By Sushil Kutty
Who are the bad guys in Thoothukudi? There must be an underworld of sorts in the port city, which was called Tuticorin by the Brits when they ruled India. Today, Thoothukudi is a favourite location for Tamil cinema. In many of them, scenes ofaruva-waving villains chasing the hero up and down Thoothukudi streets are a feature. But we are talking of real-life villains. A dozen protesters were shot dead in Thoothukudi a couple of days ago and there’s a gallery of villains galore.
Tamil Nadu’s AIADMK chief minister Palanisamy says the ‘opposition in Tamil Nadu’ is to blame and he places Tamil MakkalMaiyam founder actor Kamal Haasan in the opposition camp, rubbing shoulders with MK Stalin of the DMK. FIRs have been lodged against both Haasan and Stalin for breaking a number of laws, including Section 144 of the CrPC, visiting the protest site outside the pollution-fuming Sterlite Copper factory in Thoothukudi, the root cause of all the troubles.
The actor-turned-politician cannot spare either the AIADMK state government or the Modi government; he has to paint both into a corner; AIADMK because Jayalalithaa’s party holds power in Tamil Nadu, which Haasan covets, and the Modi government because that’s how Haasan will remain relevant in a national alliance of the Opposition. Haasan’s pal Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is part of the alliance, and so are Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu, two other good friends of the gravelly-voiced actor-politician.
But politicians, they are a fickle lot. Till a short while ago, Naidu was a Modi-admirer. Now, NTR’s son-in-law thinks Modi is worse than his Saala, NTR’s son NandamuriHarikrishna, who he beat to the Chief Minister’s chair decades ago. Mamata, Mayawati, Kejriwal, Kamal Haasan ad HD Kumaraswamy are all in the national alliance with varying degrees of affiliation to Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. But they are one in condemning Modi and AIADMK for Thoothukudi.
Rahul himself is aiming higher. He says the real villain of Thoothukudi is the RSS. “RSS sharpshooters killed the 12 protestors in Thoothukudi. They stood atop police vans, took deliberate aim and shot dead specific individuals,” said an unofficial Congress spokesperson on TV. That’s not enough to hang the RSS. Rahul will have to bring concrete proof to make the allegation stick. Just because one of the “police sharpshooter/sniper” wore a yellow t-shirt doesn’t mean he’s an RSS dirty-fellow!
Commie parties and human rights activists are also not shy of blaming the RSS. Berated for attempting to fan “communal trouble” with “rumour-mongering of the worst kind”, they insist there are no greater villains on the face of the earth than the “chaddiwallas”. Well, if that is the brief they hold, nobody on the face of the earth can change their mind even if they themselves are branded villains.
“Unrest in Tuticorin” is an understatement. The salt-pans of Thoothukudi are rife with talk of rebellion. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad says it “was a massacre in Tuticorin, not just 12 people killed but gunshot wounds to over a hundred, it was a massacre.” Call it massacre or Jallianwala repeated, what’s intriguing is who gave the order to fire and what were the sharpshooters of the Tamil Nadu Police doing, standing atop white “police” vans to commit blue murder.
There is talk that the order to fire came straight from the DGP of Tamil Nadu, which means it must have had the approval of Chief Minister Palanisamy. But the CM says he is keeping Jayalalithaa’s legacy alive, and that he will not allow any villainous force to come in his way. Palanisamy’s comrade in arms OPS or O Paneerselvan hasn’t said much, preferring to wait and watch, not very different from TTV Dhinakaran, chief of AMMK or Amma MakkalMunnetraKazhgam, the guy who won Jaya’s RK Nagar constituency with currency notes and pressure cooker! TTV Has kept his peace and will not likely jump into the fray just now.
That said Thoothukudi is the pressure cooker at this point in time. None of the parties to the dispute are ready to back off, make concessions. Thoothukudi, also called ‘Pearl City’ and ‘Salt City’, is closer to Thiruvananthapuram (190 km) than to Chennai (590 km). To the people of Thoothukudi, the real villains are Sterlite and Vedanta Resources, the Union Ministry of Environment and every cop and every bit of copper.
Maybe, director Murgadoss who made the film Ghajini will one day soon make a movie titled ‘Villains of Thoothukudi’ with Rajanikanth and Dhanush in lead roles. Kamal Haasan can watch with the rest of Thoothukudi. (IPA Service)