The earth that was once theirs..Aranmula Hinterland at a glance.

published on December 4, 2013

Times of India Reporter And Illustrator Take An Unguided Tour Of Aranmula’s Hinterland And Come Back With A Heart Breaking Tale Of The Damage The Proposed Airport Would Cause – Not Just To A Still Pristine Landscape But Also To The Psyche Of A People Rooted To Their Land

Ever since I left home, I have been searching for the earth I belong – Aranmula boat song.
Arvind Achary takes a handful of soft clay from a sack and caresses it. He applies the clay around two circular clay chips and smoothens it with his slender fingers. Inside the chips, the secret alchemy of the famous Aranmula mirror – a mixture of bronze and lead granules – is stored. They would soon be melted in a furnace and the clay mould hatched to bring forth the famed Aranmula mirror. “This clay is like melted chocolate for us, a perfect adhesive that is heat-resistant,” says Achary. The makers of Aranmula mirror depend on this clay procured from the nearby valley that has now been acquired by KGS group for the construction of Aranmula airport.
“It is only a matter of time before they flatten and reclaim the entire valley,” says Achary, whose house at Mallappuzhassery village is just 400 metres away from the runway. The craftsmen here confirm that they have tested all types of clay but nothing works except the moist subsoil from the valley. “I need 100 sacks of clay every year as I get an order of 50 pieces every week. E ve r s i n c e Aranmula mirror got GI tag there has been a huge demand for the product in Europe and the Middle East,” he says.
    He felt betrayed when MLA K Shivadasan Nair said that one does not need mud to make the famed mirror at a function inaugurated by KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala. Both Mallappuzhassery and Edasserimala –from where the famous Thiruvona Thoni glides into the Pampa heralding the Onam festival – are situated very close to the airport site, the place that will bear maximum impact.
    The ‘karas’ are situated north of the runway and are part of the three revenue villages – Aranmula, Kidangannur, Mallappuzhassery – that were declared as industrial zones by the LDF regime two years ago. As you take a detour around the 500 acre airport site towards the eastern side of the runway through Perappoor ward, an array of paddy fields, water bodies and small irrigation canals cut through the fertile land. Roughly 200 metres from the runway is the Kannangattu madam where a lamp is kept burning throughout the year, fanning an age-old tradition. There is a painting on the wall, of a woman carrying paddy stalk, staring at the lamp.
“We still believe that this Paraya woman became a goddess after she died here standing in the rain,” says Uttaman Kurunthar, a farmer. Uttaman belongs to the Kurunthar community and the
250 agrarian families stay around Aringottu kavu, a two-acre virgin forest-shrine situated 200 metres from the southern tip of the runway. From the kavu, a portion of the diverted Valiyathodu canal, a main tributary of the Pampa is visible.
    Around 300 Christian families, staying near the Bhadrakali temple, are against the construction of the airport. “I have 48 cents of paddy land right near the runway. But I will never give it up as none of us want this airport,” says Molly Sacria, who admits that middlemen have been approaching her with lucrative offers.
    Towards the western side of the runway, atop the Komalapuzhi hill –which obstructs the flight path- is one of the biggest settlement of Kerala’s scheduled caste population. “Ever since they reclaimed the Kozhi canal, paddy f a r m i n g w a s stopped. I still remember how we never bought rice for years,” says Sasi, who stays in the colony. Volunteers of Aranmula Heritage Action Council (AHAC), pointing at a huge poster of aerotropolis – an industrial township built around an airstrip- fear that very soon Aranmula will become an urban real estate conglomerate.
       “The question all Keralites should ask is who will benefit in the end from the destruction of wetlands, ecosystems and loss of traditional livelihood. When nations around the world showcase and conserve  their natural assets, it is shocking that MoEF approved this project,” says AHAC president P Induchudan.
There have been 98 agitations against the proposed airport till date. Elected representatives from all political parties, litterateurs and poets led the agitation. Community members from 51 karas, along the Pampa, had registered a day-long protest against the airport KANNANGATTU MADAM.At Kannangattu Madam, surplus paddy was redistributed during feudal times. The madam gets special mention in Kottarathil Sankunni’s Aithihyamala ARINGOTTU KAVU Spread over six acres, Aringottu Kavu is Pathanamthitta’s third-largest sacred grove that houses three temples. It is rich in biodiversity & Kurunthar community protects the Kavu that lies 200 m from the runway.

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