It was close to 1 in the morning. I called the SP one last time and told him, "Sir, your writ doesn't seem to run here. It's 1 and the party is still on as you can hear it on my mobile." We left. The party sputtered and ended only at 3.00 am on Aug 1.
I wrote to M G M Anand by registered post, asking for an appointment to see the lease papers he said he had. I called the SP to ask what action he proposed to take against MGM for violations his officers were witness to. And then I wandered over to the Kuppam to ask the fishermen the exact lease position.
They chorused that MGM was an encroacher; that their efforts of many years to evict them had failed because the police come in waving petty complaints filed against them. They had filed a writ also. "We want access to our traditional place of worship", they said. "But the MGM security staff terrorise us, though we are certain no lease exists now."
Here we were — fishermen and genteel residents— in the same village but living and suffering on different layers. We vowed to work together.
"The mariners all 'gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do ;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools-
We were a ghastly crew."
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
ECCO members began to accompany villagers to play volley ball on the temple ground. MGM called the police but the new Inspector was a calm man, refusing to act rashly at anyone's bidding. We demanded the lease be shown. MGM staff stood silent. It was clear they had no existing lease. The Inspector declared: "Play and leave peacefully." A minor victory. Sabita and I led the villagers to the land for a ceremonial cook-out and puja. I had this event video graphed so that we had a record of the denuded grove and the plush new lawn in its place.
Trifling with law:
Far from proving its lease, MGM responded in the way it knows best. It set in motion a legal process culminating in the bailiff's visit that we began this story with. As a group of fishermen sat around me I went through all the papers that had arrived. M G M Anand had prayed the Court of the Sub-Ordinate Judge in Chengalpattu, for a permanent injunction restraining Chettiar 'his men, servants and anyone on his behalf' from interfering in the peaceful possession and enjoyment of usufructs of the lands in Survey numbers 108/9 and 108/10. The Court registered suit number 135 of 2004 and on Aug 30th, 2004 passed an Ad-Interim Injunction against Chettiar.
The papers filed by MGM to support its prayer revealed much. What was the provocation for this prayer in August 2004? A complaint addressed to the police in January 22, 2003. It said that on that day Arumuga Chettiar and some local villagers trespassed their property. "They were in a drunken state, misbehaved with our esteemed Lady guests who are foreigners while they were relaxing by the pool side, demanded money from them & kept squatting in our property. They even approached a few of our Guest [sic] in the beach forcibly asking them to buy arracks from them. Even after repeated request from our security they refused to budge and kept threatening and abusing us. Finally they forcibly collected some money from our guest and left the premises threatening they will be back tomorrow again".