July 26, 2005

India parties slam ‘barbaric’ police beatings

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's political parties, reflecting
rising anger at dramatic television images of police beating
hundreds of protesting Honda workers, slammed the government in
parliament and called the police "barbaric."

On Monday, policemen were seen hitting hundreds of cowering
workers with canes after surrounding them. Many lay prone,
bleeding from head injuries, as the police beat them

The police action in Haryana state just outside the capital
New Delhi came after a march by more than 2,000 workers of
Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India Ltd turned violent.

Workers had beaten up several policemen, attacked
government property and burned an official's jeep earlier on
Monday. The police response was dramatic.

"People were being thrown in the gutter," Vijay Kumar
Malhotra, a senior lawmaker of the opposition Bharatiya Janata
Party said in the lower House of Parliament. "The Haryana
government should be dismissed."

The marchers were demanding the reinstatement of 54
dismissed or suspended colleagues at Honda's factory in
Gurgaon. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Japan's
Honda Motor Co.

"Shame, Shame," shouted lawmakers from the opposition as
well as the government communist coalition allies, as
parliament erupted in anger.

"This is an atrocious and barbaric attack on workers by the
police and reflects the establishment's neo-liberal polices
which is contemptuous of workers' rights," D. Raja of the
Communist Party of India told Reuters.

India's communist parties shore up the Congress Party-led
government, headed by reformist Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,
who expressed "deep anguish" over the violence.

The communists have called for the police officers involved
in the clashes to be dismissed and for a Supreme Court probe.

Authorities said close to 100 workers were wounded in
Monday's violence, and about half had to be hospitalised. Media
reports said between several hundred and more than 1,000
workers were hurt.

More than 60 workers were charged with rioting and
preventing public servants from doing their duty, an official

On Tuesday, additional police were called into Gurgaon, a
swanky industrial town in Congress-ruled Haryana state, home to
hundreds of factories and multinational firms as well as
high-rise luxury apartments and air-conditioned shopping malls.

"They beat us up mercilessly," one worker, lying swathed in
bloody bandages, told NDTV television news.

"They took us into police stations and beat us more," said

Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India Ltd. said the violence
was unfortunate. (Additional reporting by Nigam Prusty)