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Monday, April 23, 2012

Sukma Collector abducted by Naxals !!

Do you remember  or recall the Indian diplomat - Ravindra Hareshwar Mhatre, whose life was cruelly cut short at  48 years  !!!

Now lot of google search is made on ‘Sukhma’ (I too made one only now) – it is a newly formed district of Chattisgarh in the South Bastar Region and borders Orissa and Andhra, reportedly a backward area and one of the most forested districts renowned for fresh water prawns in the river Sabri.  The district was born only this year on Jan 16th and the man in news – its collector Mr Alex VF Paul Menon, is its First Dist Magistrate and Collector. 

The place has a cherished past and history as a place of abundant natural resources and ruled by Chalukya Vansh.  According to legend, Lord Rama travelled through the dense forests of Sukma.  The river that flows here – Sabri is named after the  woman Sabhari who offered fruits to the Lord.  This is believed to be the Dhandakaranya. 

This place is in news after Maoists pulled off an audacious kidnapping of the district collector of Sukma in southern Chhattisgarh on Saturday(21.4.12), killing two of his bodyguards when they tried to stop them. The collector, Alex Paul Menon, was meeting a group of villagers for a government outreach programme.
A 2006 batch IAS officer, Menon was tracked by the Maoists as he reached Manjipara village in tribal Bastar region on Saturday afternoon, according to the police.  Going by the reports, around 90 Maoists reached the spot and shot dead two personal security officers of the collector before taking him into the nearby forest.

Is the Nation really worried and more importantly, is there a Policy at all ?  - will the State continue to be soft to terror –or selectively soft !!  -  Will there be reaction only when politically it affects ? – Questions which deserve immediate answers.

This is not a solitary incident – only recently there was the spate of kidnaps in Odissa by Maoists and uncertainty still looms over the fate of BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka - the Supreme Court  itself questioned the Orissa government on the release of Maoists from prisons in exchange of hostages.  Sadly, for a long period now, Maoists in Odisha have been keeping the state government on tenterhooks with their demands for the release of their comrades in return for the two hostages they hold.  Even when the Govt. capitulated to the ‘ransom’ demand, the Maoists raised the stakes, with demands for yet more releases.  First the Italians, and now an MLA. The Naxals are just getting bolder in Odisha. Thirty prisoners for an MLA  looks too lopsided swap, but to a government that is negotiating at gunpoint, no price is too high to secure the release of hostages.

Often the State portrays itself in poor light and buckles under pressure and years after experiences, no policy seemingly is in place.    When will the Home Ministry act and put in place stringent measures rather than political talks everywhere.    Every such incident remembers one of the surrender of the VP Singh Govt in 1989, which within days of coming to power was confronted by the embarrassing abduction of Union Home Minister PM Sayeed’s daughter Rubaiya Sayeed in Kashmir and release of terrorists !!  In the IC 814 debacle, the Press was pressurizing the Govt and goading the Govt into surrender !!

There will be commentators like Arundhati Roy who would justify Maoist violence and there would be human rights and others talking on the route cause and need for sympathizing with them – but will they ever spare a thought for those abducted and those killed – like the unfortunate two security personnel – don’t they deserve sympathy – they were serving the Nation and lost their lives and who would ever care for them !!!  -   Amjad Khan and Kishan Kujur — who were killed by the Maoists yesterday — were the only two security guards accompanying Sukma’s young 32-year-old collector into the forested area.

Personally, the collector was reportedly one keen on reforms and helping improvement of the the backward area.  He was reportedly in  the midst of 150 villagers and 40 government officials interacting with them as part of the government’s ongoing Gram Suraj Abhiyan program to reach out and address the problems of people in remote areas.   There is some reaction in local media as Alex menon hails from Tirunelveli – irrespective of the place of birth or domicile, the act needs condemnation and the Govt. needs to act tough.

First Post recalls the incident of Ravindra Mhatre – he was Indian diplomat at the Consulate in Birmingham,  who was abducted from a Birmingham neighbourhood that had a high Kashmiri-British population.  The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, which was waging a bloody separatist campaign with its base in Birmingham and its foot soldiers in Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, claimed responsibility for the abduction. As the price for Mhatre’s release, it demanded, among other things, the release of JKLF prisoners in India, including the group’s founder Maqbool Butt, then lodged in Tihar.  Butt, one of the most high-profile Kashmir separatist-terrorist leaders of that time, had been arrested in 1966 for leading an ambush of an Indian security patrol in Kashmir, but escaped to Pakistan by digging a tunnel from the Srinagar prison.

Arrested again in 1976, and facing the death sentence for his earlier crime, Butt filed a clemency petition, which was under consideration even until 1984, when the JKLF abducted Mhatra and demanded his release.  But two days after Mhatra was kidnapped, his body was found near Birmingham. Evidently Indira Gandhi had refused to negotiate with the terrorists, although that meant she and the country had to deal with the pain of seeing a senior diplomat killed.

Exactly three days later, Butt, the convicted terrorist, was hanged as his clemency plea was rejected. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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