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India: The Politics and Undercurrents of the 1939 Strike in Tatanagar

by Dilip Simeon, 10 June

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Short excerpt follows:

"Late in August 1939, there took place a strike in a small iron foundry in Jamshedpur, the premiere steel city of colonial India. Its owners were a local Bengali businessman and a Marwari entrepreneur from Calcutta. The workforce consisted of a little over two thousand five hundred workers, most of them Adivasis (`tribal’ peoples)2 and Oriyas, with a few hundred workers from north Bihar and the Gangetic plain. A large proportion - possibly upto 40 percent, were women. The management was known for being arbitrary, even by the notoriously low standards of the capitalists of this young company town. Their workers were low paid, with virtually no security - at the beginning of the year hundreds of hands had been discharged. The President of their union was the charismatic Congressman Abdul Bari, who was also the Deputy Speaker of the Bihar Legislative Assembly. Trouble at the workplace had resulted in spontaneous demonstrations, as was not uncommon in the area in those times. In the ensuing developments the management used their links with the emerging leader of the Adibasi Mahasabha, Jaipal Singh and the Oriya Congressman Nilkantha Das to convince the bulk of their workers to remain at work. They were abetted by Bari’s chief rival in Jamshedpur, Maneck Homi, who had led a famous general strike in TISCO in 1928.3 By November the strike had ended and historic developments such as the outbreak of world war, the resignation of provincial Congress ministries nation-wide and the promulgation of emergency regulations in industrial areas, had pushed the plight of the foundry workers into the background of local politics." [. . .]

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Strike Breaking or Refusal of Subalternity Tatanagar 1939 | Dilip Simeon
NLI Research Studies Series No. 126/2017 (44 pages / ISBN: 978-93-82902-52-2 / V.V. Giri National Labour Institute, Noida, India)
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