Faces Behind Truth Of Gujarat

Websites can be remote and impersonal. We at “Truth Of Gujarat” want to give our website a human face that can interact with our friends and followers. We would like our friends to know us, debate with us, disagree with us but at the end of it create a secular democratic institution.

JSM and GFTU Office
JSM and GFTU Office

At the beginning of our struggle we were a few individuals. Some were researchers from the prestigious “Physical Research Laboratory (PRL)” at Ahmedabad; Some were from the famous”National Dairy Development Board (NDDB)” at Anand; others from “National Institute of Design (NID)” and “Indian Institute of Management (IIM)” etc. That was 1978-1980 and I had just finished my PhD in Plasma Physics from PRL. My friend Narendra Patel was from NDDB. Strangely we were facing the same problem at our work place. Both the employers, who were supposed to be enlightened public functionaries like scientists, were totally averse to the employees organizing themselves for collective negotiations.

Similar problems were being faced by employees of NID, IIM, ATIRA, GROFED and similar educational and research institutes. The Central Government headed by then Prime Minister Morarji Desai had put a blanket ban on the registration of trade unions in education and research institutes. As research students, we were perplexed by the arrogance and hostility of the scientific managers towards a very recognized right of the employees all over the world. Though we were not directly affected by the dispute, we were thrown out as we had opined in favour of the employees right to organize.

JSM Activists Arrested during a protest
JSM Activists Arrested during a protest

Those were the roots of our struggle in 1978-1980. For the next six years, we had organized trade unions in most of the institutions in Gujarat and even in Mumbai. Thereafter many unions in the Industrial sector were also formed which ultimately led to the formation of Gujarat Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU).

By 1986-87, the question of democratic rights of the marginalized classes other than trade union rights had surfaced in a big way, specially the housing issue of the urban poor. Since such questions fell outside the frame work of the traditional trade-union organisations, the activists joined together and had formed Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM) in 1987. Throughout its journey for the next 25 years, the paramount goal of JSM has been to uphold the constitutional, democratic and civil rights of the oppressed irrespective of caste, creed or religion. JSM  has been able to save the demolition of thousands of slums in Ahmedabad and through public interest litigations we have been able to rehabilitate thousands of hutment dwellers in proper dwellings. We were successfully able to stem the environmental destruction caused by major industries including Reliance, Essar etc. During the 2001 Kutch Earthquake, JSM carried out a systematic scientific expedition to pin-point the correct epicenter of the earthquake that led to the proper rehabilitation of the most affected people. JSM through the court of law also succeeded in getting the building laws changed to include earth quake proof designs and also helped the residents of the two major apartment systems in Ahmedabad that had fully collapsed for their compensation.

Nirjhari Sinha, a physician from PRL did all the phone call analysis
Nirjhari Sinha, a physicist from PRL did all the phone call analysis

2002 was a significant milestone in the history of JSM. The Godhra incident of 27th February 2002 which was followed by the state sponsored violence against the minority starting 28th February and the continuous persecution of the minorities in every sphere of life including the planned fake encounters had convinced JSM that the fundamental it’s duty is to expose and defeat the communal forces in order to protect the rule of law. JSM participated in the Nanavati Commission appointed by Government of Gujarat and through it’s cross-examinations were able to bring out facts about that established that Godhra Train Burning incident was not a pre-planned terrorist act and complicity of the State Government in the riots thereafter. JSM also fought against the draconian law POTA (Prevention of Terrorist ACT) enacted by the NDA Government and was successful in getting it repealed in 2004.

We hold that BJP is the biggest danger to the democratic Consitution of India and Congress is wholly incapable of protecting the rule of law. People alone can defend the constitution and JSM wants to be a part of this historical struggle.