6. Outsmarting the System
They later took up buckets and shovels and dug hundreds of tonnes of solid waste out of a 100 metre stretch of canal, before putting in a strong foundation and walls, and constructing a reinforced concrete cover over two parallel tunnels. The cover was made to keep flies away from the sewage that would then pass through the tunnels they had constructed; but the sturdy cover also created a piece of prime real estate, worth more than a million dollars. The group, who had been dubbed "The Australians" by the Indian Press, built a clinic, volleyball court, children's playground (complete with a full-sized pirate ship, flying fox, tunnel maze, and tree house), library, and orphanage on the site.
Their actions angered the local slum lord, who also happened to be the second most powerful person in the state (after the Chief Minister, Jayalalitha, who in April, 1999, toppled the BJP government in Delhi). When The Australians were threatened with death if they did not stop their work, the Australians managed to record the threat (made by the Mayor of Chennai, who said he was speaking on behalf of K.A. Krishnaswami, The Tamil Nadu Minister for Law) on a tape recorder. Copies of the tape were made and sent to the local media and to the Australian, British, New Zealand, and American Consulates. No further action was taken by the Minister for Law.
Despite extensive media coverage in India of this and other projects undertaken by the Australians, the Sydney media has never shown any interest in the group's activities there. And every attempt to get coverage or even to get letters to the editor printed in Sydney under any name that could be linked with the Rappville Christians or with their founder has failed.
But that is not the same as saying that the group has not been able to use the media to get out its message. The Rappville Christians continue to circumvent the ban, by changing their name, and by employing other strategies to confuse the media about who it is that they are writing about. The group justifies its obsession with the media because it believes that the media is the most effective way to reach the masses, and their message, they say, is urgently needed in today's world.
Perhaps the most outstanding media success came to the Rappville Christians in 1985, on a break from their work in India, when they managed to earn headlines around the world without the Sydney media realising until too late who they were.