On Monday, January 8, 120 Indian workers along with workers from other countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal, who have been illegally retained in Jordan by their employer Aseel Universal Garments, were holding peaceful protests outside a labour court demanding that they be sent back to their respective countries with the money due to them. When the police tried to hold negotiations and disperse the crowd, the situation reportedly escalated and the police eventually charged at the protesters, injuring seven Indian men and more than 50 people from other countries.
It is known that Aseel Universal Garments has not paid several workers for months and has retained workers without their work permits and visas. The Indian nationals had in November pursued and won a case against Aseel in Jordan’s labour court. The court had ordered the company to settle all dues and send the workers back to their respective countries. However, the company has allegedly not complied with the orders. It has also reportedly been denying food and water at the hostels where workers are accommodated, due to which the workers have been holding demonstrations and protests.
During one such protest on January 8, the Jordan police fired tear gas and charged at the protesters, injuring several people. Of those injured, seven were Indians, namely Rajookumar, Wilson, Ameer, Mohammad Samim, Sanjay, Munna, and Santosh. Pavendhan Rajavel, who hails from Ariyalur, Tamil Nadu, told TNM, “We were arguing with the police to let us protest peacefully and soon they charged at us and fired tear gas. Many women from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were severely injured. The rest of us ran for our lives. Later we carried as many injured people as we could and admitted them to a hospital.”
Munna, one of the injured Indians who hails from Bihar, told TNM that the police repeatedly hit him on his head. “We were protesting peacefully. The police came and checked our trouser pockets first. Then they came and dragged us away and beat us up. They hit me for 30 minutes straight. They repeatedly hit me on my head and kept telling us that we shouldn’t dare to protest again,” he said.
Since the workers have not received their salaries for several months now, many of them couldn’t afford to get treatment. “Some Indians who work in other factories and in nearby hotels came and helped us. They brought food for us and helped us pay the hospital bills. We informed the Indian Embassy and asked them to help. They said they will help but it has been four days and they haven’t come to our rescue,” Pavendhan told TNM.
The workers had previously alleged that the India Embassy was refusing to help them return to India. But a government source assured TNM that the Embassy is aware of the situation and wants to bring them back but it’s the workers who are refusing to return citing that their payments are due.
Of the 120 Indian workers, four belong to Tamil Nadu while a majority belong to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Watch: 69 Indian nationals allege illegal retention by employer in Jordan