Jails Cannot Break Our Struggle :
Speaking to Women Pricol Workers
8 women workers were arrested on old and false charges (dating back to 2007 and 2008) and were jailed for ten days. They are Comrades Kalavathi, Valarmathi, Rajeswari, Premalatha, Shanthini, Lakshmi, Premalatha and Chandra.
They were released on conditional bail. Except for Comrade Valarmathi, who is already under dismissal, others go to work. Apart from these 8, Comrades Indrani and Manonmani were arrested, kept in Thudiayalur PS for 2 days and later released.
Valarmathi was arrested on September 25, at 11.30 p.m. Her husband, who is a heart patient, told her to go along with the police. She got into the police vehicle and was asked to identify more Pricol women workers’ houses. She told them that she did not know anybody’s house. She was then taken to Thudiyalur P.S,. kept there for the whole day and was only remanded the next day. Shanthini was also arrested the same day around 1 a.m. She was also kept in the same station and remanded along with Valarmathi.
Others were arrested inside the factory premises in the HR department on September 29. Rajeswari was on leave for a hysterectomy and had joined work only a few days before the arrest.
Comrades Shanthini and Lakshmi are close friends. Their husbands were working in Pricol as administration staff and were terminated by the management for not preventing their wives from being active in the Trade Union.
There are non-bailable cases against Comrades Mallika and Tamilselvi. Both are office bearers. They are still underground and the union is trying for anticipatory bail for them.
Comrades Bhuvana and Desikan, AICCTU state office bearers met the women workers who were released on bail on October 21, when all of them visited their jailed comrades.
How were you arrested?
Premalatha: It was around 3.45 p.m and we were mentally getting ready to go home when we were told that we had to go to the HR department. We did not know why we were called in. When we went there we saw the police there. Right inside the HR department we were handed over to the police. Chandra was told that she had a visitor waiting near the gate. When she went out to see who was that the police arrested her near the security’s room.
Kalavathi: How can a management hand over its own workers, that too women to the police in this underhand manner? Is it for this we toiled for this company all these years? We wish that our ED Vanitha Mohan could be jailed here at least for a day!
Rajeswari: I just joined duty after a surgery for removing the uterus. 50% of us have had to have our uterus removed because of the working conditions here. The management did not even spare me.
On what charges were you arrested?
Valamathi: The police did not tell me that I am being arrested. They just told me to get into the vehicle. Only the next day did I come to know that I am under arrest. When Shanthini joined me, they told us to tell the judge that we were accused of raising slogans. I have raised slogans many times. But which slogan I was arrested for, I am not able to figure out.
Lakhmi: We were all arrested and sent to jail just because we were in the forefront in our struggle against the management. The management just wanted to create terror among us but their attempts have only boomeranged on them. Our union is now stronger than before.
From monetary losses to being imprisoned, all of you have undergone so much to join this union. You are all still in the forefront of the struggle. Why?
Valarmathi: We have seen many leaders here. All of them are sitting comfortably in the pockets of the management. But the management could not buy our leadership. Com.SK once said in a meeting: money that can buy communists is not yet printed. That still lingers in my ears. We will continue our struggle for our rights and dignity come what may.
Kalavathi: We now know what jail life is. We have learnt to eat ration rice. We removed the thali (traditional chain used as a sign of a married woman) when were remanded to jail. What more the management can do to us? We are now stronger, more united than ever before.