerful multinational conglomerate. The plant would employ 2,000 workers, while up to 30,000 people will lose their land and livelihood, including agricultural labourers, marginal peasants, sharecroppers, cottage industry and other rural workers who would receive no compensation under the procedure. The villagers have resisted political instrumentalization of the conflict, and the Farmlands Protection Committee they have established enjoys widespread popular support.

Systematic police violence and mass arrests have continued since a young viillager was murdered on December 18 inside the area fenced off by Tata, a death which residents attribute to the presence of heavily armed police and guards of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. On January 10, PBKMS President Anuradha Talwar and other PBKMS members and organizers were illegally detained without warrants at the railway station while attempting to travel to Singur. Other prominent supporters of the Singur struggle were detained without warrants by police in Kolkota, in anticipation of their travelling to Singur.

Repression of the ongoing protests reached a peak on February 4, 2007 when the police attacked a rally of villagers and the participants were severely beaten. At least 13 people, including Becharam Manna, Convener of the Singur Farmlands Protection Committee, were severely assaulted. Anuradha Talwar and 5 senior members of the PBKMS Executive - all of them women - who were demonstrating peacefully in support of the villagers were forcibly arrested, dragged to the police van, and threatened with rape. The events were recorded by television journalists.

Serious criminal charges were filed against them which they only learned of in the course of their court appearances the following day. The charges include: attempt to commit murder, rioting with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon and assaulting a public servant, all of which carry lengthy prison sentences. Bail was granted only on the condition that they were barred from entering the area until April 1, 2007.

The IUF has informed the ILO Director General of the serious criminal charges against PBKMS leaders and the overall pattern of gross rights violations carried out by the West Bengal authorities, including violations of the right to freedom of association, urging the ILO to intervene with the government to have them drop the charges and halt the repression.

You can protest the criminalization of trade union support for the struggle against land seizures and mass evictions - write to the Chief Minister and Governor of West Bengal by clicking here .