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Learning to work the ropes

Encounters with the MGM Group in Muttukkadu village, Tamil Nadu

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On the morning of September 4, 2004, a bailiff from the Sub-Ordinate Court in Chengalpattu arrived in Karikkattu Kuppam, a fishing village in the Muttukkadu panchayat, that lies along Chennai's tackily modern East Coast Road [ECR]. He asked to be shown the house of Mr Arumuga Chettiar. Chettiar is the 70 year old headman of the Kuppam. As a small group gone tense by the sight of a Court's emissary followed him, the bailiff strode with importance through the narrow streets.

A fat envelope was formally served on the Chettiar. The unlettered man who can barely read Tamil, stared at all the papers that spilled out, almost entirely in English. The Ameena [-as a bailiff is known in colloquial Tamil] explained that the Court had issued an interim injunction against him and his men from entering the temple lands in the village on an appeal to the Court by MGM Beach Resorts, a commercial establishment nearby. The case against him was to begin in three weeks.

Their first instinct was to rush to the MGM management seeking help and relief. They were used to unexplained, unfair targeting. After a brief discussion however, their second instinct took hold. A delegation of them rang my door bell. I went through the served papers and was stunned. I pointed out that this was MGM's ruse to intimidate them and to instil fear. They could either succumb to that or fight back. They chose the latter.

An aside

In the five and a half years that I have been publishing GoodNewsIndia, I have remained invisible, believing the author's name is irrelevant to the content of a story.

This story, the 100th in the Magazine section, breaks that convention. Here was an issue in my own back yard that bristled with nearly all the ills that beset India today: environmental vandalism, land grab, suppression of community rights in the name of tourism, unauthorised development, noise pollution, groundwater abuse, misuse of police services, intimidation of powerless people and most despicably, trivialisation of the legal process. The people I have been writing about in these pages all these years, have stood up against these very ills and made a difference to the course of public life.

Were I to stand aside to the MGM Group's power play in a village that has been my home for 25 years, I'd have no credibility left to live my life with, let alone continue publishing GoodNewsIndia. So I became a part of the story, now being narrated unavoidably in the first person.

Apologies also for the length of the story and the many details in it. This is because this piece is intended to be authentic documentation.

- D V Sridharan, Publisher, GoodNewsIndia

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