Day 4: Surat flares up, weavers go after cops

Jan 21 2011

The ongoing agitation of textile workers for better wages took a violent turn here on Thursday when the protesting weavers attacked a police chowky and damaged six motorbikes and a patrol van.

The workers were reportedly angry after rumours spread that a labourer detained by the police died in custody, even as the police maintained that they had only picked up a few protesters. “We had picked up six protesters and brought them to the Pandol chowky. Soon the protesters turned up at the chowky and pelted stones. We shifted the detainees to other police stations,” said Chowk Bazaar Inspector M J Pathan.

As the protesters turned violent, the policemen on duty fled the chowky, after which the mob entered the building and resorted to vandalism. Soon, the police rushed to the spot with reinforcements and fired tear gas shells and resorted to cane charge to control the situation. Nearly 15 people, including policemen, were injured. Four battalions of SRP have been deployed in various areas.

Meanwhile, a few units in Pandesara started production. But that did not last long as protesters took out a rally on the Ved road Industrial estate near Sahyognagar and threatened labourers working there to stop work and join the agitation. The protesters went to different industrial areas and pelted stones at factories, forcing the owners to shut units. They also threatened to disrupt the state-level Republic Day celebrations to be held in Surat.

Later, BJP MP C R Patil visited Pandesara and urged the labourers to remain calm and resume their work. He called a meeting of factory leaders, weavers and labourers’ representatives at his office and asked the workers to file complaint against owners who are not paying well. “We want normalcy in the city. It is a matter of pride that Surat is to host the Republic Day celebrations. We have assured the workers that their issues would be resolved,” Patil told The Indian Express.

Early in the day, representatives of weavers and Oriya community leaders went to Sayan on the outskirts of Surat and urged labourers to get back to work. But the labourers demanded release of their leader Shabbir Malek, who was arrested while leading their agitating. Superintendent of Police K G Bhati said, “We have arrested him on charges of instigating labourers. We will produce him before a court and let the court decide.”

Deputy Director of Labour K S Gill said they were trying to find out under whose direction the labourers were protesting.

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