In a major development, Karnataka police have arrested Srikanth, the local president of Students’ Federation of India (SFI), in connection with the violence at Wistron’s iPhone manufacturing plant on December 12.
The police said: “Srikanth was detained. We are questioning his involvement in instigating the violence and also bringing in people outside of the company’s employees into the plant which was vandalised.”
According to a report by OpIndia, the employees of Wistron and the SFI had planned to hold a protest outside Kolar collector Sathyabhama’s office at 11am on December 12. The police officers said Srikanth allegedly curated a WhatsApp message calling for the protest that was later circulated widely among employees.
Notably, the SFI leader’s arrest comes after Communist party-affiliated trade unions defended the attacks and claimed they were protesting against the non-payment of salaries.
Krishna Siddhi, a member of the All India Trade Union Congress of the Communist Party of India, said this issue was regarding the extended shifts and the company was not paying salaries for the overtime.
In an attempt to end speculations, the Karnataka labour department dismissed the allegation and asserted the organisation had been regularly paying salaries to its employees and there was only a 4-day delay this month due to a software bug.
Previously, district lawmaker S Muniswamy of the BJP had alleged the role of the SFI behind the violence. He said: “We don’t care who it is, we will take action because this is about our district’s future. About 6,000 acres have been allotted for industries here. So when companies set up here, such organisation like SFI are trying to scare them and dissuade them from investing here. We have all the footage and evidence on CCTV. I have told the SP and district authorities to take strong action against them. Those innocent should be spared but anyone guilty must be punished. There is no compromise on that.”
Interestingly, right after the attack at the Karnataka plant, Global Times, an alleged mouthpiece of China’s ruling party, made a sly remark on the incident claiming the company will regret its decision of moving to India.
Qingqing Chen, a reporter of Global Times, tweeted: “This is a potential risk when manufacturers consider moving their production lines out of #China where they have the most stable labour market supporting the nation to become the largest manufacturing hub. Does Terry Gou from #Foxconn, regret about moving those #iPhone lines to #India.”
Thousands of workers went on a rampage on December 12 at the Wistron plant and damaged property, vehicles and equipment, alleging they were not paid on time and were being underpaid for the hours they put in.
An FIR was registered against 7,000 unidentified persons, including 5,000 contract workers at Kolar Rural Police Station owing to the violence at the plant with charges of vandalism, criminal breach of peace, rioting and assault. The Karnataka government, while condemning the incident, assured investors of its support to restart the plant.
Meanwhile, Wistron’s drastic change in calculating losses from Rs 437cr to Rs 26-52cr has created a stir on social media. However, it is not yet clear if the company had initially overestimated the damage or the police made a mistake in its report or the communication of it.