Oscar Fernandes, India's labor minister apologized on Sept. 24 for expressing his support for sacked workers who beat their former boss to death, after his comments triggered widespread outrage. He had defended former employees of car parts maker Graziano Transmissioni who attacked and killed chief executive Lalit Kishore Chaudhary at the Italian firm's offices near New Delhi earlier this week.

Chaudhary, a father with one son, was hit on the head with either a stick or an iron rod and was declared dead on arrival at hospital, police said. Fernandes had said the attack "should serve as a warning for management."

"Workers should be dealt with with compassion," he had said. "The workers should not be pushed so hard."

But he retracted his comments after they were greeted with shock by many Indians.
"My profound apologies to everybody who feels hurt," Fernandes was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India. "I would like to put an end to this chapter by saying I am sorry."

Chaudhary, 47, died of head injuries after being attacked by more than a hundred workers who had been sacked a few months ago.

Business groups had led outrage over the minister's comments, with Rajeev Chandrasekhar, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, saying he was "frankly flabbergasted."

The Confederation of Indian Industry said there was "nothing in the world that can justify lynching of any person and no dispute can be settled by murdering an adversary."

Business leaders said the killing may damage the country's reputation among international firms, but trade minister Kamal Nath vowed the incident "would not be allowed to mar Indias position as an investment-friendly destination."

The company had been meeting with the sacked workers to discuss their possible reinstatement when the dispute turned violent, police said. More than 130 people have been detained over charges ranging from rioting to murder. Media reports said workers were dismissed after they demanded pay rises and allegedly ransacked the firm's offices in Noida, an industrial district outside Delhi.

The district of Noida is also home to multi-national firms such as Honda, LG Electronics and Moser Baer.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008