Garment factory workers' protest: Violence helped to attract attention?

By: Maitreyee Boruah
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Bengaluru, April 22: In a country of 1.3 billion people, there is no dearth of problems. The aggrieved citizens, once in a while, express their anguish and hit the streets to protest over myriad problems affecting their lives. If we look around in every nook and cranny of any Indian metropolis, everyday protest by a group of people sitting in a non-violent dharna is a common site.

The passersby and motorists walking and driving past the site of a protest spare a quick glance and then move ahead.

Bengaluru protest

What is the big deal about such protests? At times it does, when the same non-violent protest by a group of commoners turns violent. From police, politicians to media, all jump into the fray, albeit for their own reasons.

Recently, we witnessed a similar incident, when thousands of garment factory workers, mostly women, took on to the streets of Bengaluru to protest against restrictions on provident fund withdrawals.

The two-day-long protest, beginning on Monday (April 18), witnessed large-scale violence and arson. There is still no clarity as how and who started the violence that left several injured and destruction of public properties.

The scale of violence baffled everyone. Experts, right from trade union leaders to police officials, are yet to decipher as how a protest by women could turn so violent. There are several theories doing the rounds on media regarding the real culprits behind the violence.

Bengaluru protest 2

Let us not jump into any conclusion before investigators finish their job of finding the culprits.

However, one thing we all can't deny is the violence unleased during the protests. Some experts say that if the protests were free of violence, no one would have paid any attention, especially media.

"Workers' issues get space if things turn violent," Neethi P, who researches globalisation and informal labour markets at the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru, told the news website "Here, for instance, if the women workers had simply come out of the factories and sat on a dharna, they would have got so much television coverage," she added.

It is not that garment factory workers of the city have never protested in the past. They did on many occasions to oppose against low salary and unfriendly working environment.

But, none attracted our attention, like the recent one. Is it the scale of violence? Maybe, as experts suggest.

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