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2 June 2009 ISSN 0952-1909
Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement, 1990–2006*
Abstract This article analyzes the protest repertoire of an Indian labor movement between 1990 and 2006. Chhattisgarh Liberation Front led a seventeen year struggle against the industrialists and state in central India for the recognition of contract workers’ entitlements. During this long contentious history, the movement deployed disruptive repertoire, ranging from relatively legitimate “wild-cat strikes” (illegal stoppage of work) to extreme physical attacks, against the industrialists, and non-disruptive repertoire, ranging from disciplined participation in court-cases to mass martyr day celebrations, against the state. The mixed repertoire points at the two distinct capacities in which the movement was acting, as a radical trade union against the industrialists and a social movement in relation to the state. The ﬁnding suggests that the CMM participants perceived the state as holding genuine power, and their relation to it as citizens, and perceived the industrialists, despite their being indigenous capitalists, as adversaries.
***** Introduction “Despite the state and industrialists’ attempts to defeat us, our struggle for labor rights has continued for the last seventeen years. The reason is that we never broke the law”. This proud statement is by an activist in the central Indian labor movement Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Chhattisgarh Liberation Front, CMM hence forth) that organized around ﬁve thousand contract workers in the Bhilai industrial belt in the 1990s. Till now, the movement has been struggling for the recognition of the participants’ entitlements as workers. The industrialists used the loopholes in government regulations to reject the workers’ demands. The state did not recognize the workers’ entitlements either, till the situation became politically volatile, and their cases were taken over by the industrial courts. With the enactment of the neo-liberalization measures, worker entitlements in India have become sketchier, and the movement is losing its battle. The quote in the beginning points at the movement’s irony: being informal workers, the movement participants were not covered by the labor laws that cover the formal workers. Nevertheless, being a part of the industrial workforce, their strategies were limited and deﬁned by the same labor laws. Through this contentious and ironic history of seventeen years, how did the workers interact with the power holders? What do those interactions say about the relationship between state, capital and labor in post-colonial India?
© 2009 The Author. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement, 1990–2006 181 Scholars argue that labor movements have had an “institutionalized” history in the twentieth century. These movements have participated in national production and political processes and have acted within the dictates of the nation-state, using negotiation as the main bargaining tool, and have demanded workers’ rights as “citizens” (Marshall 1950). These movements have been accused as “reformist” (Calhoun 1988, Przeworski 1977) “statized” (Panitch 1981) and “incorporated” into state projects (Carr 1945). In the late industrializing and post-colonial societies, where the states themselves had a liberating potential, the labor movements collaborated in the nation-building project, making the nationstate the terrain of possibility and action for the working-class (Cooper 1996; Ahmad 1994). Within this framework, some had resisting potential (Koo 2001; Collier and Collier 1991; Bergquist 1986), but nevertheless acted within the framework of the nation state (Seidman 1994). The institutionalized history is not true for informal labor, to which most of the workforce in Latin America, Asia and Africa belong. Informal workers are those without regulation and social protection (Hansenne 1991, Portes et al. 1989). Informal labor is 90% of the total workforce in many countries (Schlyter 2002) and increasing after neo-liberalization (Agarwala 2008, Harris-White and Sinha 2007, Kundu and Sharma 2001). Informal labor is outside the accepted parameters of citizenship and entitlement. What strategies and tactics did the CMM deploy as an organization of informal workers struggling for recognition? What repertoire emerged out of their struggles with state and capital? Social movement scholarship studies the contentions social actors have with political power holders, mainly the state and similar agencies (Tarrow 1994; Tilly 2004; McAdam, Mc Carthy and Zald 1996). Charles Tilly identiﬁes the “social movement repertoire” that have characterized much of contentious politics in the twentieth century, such as public meetings, pamphleteering, solemn vigils, demonstrations, petition drives and statements to media (2004; forthcoming). Tilly argues that the repertoire took for granted and rarely challenged the continued existence of the national structure of power, making popular contention contained, and closely integrated into national political processes (forthcoming). This scholarship neglects the fact that the constraints and opportunities provide claim makers distinct, and sometimes mixed strategies and tactics than that of a conventionally thought about social movement, thus challenging the efﬁcacy of a conventionally understood social movement. For instance, what repertoire is chosen by a movement that is only partially recognized by the state?
© 2009 The Author. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. 22 No. 2 June 2009
As the table shows. the 20th century repertoire that consisted of strikes. 22 No. unauthorized collection of ﬁrewood. Chatterjee 1993. The author has attempted to capture and classify the CMM’s repertoire in the Table 1. was faced with the big question of how to model an economy that was productive and employment generating. Consequently. took for granted the continued existence of the national structure of power (forthcoming). the Indian state entered into relationships with the Indian capitalist class (see Chibber 2003. demonstrations and deliberately called meetings. However. The Indian leadership. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. and threatening gathering of women. Implicit was the faith in a modernizing economy that produced and consumed more rather than regulated needs following the Gandhian principles (Chakravarty 1987: 7–18). In contrast. such as seizure of grain wagons. Their character indicates a particular relation of the claim makers to the power holders. Repertoires are “the limited set of routines that are learned. The repertoire of the CMM during 1990–2006 varied widely according to context and interactions. on the eve of political independence. tax rebellions. point at the limits of such citizenship and the effort of the informal workers to expand its boundaries. 2 June 2009 . mobilized and defended local interests against the expanding state and capital. Chakaravarty 1987). Tilly argues that the 17th century disruptive repertoire. Mukherjee 2002). as the table shows. ranging from relatively legitimate “wild-cat strikes” (illegal stoppage of work) to extreme physical attacks. The CMM’s interactions with the state and industrialists that emerge through the repertoire. and workers that were also the citizens of the newly constituted nation. Those incidents were overshadowed by instances that followed the opposite pattern.182 Manjusha Nair The repertoire of the CMM is an excellent window to explore the above issues in the Indian context. For instance. A two-mile. shared.long demonstration disrupted normal activity. and non-disruptive repertoire. co-existed with the promotion of indigenous private capital (Seth 1995. informed by the Soviet model. The initial answer was the mixed economy model. against the state. where the nationalistic aspirations for self reliance. The distinction was not exclusive. the CMM used disruptive repertoire. it was non-disruptive compared to © 2009 The Author. and acted out through a relatively deliberate process of choice” acted out in contentious politics (Tilly 1995: 26). “Disruptive” and “non-disruptive” were relative categories. 1986. there were instances when the CMM engaged in non-disruptive acts at the factory gates like routine slogan shouting before the “shift” began and utterly disruptive acts of squatting on public property and rail blockades. ranging from disciplined participation in court-cases to mass martyr day celebrations. against the industrialists.
and in a broad sense. despite their being indigenous capitalists. © 2009 The Author. to be recognized as citizens. This scholarship. as a radical trade union against the industrialists and a social movement in relation to the state. though immense in theoretical contribution. they were relational (Bourdieu 1990). 1990–2006 183 Table 1: CMM’s Repertoire. The ﬁndings point at the need to analyze labor unions as political actors. Finally. They also point at the need to methodologically re-think state-labor relation as captured in scholarship. studies of alternate collective politics that take the place of failing labor unions is scanty. The mixed repertoire points at the two distinct capacities in which the movement was acting. 1990–2006 Aimed at the Industrialists Disruptive Scufﬂe Picketing Physical Attack Gherao (holding hostage) Wild-cat strike Band (total blockade) Routine slogan shouting Routine sit-ins Aimed at the State Rail blockade Road blockade Squatting Non-disruptive Martyr day celebrations Agitations with prior notice Demonstrations Threats Silent rallies Torch light processions Advertisements Meetings with political leaders picketing that had no prior permission and involved the use of force. and their relation to it as citizens. and industrialists. The CMM participants demanded to be treated as formal employees in a narrow sense. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. relies mostly on macro-structural and institutional levels of analysis that do not answer questions regarding mobilization at the mass level. as rivals. While scholars have pointed at the fragmentation and localization of politics (Gooptu 2007). 22 No. rather than as bargaining groups that negotiate the interests of the workers. 2 June 2009 . industrialists and the CMM participants. given “honor and recognition” in their terminology. the ﬁndings point at the need to underline and study politics at the collective level when state is withdrawing and private and foreign capital is advancing in many societies. emerging out of the interactions between state agents. however. The ﬁnding suggest that the CMM participants perceived the state as holding genuine power.Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement. These relations were not necessarily pre-given.
Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. Consequently. T. they had no institutionalized claim to the product. Indian labor unions militantly participated in the anti-colonial national liberation struggles. Communist Party of India documents 1950–60). the institutions closely connected with it being the educational system and the social services (1950: 8). While as immediate producers. and class? What forms did working-class resistance take? Labor movement scholarship. as citizens they processed such claims through the institutions of bourgeois democracy.H. Adam Przeworski argued that capitalist democracy became the socially organized mechanism by workers could express their claims to the product of their labor. led to the collapse of internationalism (Carr 1945). despite the diverse and often contradicting perspectives encompassed.184 Context Manjusha Nair The leadership of newly-independent India. known as “statization” of working class organizations (Panitch 1981: 22). The initial answer was the mixed economy model. What variables mediated the relationships between nation-state. Explaining the reformism of the working class. The “scientism” of the modernizing idea was also more compatible with the ideological priorities involved in postcolonial nation building (Chakravarty 1987: 8). and evidence shows there was a call for the co-option of labor following independence and widespread debates among the left wing trade unions regarding support to the new state engaged in planning with Soviet co-operation (see Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru 2004. was faced with the big question of how to create an economy that was productive as well as employment-generating. 22 No. where more goods were preferred to less and a higher level of capital stock per worker was considered helpful in improving the standard of living (Chakravarty 1987: 8). Hence. informed by the Soviet model. in the 1950s. labor movements have been accused of reformism (Calhoun 1988 for instance). where the nationalistic aspirations for self reliance. fundamentally through the electoral institu© 2009 The Author. The incorporation of the citizen-workers into state projects. Marshall captured this in the concept of the social element of citizenship. India adopted the modernizing. commodity -centered approach. rather than regulated needs following the Gandhian principles (Chakravarty 1987: 7–18). ranging from the right to economic welfare and security to the right to participate fully in the “civilized” society. capital. 2 June 2009 . co-existed with the promotion of indigenous private capital. the Indian nation-state entered into varying relationships with indigenous capitalists and workers. Implicit was the faith in a modernizing economy that produced and consumed. who were also the citizens of the newly constituted nation. agrees that labor has an institutionalized history in the twentieth century.
that the French West African labor movement that had an original international and class-centered outlook was subsumed by the project of the construction of the national identity and nationalist struggles. Portes et al. Gay Seidman argued that trade unions in Brazil and South Africa engaged in “social movement unionism”. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. but also mobilized for wider interests than their own. The institutionalized history excludes informal labor. The radical potential of labor movements. As pointed out by Agarwala (2008) much of the discussion among Indian scholars is about the deﬁnition of informality. 1990–2006 185 tions (1977. 2 June 2009 . but nevertheless were contained by the state. feminization of labor. is outside the institutionalized channels securing citizenship rights through workplace and association entitlements. to which most of the workforce in Latin America. though within the context of nation-states has been pointed out by other scholars as well (see Koo 2001 for the case of South Korea. Informal workers are those without regulation and social protection (ILO 1991. ﬁnally ending up as partners in the elite-run state (1996). Many such states were newly formed in the post. Their ratio is as high as 90% of the total workforce in many countries (Schlyter 2002) and rising in India after economic liberalization (Agarwala 2008. © 2009 The Author. Kundu and Sharma 2001). for instance. 1989). making the nation-state the terrain of possibility and action for the working-class (Ahmad 1994). After the formation of the new states. and increase in unpaid female labor (Chowdhury 2004). in many cases the labor movements supported the states. Frederick Cooper argued. the labor movements collaborated in the nationbuilding project. by deﬁnition.World War II era. towards democratization in repressive regimes. where the effects have been mainly documented as decrease in organized sector employment. after a long experience of anti-colonial resistance by national liberation movements that had support from labor movements. 22 No. Informal labor. and is applied as a blanket category to talk about marginal groups like women. States and labor movements in late-industrializing societies followed trajectories that were distinct from that of Western Europe. Collier and Collier 1991 and Bergquist 1986 for Latin America). Harris-White and Sinha 2007. Poulantzas 1978 and Therborn 1978 for the debates surrounding working class and capitalist democracy). Unlike the statization of workers through the social citizenship model that Marshall suggested. Asia and Africa belong. increase in informal economy. an “effort to raise the living standards of the working class as a whole rather than to protect individually deﬁned interests of union members” demanding broad economic and social change outside the narrow boundaries of the political parties (1994: 2). see also Panitch 1981.Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement.
(Srinivasan 1984: 4) Thus the steel plant. thermal power station and coal ﬁelds. since it was adjacent to the Bombay-Howrah tracks of the South-Eastern railways. In the words of a historian of BSP: “As a village. and big enterprises like the Associated Cement Company. and the Beekay Engineering Corporation. The Chhattisgarhiya (natives of Chhattisgarh) have memories of many of the industrialists rising from lower beginnings with a © 2009 The Author. is an amazing one. Unlike BSP. a powerful constituent of the indigenous capitalist class in India. The Bhilai region in Central Provinces was chosen. Amin and Van der Linden 1997) However. .186 Manjusha Nair lower castes. or are within the borderline. . the smaller companies are privately owned. . Bhilai has become the center of industrial undertakings extending to the nearby regions of Rajnandgaon and Raipur. These include around120 small industrial units that depend on Bhilai Steel Plant for byproducts. the category of formal and informal labor in India is highly ﬂexible. the Bhilai Steel Plant acquired 7170. . of absorbing interest”. together with the iron-ore. “a symbol and a portent of the India of the future”. was a dream fulﬁlled for the teleological project of modernization. . mainly by members of the Baniya community.6 hectares of land displacing 94 villages and 5703 households (Srinivasan 1988). Bhilai houses the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP henceforth). 22 No. grazed cattle and were given to folk dance and music. since many laborers move between formal and informal employment. Labor in Bhilai The Bhilai industrial region in Chhattisgarh in central India is an exemplary site for answering the questions posed in the introduction. Life was placid. little more than scrub. as my ﬁndings below show. the Simplex Engineering and Foundry works. in the beginning of the ﬁfties. Bhilai adjacent to Durg was. It consisted of typical mud houses and its economy was rural. This sleepy village skyrocketed into prominence on its being selected as the site for a steel plant. The people lived on agriculture. The story of its transformation from a quiet pastoral setting into a throbbing industrial center. By 1959.1 launched with 51% government investment and Soviet technical assistance. in gay abandon. one of the ﬁrst state-owned steel plants in India. humming with activity and teeming with thousands. duck ponds and paddy ﬁelds. and tribes and broadly the migrating population (Bremen 1996. It was indistinguishable from any of the thousands of villages throughout India. Since its launching. Their movement tactics can say a lot about how they perceive the state and capital. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. limestone and dolomite mines for raw materials. 2 June 2009 . . that are owned by indigenous capitalists.
and has social security beneﬁts. contract labor is still the predominant form of recruiting in Bhilai. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. One objective of the Indian industrialization project was to provide employment to the citizens of the newly constituted nation. Though regulated in 1970 through the Contract Labour Abolition Act. The BSP. and who is always waiting to be recruited as a permanent laborer. with Mitra and Nair 1999). and introducing voluntary retirement schemes in the 1980s. 22 No. Civil workers are manual workers who present themselves on the spot for working at the minimum wage rate. The retrenchment of labor has intensiﬁed with the ongoing privatization of the Bhilai Steel Plant through the enactment of the neoliberalization policies in 1991. The permanent laborer is more or less a formal laborer.Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement. There are four kinds of laborers that are recognizable in the payrolls in the region – permanent. casual. 1990–2006 187 small “leth-machine” operating unit to “steel kings” with turn-over in millions. 2273–4). This system of labor helps the industrial management to evade its responsibilities to the workers by passing them on to the contractors. The extent of contract labor recruitment at the expense of regular workers in Bhilai. 2004).79 million tons in 1981–82 to 3. Chandavarkar 1998). 2 June 2009 .2 some estimates are as high as 94% (Editorial. as a rational industrial organization. employing outsiders as well as locals (see Parry 1999. While the formal labor force of Bhilai is comprised of skilled workers © 2009 The Author. October 5. including the steel plant. none of the industries in the region employed a workforce according to their production capacity. Economic and Political Weekly. who is paid daily wages.58 million tons in 1996–97. Yet. the contractor maintains his herds of workers through long-established means of control (like the “jobber” in colonial India. For instance. The local population has the strong perception that the BSP and the industries have disproportionately beneﬁted outsiders. civil and contract. indicating that the industrialists’ rise was entirely dependent on the Chhattisgarh region. There has been no ofﬁcial count of the number of contract workers in the region. 1991. see Chakrabarty 1989. whereas the number of its formal employees declined during this period (Jha. The casual laborer is next in the hierarchy. for sometime was active in the production of citizen labor. The most widespread form of deployment is the contract labor system where the contractor acts as the mediator between the industrial management and the workers. with Mitra and Nair 1999). On the other hand. the Bhilai Steel Plant reduced the labor component by shifting to automation. who is on the regular payroll. has increased since economic liberalization in 1991 (Jha. However. especially in the industrial units that depends on the BSP. the production of saleable steel in the BSP increased from 1.
and Mumbai. yet interdependent worlds. Thus Bhilai seems to be divided into the planned city where everything is accounted for. where the informal employees in the local industrial units and their families live.188 Manjusha Nair from states like West Bengal and Kerala. They had enlisted the help of an outsider who was adept in English language and trade union politics to lead them. the iron ore mines of the BSP. and networks of relatives. 22 No. street vendors. Though a little apart from the region. Delhi. The movement had emerged there when the manual workers in the mines. Dissent through the CMM CMM emerged in Bhilai in 1990 by organizing around ﬁve thousand contract workers in the industrial area. The region has witnessed the outmigration of local laborers to destinations like Punjab.3 many of them started initially in the 1950s to temporarily house the laborers engaged in the construction of the steel plant. who were also predominantly Chhattisgarhiya. severed ties with the conventional trade unions and started their own trade union. The news of CMM had reached Bhilai through the media. Though the steel plant is approximately four miles from the industrial area. casual. They have stayed on to become almost permanent mud housing clusters. the township associated with the steel plant and the industrial area represent two parallel. The striking © 2009 The Author. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. The poor has inﬁltrated the planned and the unplanned neighborhoods of the rich people working as domestic help. The movement started when seventy seven workers of the wagon unloading department in the Jamul cement factory sat on a twenty four hour tool down. to work as laborers on construction sites. the indigenous capitalist class stays in a posh residential neighborhood called Nehru Nagar that also happens to be outside the planned steel city of Bhilai. sending the cream of the youth to the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology and eventually abroad. contract and civil laborers consist predominantly of natives (including both tribal and non-tribal people) of Chhattisgarh. and rickshaw pullers and as everything that beﬁts the informal economy. “mini-door” drivers. and the unplanned that boasts of the ﬁlthy rich and the ﬁlthy poor. Haryana. The movement was quite successful and the workers forcibly took beneﬁts from the management. 2 June 2009 . The industrial area on the other hand is speckled with the historic industrial labor camps. These workers got their inspiration from stories of the success of CMM in the mining township of Dalli-Rajhara. gardeners. The steel township has catered to and produced three generations of workers belonging to the “aristocracy of labor” (Parry 2004: 220).
some work full time in the CMM. The main newspapers retrieved are Deshbandhu. speciﬁcally following the assassination of the CMM leader in 1991 and the police shooting in 1992 when there is a gap of months in collecting the newspaper cuttings. hunger strikes. most of the workers were expelled from their jobs. In the complex of events that followed. The ofﬁce is vibrant with meetings and slogans are shouted regularly at the factory gates. and the cases of the expelled workers are still dragging from lower to the upper courts. and others. This legalization blunted the union. 1990–2006 189 workers sent a delegation to the mining township and enlisted the support of Niyogi. the CMM still remains a cohesive force. reducing it to a routine client in the court. There are also gaps within the coverage. It still attracts huge participation in protest marches. Some workers have returned to their villages. The following six months. the outsider leader. The entire contract workforce with their families joined the movement. For instance. This might mean that many such tactics were routine events that the newspapers did not © 2009 The Author. 2 June 2009 . The archive is not complete and there are moments. and the whole of the industrial area comes to a standstill on the martyrs’ day celebrations. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol.Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement. Niyogi was assassinated allegedly by the industrialists. The union has lost the case against the industrialists for the Niyogi murder. a reference might be made to an ongoing hunger strike that was never reported earlier. with protest marches. CMM maintains a newspaper archive (though sporadic since 1999) in the form of registers of newspaper cuttings. and sixteen activists lost their lives in police shooting. when CMM was in full swing in Bhilai. Despite the setbacks. the CMM in Bhilai mobilized contract workers started a full blown strike. the CMM ofﬁce in Bhilai being the locus of activities of both the trade union and the political front. some have found alternative employment and some have simply not survived. the union has tried to organize the peasants in the neighboring regions and have made alliances with anti-globalization movements. Methods The main body of evidence the author presents here comes from the regional newspaper coverage of the movement from 1990 to 1999. Dainik Bhaskar and Navbharat published from Raipur in Chhattisgarh. The routine government inquiry that followed established the existence of contract labor in Bhilai and the cases of all the workers became legal. 22 No. public meetings and road blockages. Following the tool down. It still recruits new members and old members are still loyal. the industrial area was ﬁlled with slogans of “living wages” and “take back the workers” and “workers’ demands are just”. Meanwhile.
the local news reporters were the college educated youth in Bhilai that were non-sympathetic to the cause of the CMM activists that were semi-rural and semiliterate. While some interviews with rival union leaders and formal employees were conducted. In the summers of 2003–4 and the spring of 2006.5 Trouble began when a major trade union allegedly entered into an agreement with the management for reducing workers in the manually deployed coalwagon unloading department. The regional newspapers in Chhattisgarh were most likely patronized. the author avoided such interaction due to the political volatility of the context. Tactics at the Factory Gate As mentioned before. the author was able to realize and compensate for at least some of the inadequacies of the newspaper archives. no reliable ethnographic information about the views of the industrialists and the state agents was collected. Furthermore. the author interviewed eighteen participants in the movement in-depth. ACC was located on the fringes of the Bhilai industrial belt. both in skilled and unskilled work. Most were ex-workers and a few. the author closely observed the quotidian life of the CMM participants both in the trade union ofﬁce and in their neighborhoods. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. still workers. The overall attitude to the CMM activists by the newspapers was that of contempt. a “tool down”. The non-contract workers in the © 2009 The Author. and built on land acquired from the villages nearby. While some ﬁrst generation workers in the villages were employed in the ACC. In using the newspapers as a source of evidence. if not owned. 22 No. Most of the interviewees held middle level leadership positions in the CMM. this bias has been kept in mind. 2 June 2009 . Since the author’s wider research was based on ethnography. by 1990s. in the local branch of the prominent the Associated Cement Companies Limited (ACC henceforth).4 This widely used tactic of withdrawing labor was soon rendered useless by the management through its manipulation of legal terms. The newspapers in general (unlike the national English newspapers that were sympathetic and often held a romantic view of the CMM) did not favor the cause of the CMM. most were retrenched through voluntary retirement schemes and the second generation was deployed as contract workers. the author took part in the collective functions like the martyr day celebrations and accompanied the CMM cultural troupe to the neighboring villages. In addition to interviews.190 Manjusha Nair ﬁnd “news-worthy”. Additionally. While such information could have enhanced the research. the labor trouble in Bhilai started in the 1990s as a wild-cat strike. by the same industrialists that employed and expelled the CMM workers.
such as the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC). and reduced the workers to three per wagon. © 2009 The Author.Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement. since they were not ﬁghting a particular industrialist. The violation of justice to the ACC workers fuelled the sentiments of the contract workers in the region. but the industrialist class that had national reach. while in actuality the workers were not recognized as legal and hence not bound by industrial codes of justice. Then we approached CMM in the mining township and the leaders assured their support to us. Initially we used to have six workers to unload a wagon. 1990–2006 191 company and in the industrial belt. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. The management told us our strike is illegal and ordered us out of the company gate. The management cited the law. were represented by all major national trade unions in India. mostly internal migrants. The leaders reminded their fellow workers that the ﬁght was not easy. and immediately sat on a twenty four hour tool down in the wagon unloading area. hunger strike and speeches addressed to passersby. The contract workers were confronting the neglect and betrayal of other trade unions that entered into an “illicit” agreement with the industrialists who had already breached the rights of the workers through “irregular” work and pay. the industrialists considered them disposable labor. workers joined the struggle. The CMM members made a make-shift tent in the road intersection near the cement company and started a sit-in agitation. making the unannounced strike illegal. 22 No. The management reached an illicit agreement with INTUC. We were enraged and approached BMS [the union afﬁliated to the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP] but were not supported by them. Driven by the immensely powerful rhetoric of the leaders. paying bribes. who has since then been expelled. ignoring the threats of other trade unions and management. resorted to creating an industrywide protest movement by the contract workers. 2 June 2009 . and no regulation of working hours or conditions. While the contract workers understood themselves as eligible labor. Sometimes we had to work continuously for eight hours. justifying the already held notions of the workers about the capitalist class. They were about a life of “honor” (izzat) for a Chhattisgarhiya “laborer” (mazdur) that was creating the wealth for the “capitalist” (poonjipati). in turn. The CMM leadership. We came back. and held the “state” (sarkar) as a puppet in their hands.6 A coal unloading worker in the company. cited the “tool down” as a cumulative effect of years-old resentment: “We had been working in the wagon unloading section with no regular work or pay. The activist’s account afﬁrms the legitimacy of the CMM struggle in the industrial belt. The ACC management retaliated with violence. They all shared a sense of denial of “entitlements” due to an “unholy” alliance between the state and indigenous capital. The speeches were not about living conditions and minimum wages. Thus we were expelled”.
8 Before the extradition could proceed. led to disruptive picketing at its factory gates. In 1991. © 2009 The Author.10 Street-ﬁghts and brawls at the factory gates (pathrav-marpeet in the Indian dictionary of contentious repertoire) with alleged goons of the industrialists became common. though not specifying the implications of the term. Niyogi was assassinated. 22 No. At the end of the rally at the district collector’s ofﬁce. the district magistrate in Durg announced that the CMM leader Niyogi was going to be extradited from the Chhattisgarh region. hundred thousand workers would venture into Bhilai and disrupt the industrial area. In January 1992. the direct action day went uneventful.192 Manjusha Nair Negotiations with the CMM mediated by the district administration and labor department were stranded since the management made two pre-conditions: the agitating workers would not be taken back and the wagon unloading workers would not be made regular workers. Niyogi was accused of instigating the workers in the region to violence and thus was held culpable under the MP People’s Security Act. CMM threatened a complete disruption in the industrial belt through “direct action” (sidhi karwahi) any time. The extent of the industrial tension in Bhilai is evident from the sixteen kilometer long protest rally conducted by the industrialists.13 The local member of the state legislative assembly decried the event and said that the district administration was responsible for not executing what the state government wanted and the labor was responsible for the unrest. The CMM complained about goons being stationed at the factory precincts and the industrialists demanded that the CMM activists be prevented from holding bamboo clubs (lathis) and other weapons. “affecting the economy and the country’s interests and employment”. 2 June 2009 . notices were distributed warning of a lockout. Since the regulation prevented any gathering of activists. the industrialists in the region expelled all the workers participating in the CMM led agitation. The industrialists appealed to the national interest and demanded the assistance of the state in putting down the labor resistance. not a regular repertoire engaged by them. The rally on foot led by the Simplex and Kedia distilleries owners represented seventy-two industries in the industrial region. They also gathered the support of the local bureaucracy in suppressing the movement. the owners of Simplex Company. The CMM leader announced that on January 25th.9 The assassination of Niyogi led to a politically tense situation in Bhilai. fear and anarchy in Bhilai. allegedly by goons hired by the industrialists in September 1991. a day before the Indian Republic Day.11 The frightened district administration declared Section 14412 that prohibited the CMM activists from holding public demonstrations. The CMM anger at the prime suspects in the Niyogi murder. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol.7 Later.
were routine in Bhilai. In the evening.C. who is an expelled worker. Most in the leadership were blacklisted by the industrialists. aided by bamboo clubs and leading to bloodshed.16 the cases of the expelled workers were taken over by the industrial court. When a court decision is announced. CMM activists shifted to and squatted on a BSP property near Bhilai Power House railway station in the end. The union ofﬁce was sealed. with the ability to employ reputed lawyers. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. the CMM planned squatting on public property. angered by the disregard they faced from both the state and the industrialists. and of allying with “imperialist” interests. and a curfew was declared. Aggarwal. CMM activists blocked the railway line. thus emphasizing its own nationalist credentials. still lives on domestic labor in regular cement factory employees’ houses and seasonal cattle-rearing (her caste job).14 In fact. including an onlooker. 1990–2006 193 The “anti-national activities” of the CMM were emphasized by the rival leftist unions as well. For instance. according to the routine enquiry commission report submitted by Justice P. Instead. the nervous system of the steel plant and the industrial area. activists were arrested. The AITUC was already at odds with the CMM in the mining township where it accused the leadership of the latter of being separatists and Maoists. © 2009 The Author. Many of them were without jobs for a long time by then and ﬁnally returned to their village agricultural work for survival. threatening that they would block the railway lines. a wounded activist was.” CMM has obtained favorable court decisions since 1995. and had to suffer penury. After the police shooting. As a CMM activist commented. The desperation this created for the CMM workers was manifold. seriously restricting the scope of the labor movement repertoire of the movement. Desperate that neither an agreement with the industrialists was reached. 22 No. nor was the district administration allowing the activists to force the industrialists through disruption. Scufﬂes involving AITUC supporting workers and CMM activists. The AITUC constantly accused the CMM leaders of betraying the interests of the nations. Venturing into confrontation with the state proved costly to the movement.Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement. “When our dates come. but the industrialists have been reluctant to obey them. On July 1. with whom the industrialists found strange bed-fellows. 2 June 2009 .15 and bringing instability to the state-run steel plant. understandably. a trophy for the CMM. a female activist. Interviewees also narrated stories of death by starvation. we go to the road or the company gate and do a demonstration. the police ﬁred at the gathering killing seventeen people. we go to attend the court cases. the industrialists obtained repetitive “stays” of the court orders and appealed to higher courts. and such photographs are still kept for display in the CMM possessions.
including women. Simplex. There was lathi ﬁght with the “goons” of industrialists in which CMM activists. Every morning before the ﬁrst shift the current and expelled workers from the company gathered at the gate and shouted slogans. the CMM workers blocked the factory gate for eighteen hours and performed picketing. the kids in the colony could not have milk. were injured. and also blocked the gates of the ACC colony where the regular ACC workers stayed. The Gherao was repeated in 1996. the CMM started engaging in tactics such as Gherao. Faced by dim chances of success in the ﬁght with the industrialists in the new regime of labor de-regulation. they could send an application by registered post. 2004 and 2006 indicated that routine (hence not news-worthy) agitations were going on at the factory gates. a court order asked the ACC to take back the workers and give them compensation for the wages lost in between.17 The newspapers lamented the breach of routine life in the area:18 “Common people suffered a lot. 22 No. 2 June 2009 .194 Manjusha Nair To force the industrialists to obey the court orders. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. and even a van that was carrying the dead body of an ofﬁcial’s mother was not let inside”. the total blockade of the area. refusing to let them depart until their claims are granted and Band. my ﬁeld visits in 2003. when the industrialists used multiple tactics to avoid the re-instatement of the workers.19 The CMM ﬁled a case against the industrialists in the local police station. house maids did not go to work.year old student going to school was beaten with sandals. the activists gherao-ed Kedia. school buses and water supply trucks were stopped. In 2006. An eleven. factions © 2009 The Author. while I was in the ﬁeld. Since the milk supply was stopped. shouted slogans and sang songs.20 Though there was not much newspaper coverage of what was happening between the industrialists and the CMM after 1999. In 1995. To force the ACC management to obey the order. and a sick person was stopped from being taken to sector-9 hospital [hospital operated by the BSP for the regular employees in the industrial belt]. On November 30th. the workers blocked all gates of the ACC factory. Simplex management speciﬁcally mentioned that the workers need not come to the gate every day. The companies Simplex and Bhilai Engineering Corporation had advertised in newspapers that they would give interim compensation to the workers. preventing entry and exit. Due to the blockade of roads. Bhilai Engineering Corporation and Bhilai Wires and prevented the Bhilai Wires owner from going out of the company gate till late night. a form of harassment whereby workers detain their employers or managers on the premises. started a sit-in and picketing at the factory gates. Many factory gates had make-shift tents where CMM activists regularly performed sit-in demonstrations.
The CMM started celebrating the July 1 martyr day commemorating the victims of the 1992 police shooting in Bhilai. The Howrah-Ahmadabad express was stranded at Bhilai-3 station from 2:00 to 3:30 p. The CMM always issued prior notices before any public repertoire. The main public tactics used were celebration of martyr days with the co-operation of the district administration. Soldiers [possibly the Central Industrial Security Force] carrying guns were also seen. The following is the description of one such martyr day in 1996:21 “Bhilai Nagar: Today noon. 1990–2006 195 within the CMM. As the report says. or imaginable” (Gordon 1996: 16). Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. and the police force peacefully co-existed with the activists. The CMM used this opportunity to issue threats of “intense” action that were never carried out. Morcha workers entered the station platform with the widows of the martyrs and offered ﬂowers at the place of martyrdom. a news report in 1996 titled “the resting © 2009 The Author. a huge rally started from the industrial belt with red-green ﬂag and CMM banner and reached the gate of the power house railway station. and what followed were routine nondisruptive practices. but the actions were cautious and contained. peaceful demonstrations with prior notice and threats of disruption never followed by action. Discipline in public demonstrations was a “rule” and anything beyond that was outside the realm of the “possible.Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement. The police did not interfere with the incident and hence the program moved very peacefully”. mostly comprised of youth. The leaders used ﬁerce rhetoric against the state. All martyr days followed the same routine: A rally from the cement company road intersection to the railway station where the police shooting happened followed by offering worship at the railway platform near the site of shooting. 22 No.m. The author refers to those tactics as the public repertoire. there was complicity and co-operation on part of the administration. The CMM always took permission from the authorities before conducting the event. At that time the railway trafﬁc was stopped for almost one and a half hours. as required by the district administration. followed by a public meeting. 2 June 2009 . natural. petitioning. The District Superintendent of Police and a huge police force including women ensured normalcy at the station. since they were enacted for a wider audience. and the police force that was usually present during the event co-operated with the organizers. Public Repertoire The CMM’s repertoire against the state consisted of meetings. In fact. demonstrations etc. were debating the use of extreme and violent tactics. rallies. the activists crossed the railway line to go to the public meeting site at the Great Eastern [national highway] road intersection. After the offerings. compared to the factory gate maneuvers. outside the realm of trade unionism.
Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol.30 Once again. During public meeting on that martyr day. Thakur again announced that the agitation could take a “ﬁerce” form and the workers were ready for a “historic struggle”. where the police were sleeping with the permission of chatting activists nearby. the event went “peacefully” with co-operation from the side of the administration and the CMM and there was no intended rail-blockade. The police arrested and removed around six hundred workers sitting on the railway lines for almost two hours. When the Indore industrial court was contemplating announcing a decision in the July of 1996. He mentioned that the rail-blockade of the martyr day was “symbolic” of the real agitation to follow. surprising the district administration. Whenever the CMM did engage in a disruptive act against the state.28 On November 22nd. A similar pattern was repeated in October 1999. the CMM activists engaged in “picketing” as the start of the agitation. In 1997.196 Manjusha Nair policemen and the CMM” had a photograph of the railway platform. none of the threats were enacted by the CMM. following an agreement with the police. the Division Bench of the industrial court at Indore ordered that eight hundred workers should be taken back by the industries. before a CMM program. putting an end to the call for agitation.31 The newspaper also reported that the state bus that was taking the arrested activists to Raipur jail broke © 2009 The Author. which involved slogan shouting. Threats of rail and road blockades and mass suicide were made during a routine torchlight procession in the industrial belts of Bhilai and Raipur. they voluntarily committed to arrest and removal by the police. the CMM leader Thakur declared that there will be a rail blockade on the martyr day of July 1 as a prelude to the court decision and demanded “permission” from the central railway minister who was earlier sympathetic to the movement.26 In August 1996.24 As the earlier discussion on the same martyr day showed.22 Another report in 1998 stated that the workers did not cross the railway line on the martyr day. when CMM was awaiting another court decision from the Raipur industrial court regarding the expelled workers. there would soon be an “agitation”. 2 June 2009 . The newspaper commented that the picketing was “peaceful” and did not disrupt normal activity at the road. there was an unannounced railway blockade.29. The CMM. 22 No.27 Another newspaper reported that Thakur exhorted the activists to get ready on September 2nd with their ﬂags and bamboo clubs (jhande-dande) for the violent agitation. conducted a public meeting at the road intersection as a prelude on August 31st. but the threats were not followed by action. the CMM leader announced that if the Indore court decision was not favorable to the CMM.25 The Indore court decision was delayed and on July10th. like a rail blockade.23 The CMM threatened disruption when the court decisions were delayed. without notice.prasasan.
and engage in a disruptive tactics. When a notice (gyapan) is given. thus drawing attention. It was a secret plan. indicating that the anger at the police-prasasan was expressed indirectly. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. Then the police came and asked them to get down. They sat on the train in two bogies in the general compartment and started slogan shouting. it is evident that the gherao was simply intended to be a threat.33 CMM leaders regularly met with the Durg district administration to decide on the compensation offer and even to discuss of a venue to place the statue of Niyogi. 1990–2006 197 down and the workers refused to be taken in trucks and did slogan shouting. 22 No. From the activist’s account. In the 1993 assembly elections that followed. Questions were raised regarding the contract labor system in the legislative assembly. Thus they were voluntarily equipped for the eventuality of the police arrest. were withdrawn. one hundred and ﬁfty miles away. © 2009 The Author. a new ministry came to power that governed till 2003. If the intention was to carry out the “secret plan” to reach Bhopal. At least they would not have engaged in slogan shouting in a general compartment. He even made a statement that “The contribution of Niyogi to the workers can never be forgotten. 2 June 2009 . The police emptied some buses on the road and took all of us to Raipur jail”. Narrating an earlier incident when CMM acted without prior notice.32 An activist narrated to the author. One reason why the state extended its co-operation to the CMM sponsored events was that the provincial state government was reprimanded by oppositional political parties and national political leaders for the police shooting. offered compensation to the victims of the police shooting. it’s a non-secret plan. The new chief minister though did not get involved in the court proceedings. there was public outcry against the chief minister and his ministerial cabinet for tackling the agitation using force. To win.34 All police cases against the CMM activists.Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement. not including murder or murder attempts and attack of sarkar or police. the activists would have been discrete about the journey. Around two hundred and ﬁfty people boarded the train from Bhilai power house. It was decided that people will get into the train from different places at different times. The same happened in all other places too. After the police shooting. Thus the state was accommodative of the CMM and the latter was co-operative. the workers should follow the path outlined by Niyogi”. compared to the industrialists. she further explained the difference between “secret” and “non-secret” forms of contention: “We were planning for a gherao in the state capital Bhopal since none has listened to our voices. the subsequent protest at the jail against the low quality tea and ﬂat bread (roti) provided.
1995 that my father and all his friends should be taken back to work and given their right. 1992. CMM used to have advertisements in newspapers requesting the public to donate books to the “Martyr Niyogi Book Bank”. It emphasized that the system of the court and sarkar was not wrong. and was forced to resort to disruptive tactics by the industrial © 2009 The Author. My father was thrown out of work on January 24. Even after that the case is still dragging in the high court. as well as visited the national monuments. I want to pursue my studies. The idea that the “state” is good. to support his or her education. discussing the plight of the Chhattisgarhiya people.198 Manjusha Nair The CMM leadership consistently framed its opposition to industrialists and the state as a defense of the institution of the nationstate against its corrupt operators. children like Uttara had to get educated (unlike her parents who were not educated) and be judges to deliver justice to the poor. it was the particular way they currently operated that was wrong. To set them right. and submitted a petition to the president of India with ﬁfty thousand signatures of workers in Chhattisgarh. CMM drew attention to the fact that its struggle was for what is due to the workers “rightfully” and the Kedia factory. while opposing the “anti-labor regulation” activities of the industrialists in the Bhilai region. 2 June 2009 . Delhi. Will you be on my side in fulﬁlling my dreams”? Through this plea to the newspaper reading public. He used to work for many years as boiler-operator in the factory of Kedia. court and sarkar were on the wrong. The court is not able to deliver justice. The meeting was central in clarifying the stand of the CMM as supportive of industrialization for nation-building. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. underlined the CMM repertoire. Findings and Implications The CMM leadership began the struggle using the legal channels. Most of the advertisements depicted a ﬁrst person appeal of a child. and become a judge so that I can give work to workers like my father and the rightful price for their work. nor is the government (sarkar) doing anything. One such advertisement read:35 “My name is Uttara. His mistake was to join Niyogi’s red-green ﬂag union and ask for the right wages. with CMM activists. In 1991. And I also want to punish those who break the law. He also met with the prime minister and national political leaders and let them know that the workers wanted facilities “within the system”. while its operators were bad and it was the obligation of the CMM to protect the institution of the state. I study in sixth standard in the government school in Bhilai. CMM activists conducted protest demonstrations in front of the labor and industrial departments of the central government. when the struggle in Bhilai was in the initial stage. 22 No. whose father had been expelled. The court decided on December 10. Niyogi went to the national capital.
However. Even then. They were able to portray the CMM activists as sabotaging national production and employment. 1990–2006 199 management. The CMM participants had this feeling of “empowerment” as a body of workers that “produced”. though a clash of interests with the industrial-owners. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. 2 June 2009 . was also the time when economic liberalization measures began in India. On the other hand. Aditya Mukherjee (2002) argued that the Indian capitalist class. solemn vigils. and enlist help from the local administration in suppressing the movement. the CMM activists rarely resorted to violence. However. the workers rarely engaged in violent acts such as burning down factories or destroying machines since they had faith in the industrial system. like when squatting on public property and volunteering arrest. at the time of Indian political independence. according to him. had a mature nationalist stance. which in turn helped them easily sabotage Indian planning efforts. It could be argued that the routine of threats. pamphleteering. and petition drives and statements to media against the state. though participating state attempts at reconciliation. it could be summed up only as ambivalent. The tactics of the industrialists in Bhilai show how their class and national interests were not contradictory. Hence. was partly due to the fear of the © 2009 The Author. leading to private investment and labor de-regulation in the industrial sector. economic liberalization might have exasperated the power of the industrialists and further weakened the power of the workers. Thus the Indian bourgeoisie. It used a social movement repertoire such as public meeting. The CMM did tread the boundaries of what was “legal” and “illegal”. A close reading of the repertoire shows that the relation was not absolute and hegemonic. the CMM participants made sure that they operated “within the system”. 22 No. while also being economically entrepreneurial. The industrialists used the rhetoric of national interests and employment generation to protect their own interests. The 1990s. It was ﬁercely critical of the state. It challenged the state treatment of them as lesser citizens.36 The CMM tactics were more of the “Marx-type labor unrest” described by Silver (2003: 19–20). The CMM maintained a law abiding relation with the state. Vivek Chibber (2003) argued that the Indian bourgeoisie weakened and demobilized the labor movement with the help of the post-colonial Indian state. which were not meant to be followed by action.Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement. there was only one recorded incidence of an attack on an industrialist allegedly by the CMM members. where the industries created and strengthened a labor-class with associational power. The ﬁndings in the study are more related to post-independent industrial policies that were already in place. realized its class interests. demonstrations.
The 1992 police shooting was associated with a feeling of betrayal by the state. but both were clearly sympathetic to the industrialists. The tactics used against the national and the provincial state governments were different. One of the interviewees said: “We were already blinded by the tear gas and were in the process of leaving the railway line when they started shooting at us without notice”. leaving the workers in penury. in the narratives of the participants. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. it ensured that industrial production was not sabotaged. such fear of repression was not the only explanation. The central government-owned BSP. The ﬁndings have important implications. The public repertoire embodied such nuances in relations and perceptions. In contrast to the distant and hence vague national state. since the post world war II era. the same were not enforced. labor unions should regain the status of political groups in scholarship. Firstly. the state was multi-level. Through its attempts to maintain peace. 22 No. The state was assuredly patrimonial in attempts at reconciliation and protection of the workers while engaged in their social movement repertoire. mainly wages and living conditions. rather than being relegated as bargaining groups that negotiate the interests of the participants. Unlike the industrialists with whom the CMM had a clear and visible clash of interest. The national state was politically more accessible. This is especially true for many late-industrializing and post-colonial countries where the state has had an active role in modernization. However. despite being a redistributive state. making it easier for the state to contain the movement. The political opportunities that labor movements faced in such societies might dramatically differ from other societies. While the judiciary made court decisions favoring the workers. it did not overpower the interests of the industrialists in favor of the workers. but was twenty four hours away by train. pained the CMM activists. Unlike the industrialists that were immediate and recognizable. The local bureaucracy (police-prasasan) was immediate and the provincial state government was distant. rather than fear. 2 June 2009 . Their state-sponsored developmental efforts. The fact that the police started shooting without prior “notice” at the order of the apathetic prasasan. However. its infrastructure and citizen workers represented and symbolized the apathy of the national state to the Chhattisgarhiya workers. the CMM opposition to the provincial state representatives in Bhilai was more of an everyday maneuver.200 Manjusha Nair 1992 railway blockade and consequent police shooting. have led to the re-structuring of manpower and other resources in radical ways within a short period of time. resulting in distinct trajec© 2009 The Author. as if the former breached an unwritten contract. the state was too vague for the CMM to grasp and contest.
For instance. Though the CMM did take part in state-mediated negotiations with the industrialists from the beginning. there should be a methodological re-thinking of statelabor relation as captured in scholarship. 2 June 2009 . intrinsic to characteristics such as caste and community. however. challenging yet law abiding. though immense in theoretical contribution. requiring a different. Finally. preferably more political. 1990–2006 201 tories and patterns. This paper provides evidence that the bigger politics of the provincial and national state and oppositional parties are an increasing part of the dynamics of the labor movement. 22 No. The repertoire that the CMM used against the state expressed this ambivalence: cautious when over-stepping the boundaries of what was “legal” and “illegal”. was not complete and uncontested. For instance. This scholarship. The political allegiance of the industrialists is more than an association based on interest. but the industrialist class that had national reach and had the assistance of state members. even though in place. Thus state. For instance. and criticizing while co-operating with state attempts at reconciliation. capital and labor are not institutional categories but political relations. it was determined by the leadership early on that the movement was not ﬁghting a particular industrialist. to what extent does that signal compliance on part of the mass following. The repertoire of the CMM suggests that the state incorporation. Rina Agarwala (2008) suggests that informal workers use the channels of citizenship and Gay Seidman (2007) suggests the increasing role of the state in offering protection to the © 2009 The Author. The CMM did maintain a law abiding relation with the state. workers used to point out that the industrialists and the members of the provincial state cabinet had the same last names (suggesting that they belonged to the same castes) and hence had closer relationships. frame of analysis. the real citizen-laborers that routinely interact with state and capital? How much are they hegemonized by the nation-building projects of the state? A re-focusing of labor movement research on the actors and participants at the ground level can help to compliment. in Chhattisgarh. Secondly. Interactions with the industrialists that never followed the labor laws and disregarded the court orders reiterated the verity of such an assumption. relies mostly on macro-structural and institutional levels of analysis that do not answer questions regarding mobilization at the mass level.Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. challenge and/or revise such theorizing. the study points at a critical juncture when state is withdrawing and industrialists are advancing in many of the above mentioned states. while the leadership of labor organizations is co-operative and compliant with state sponsored industrialization. Many studies suggest the continuing position of the state and citizenship as a secure shield for the disentitled workforce.
against the state. The disruptive repertoire. Many also point at the role of non-governmental organizations that now have replaced political organizations in negotiating for the disenfranchised. It hints at the desperation and helplessness faced by the workers. it emerged out of interactions. There is a younger generation that is dissatisﬁed with conventional politics of the deprived and may be ready to rise up in arms. However. and industrialists. when all state channels fail. in its interactions with the state and industrialists. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. interviews and ethnographic observations. 22 No. In the case of central India. This proﬁt maximization exasperated due to the onset of neo© 2009 The Author. On the other hand. as adversaries. a central Indian labor organization of contract workers. and their relation to it as citizens. 2 June 2009 . Conclusion This article studied the repertoire used by CMM. It is likely that the continuing desperation might lead to the appropriation of an alternate repertoire that uses violent tactics. Yet they use a non-violent tactics towards the state. This repertoire was not pre-given. consisting of disruptive and non-disruptive tactics. Being organized informal labor. and hence held the industrialization process in high regard. The sources of evidence were news paper archives. against the industrialists and nondisruptive repertoire. as a radical trade union against the industrialists and a social movement in relation to the state. CMM did not set off differently from formal labor. Though they considered the industrialists as rivals. they believed in the modernization program of the nation-state. They started using disruptive tactics against industrialists and contained tactics against the state as a result of the interactions. ranging from relatively legitimate “wild-cat strikes” (illegal stoppage of work) to extreme physical attacks. the industrialists used the national interests to maximize their interests at the cost of the workers. The ﬁnding suggests that the CMM participants perceived the state as holding genuine power. The repertoire point at the two distinct capacities in which the movement was acting. This article found that the CMM used a mix repertoire. the disruption did not mean violence.202 Manjusha Nair workers. where the promises of citizenship are withering away. This paper suggests something different. despite their being indigenous capitalists. Future research should throw evidence on the alternative politics that is accessible to the disenfranchised in the societies. this is increasingly possible due to the increasing prevalence of anti-state radical movements by naxalites. but their tactics were shaped by the responses of the state and the industrialists. ranging from disciplined participation in court-cases to mass martyr day celebrations.
7 Swadesh.org/. 1991. 1 Jawaharlal Nehru. 1990–2006 203 liberalization programs. 5 Many of the jobs required learned skills. in the Indian left-wing vocabulary. a key feature of which is the unavailability of records.V. 1992. 15 International help. 9 Niyogi was shot dead on September 28. 3 The labor camps began as temporary housing for laborers during the construction of the Bhilai Steel Plant in the 1950s. 11 Deshbandhu. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Politics and Protest Workshop at the CUNY Graduate Center. Richard Williams. built on pre-industrial villages. continue to house laborers. Jim Jasper. January 1. one of the ﬁrst mergers of signiﬁcant industrial groups in India – the Tatas. means help from the United States and other “imperialist” forces. 13 Deshbandhu. if declared in a region. January 26.Giri National Institute of Labour. Ethel Brooks. and favored the industrialists over the workers. Killick Nixon and Dinshaw – became a part of the Swiss multi-national corporation Holcim Limited in 2005. 14 Deshbandhu. 10 Deshbandhu. They were convicted and sentenced to death and life imprisonment by the lower court. The state. Elizabeth Williamson. New Delhi. accessed on March 25. though patrimonial and conciliatory to a certain extent. Khataus. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. January 17. 12 Section 144 of the Indian Criminal Procedure Code. January 25. The research for this paper was funded by the International Dissertation Research Fellowship of the Social Science Research Council and summer grants from Rutgers and Princeton Universities. indialabourarchives. was also violent and oppressive. This contradiction created ambivalence in the actions of the CMM participants. Many of them. since they could not grasp just one state that was either antagonistic or amiable. Notes * This article has beneﬁted from comments by József Böröcz. but were eventually acquitted by the Supreme Court of India in January 2005. 22 No. Robyn Rodriguez. Paul McLean. 2008. July 30. 1992. Indian Prime Minister and architect of modernization. 1992. 8 Deshbandhu. April 15. 1992. and are temporary in the sense that the residents have no ownership rights. 1990. 4 The company. Dhiman Das and two anonymous reviewers of the Journal of Historical Sociology.Mixed Repertoire of an Indian Labor Movement. © 2009 The Author. 16 The report is available on the open-access digital archives of the V. The accused industrialists were named by Niyogi as his potential killers in a pre-recorded conversation. 2 June 2009 . 2 Precise estimates of the number of contract workers could not be determined due to the transitory and illegal nature of contract work. 1991. stated this on the visitor’s notebook of the steel plant on December 16. 6 The major trade unions in Bhilai are the Communist Party of India afﬁliated All India Trade Union Congress(AITUC). 1957. the Congress party afﬁliated Indian National Trade Union Congress(INTUC) and the Communist Party (Marxist) afﬁliated Congress of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). bans assembly of four or more persons to maintain law and order. http://www.
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