One of India’s leading car makers has been forced to shut down a key factory after rioting workers beat up a senior executive with iron rods before leaving him to be burned alive.
Human resources manager, Awinash Kumar Dev, was set upon after a labour dispute spiralled out of control. Workers attacked the 51-year-old in the company’s conference room with bars they had taken from the factory floor. Police say they broke both of his legs before spraying thinners – an inflammable liquid – into the room and then setting it on fire.
A post-mortem of his charred remains showed he suffered multiple fractures but the pathologist believes he would have been conscious as the fire engulfed the building.
His wife and son have been left traumatised and are being treated for shock. At least 40 other managers were also injured in the riot, including two executives from Japan. Most of them are being treated in hospital with one senior executive on a life support machine.
The riot happened on Wednesday night after negotiations over the suspension of a worker broke down.
The company claims the worker was suspended after he assaulted his supervisor that morning but the workers’ union at the car plant has given a different version of events; it claims the supervisor abused the employee, who has been named as Giya Lal, and made “casteist comments”.
A spokesman for Maruti Suzuki, Puneep Dhawan, said the plant in Manesar in the north Indian state of Haryana has stopped production for the foreseeable future because of the extensive fire damage.
“The plant is burnt in sections. You cannot make any cars,” he said. It is not clear whether the factory – which makes more than half a million vehicles every year – will ever be reopened.
Industrial unrest is increasingly common in India. The rising cost of living means workers often have to work longer hours for effectively less money. In 2008 a mob of disgruntled workers at Graziano Trasmssioni India killed the chief executive by staving in his skull with hammers and metal bars.
Maruti Suzuki has also experienced labour disputes in the past. Last year, three strikes stopped the production of tens of thousands of cars. The police say they have now arrested 88 Maruti Suzuki workers on charges of murder and property damage.