ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Contested Imaginaries

Interpreting the Madras High Court’s Eviction Order of Fish Vendors

The Madras High Court’s dominant imaginaries of the contested space as a “public road” and the fish vendors as “encroachers” overlook the complexities and alternative imaginaries of the space as Nochikuppam and the fishing community as “original inhabitants” who has the rightful claim to indigeneity.

On 10 April 2023, the Madras High Court heard a suo motu public interest litigation petition regarding traffic congestion at the Marina Loop Road in Chennai and issued an order for the eviction of fish stalls located in the area. The court found that the fish stalls were causing traffic chaos during peak hours and ordered the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) to “immediately evict”1 the fish vendors from the contested space with assistance from the police department. The initiation of the eviction process on 12 April 2023 was faced with huge protests from the fishing community. In the second hearing, on 18 April 2023, the court warned against any protests that might obstruct the traffic and ordered the GCC to regulate these vendors till the construction of the new fish market.

Nochikuppam village (currently known as Marina Loop Road) here holds strategic importance due to its proximity to the busy Santhome High Road that accommodates several government offices and thus a means for regular commutes for judges, ministers, and other high-ranking government officials. On several occasions, the traffic is diverted to Marina Loop Road causing congestion. This strategic position places the fishing community of Nochikuppam in a precarious position, with the looming possibility of eviction. Through the lens of discourse analysis, this article critically examines the problematisation of the fishing community, as presented in the Madras High Court orders dated 11 April 20231 and 19 April 20232 and excerpts of court proceedings as given in news reports. Specifically, we investigate the dominant and alternative social imaginaries around the discourse of “eviction.”

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Updated On : 19th Jun, 2023
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