Indian police in dock over violent clash with strikers

As the recriminations began, more violence followed yesterday when relatives of the injured attacked police at the hospital where they were being treated.

Television pictures of Monday's violence showed police officers rounding up hundreds of striking workers at a Honda factory and forcing them to sit or lie on the ground, then beating them with lathis - long bamboo clubs - while the workers pleaded for mercy.

India's parliament was chaotic yesterday as several opposition members walked out in protest, and members from the government's coalition partners demanded action against the police officers involved.

The violence took place in Gurgaon, a wealthy satellite town of Delhi that is supposed to be a symbol of the new India, replete with Western-style shopping malls - something you don't even find in Delhi proper.

It all started when around 1,000 workers at the local Honda motorbike and scooter factory took to the streets to protest the sacking of four of their colleagues, who were fired for insubordination a month ago. It is not clear how the violence began, but it may have been some of the workers who started it, by throwing stones at police and setting fire to a police jeep. Footage from earlier in the day showed protesters armed with sticks beating the police, and one officer pleading with protesters as they hit him.

"There was violence from both sides," said the Chief Minister of Haryana state, Bhupinder Singh Hooda. "Hundreds, including many policemen, were injured." But whatever started the violence, it appears that the police went far over the top in their reaction. The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, spoke yesterday of his "anguish" at what had happened and called for an independent investigation.

"This is spine-chilling. I could not have imagined that an incident like this could have happened in independent India," said opposition leader Nitish Kumar.

Mr Singh is also facing anger from his coalition partners over the incident. "Even animals are not treated like this," said Devendra Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal party, a coalition member.

The new clashes yesterday occurred outside the hospital where the injured were being treated. Live television pictures showed women chasing police officers and beating them with canes. Men armed with stones gathered around the hospital. Many of them were believed to be relatives of protesters who are still missing after Monday's violence.

"I want to see my brother," said a man called Veermati. "I saw him on TV yesterday, he was one of the leaders. We don't know what happened to him after that. I am furious. Nobody's telling me where my brother is."

India is one of the so-called "new tiger economies", with the second-fastest growing economy in the world after China. But signs of frustration from India's masses of poor labourers have been growing as their lifestyles undergo little change, while the relatively small middle class reaps most of the benefits of the economic growth.

This frustration is thought to have been the main reason that the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party - which had presided over unprecedented economic success - lost last year's elections to the left-leaning Congress Party and its hard-left allies. However, India's labour laws offer little job protection, and with the country's massive population providing readily available cheap labour, job security is poor for the working classes.

The striking workers were employees of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India, a subsidiary of the Japanese automotive giant. Most of its 1,900 workers have been on a go-slow since May, which the company says has cost£33m. Indian analysts expressed fears that this week's violence could deter future foreign investors.

The Japanese ambassador, Yasukuni Enoki, said last night: "This is a disadvantage for India's image as an FDI [foreign direct investment] destination and also this is a negative image for Japanese business."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Recruitment Genius: Chef

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Chef is required to join one of the largest ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is required to jo...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor