The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Women wrest baton on Day II

Gurgaon, July 26: The men were missing in action, so the women took over.

Two women ' Veervati and Bala ' led the second wave of protests that swept Gurgaon after yesterday’s baton-charge by police on hundreds of agitating workers of Honda Scooter and Motorcycle India Pvt Ltd.

The baton charge, which sparked comparisons with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, came after the workers ringed the mini-secretariat in Gurgaon to protest police action earlier in the day to break a highway blockade demanding reinstatement of suspended and dismissed workers.

Bala had come to the Civil Hospital looking for her brother Khushi Ram, a trade union leader and a member of the Group 4 security employed by Honda. Ram has been missing since the clash and Bala, Veervati and another woman accosted all the officials who visited the hospital.

The first to face their wrath was Gurgaon deputy commissioner Sudhir Rajpal, who reached the hospital around 11 in the morning. Even as he tried to assure the women, they grabbed him. Officials intervened but not before a scuffle.

“I don’t know where my brother is since yesterday evening. If the police have arrested him, why don’t they present him before us' We had gone to Bhondsi Jail also but the police did not let us in. They abused us,” Bala said.

One of the workers said he had seen Ram in Sohna Hospital from where the police had taken him elsewhere. But the women did not believe him.

Left leaders Brinda Karat and Nilotpal Basu arrived soon after to meet the injured workers. When they left, the police presence at the hospital was small and the crowd, though restless, was peaceful.

People were trying to locate injured relatives amid reports that the police had rounded up several employees and other demonstrators. There were unconfirmed reports of people being beaten up at some police stations. As the tension simmered, additional forces were called in from districts neighbouring Gurgaon.

Around 12.15, Bala and the other women picked up a fight with the policemen standing guard and tried to snatch their batons. When the policemen resisted, some of the men who were standing outside the hospital compound came running with bricks. They broke the bricks into pieces and hurled them at the policemen.

As the crowd went berserk, smashing windows, the police fired a teargas shell within the hospital compound and charged. For the next 15 minutes, stones rained and eyes watered from the smoke of exploding teargas shells. A fruit juice shop within the hospital was forced to down shutters. Among the injured was a 14-year-old-boy, who was inside an STD booth. Reporters, too, came under attack.

After the brief flare-up, an uneasy calm prevailed till about 3.30 pm. By then, a huge crowd had gathered outside the hospital. IG Deepa Mehta, deputy commissioner Rajpal and additional director-general of police John V. George were among those keeping vigil.

The police made several announcements requesting the crowd to disperse, but the crowd remained. Finally, the police announced the list of injured admitted to the hospital as well as those arrested.

Around 3.30, the third spell of stone throwing began. This time, soda bottles and bulbs also rained.

The police responded with teargas shells and a baton-charge, emptying the area around the hospital. IG Mehta said 320 people had been placed under preventive detention yesterday and released later, but 61 have been arrested. “There is no one missing. All the Honda employees have been accounted for,” she said.

Honda union leader Suchinder Singh, who was admitted to the hospital with serious injuries, has gone into hiding.

“I managed to escape as the police are looking for us. Many of our friends are still missing and others were beaten up during the night in police stations. The police have thrown the bodies into gutters,” he said, speaking from an undisclosed location.

According to him, other union leaders like Suresh Gaur, C.D. Tikar, Kundan Mehta, Vinod Tiwari and Sheikh Abdul Shafi have also gone into hiding.

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