Alex Paul Menon, Collector of Sukma District, Chhattisgarh.
On January 16, this year, the district of Sukma in the South Bastar Region, in the mineral-rich state of Chhattisgarh, was created by carving out the Maoist-infested Dantewada.
Location of Dantewada and Bastar districts, the most affected regions in Chhattisgarh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Thirty two year Alex Paul Menon, hailing from Tirunelveli District in South Tamilnadu, was appointed as the First Collector of this newly formed Sukma District.
The District Collector took his last name from former defence minister V K Krishna Menon.
His friends say that Alex was inspired by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Latin American revolutionary, who fought for the cause of the exploited masses half a century ago. It is this hero worship that prompted Alex to be concerned for the tribals in the state of Chhattisgarh.
Alex knew that he was on the hit list of the terrorists in the Maoist-infested area. Nevertheless, inspired by Che Guevara’s memoir ‘The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey‘, he used to go alone on visits to tribal villages on his motorcycle even at night.
According to Mr. Venugopal, his father-in-law, the District Collector was aware of the Maoist threat. “He [Alex] was advised not to go out without security. He was very careful. But he had to attend to his duties…” he said and added, “He [Alex] would not be deterred and spent his time visiting tribal villages in the area day and night. He was never concerned about his personal safety and is unbelievably committed to the tribals and their progress.”
On Saturday April 21, at about 4:30 pm, cadres of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) abducted District Collector Alex Paul Menon.
Alex Menon was returning from a village meeting. At Manjipara village, on National Highway 221, about 8 km from Kerlapal, and about 500 km from South of Raipur, a group of 15 to 20 Maoist rebels, disguised as villagers, stopped his entourage. Alex Menon was taken hostage by the Maoists after they killed two of his personal security officers; thus shattering the governments’ claim that left-wing extremists have been cornered in the state.
On Sunday, the day after the abduction, the Maoists demanded the release of eight of their leaders jailed in Chhattisgarh and a halt to “Operation Green Hunt” in exchange for freeing Alex Paul Menon, who they say was safe. They have set today, April 25, as deadline for the government to meet their demands. Tadmetla, is the village where discussions with the Maoists is to take place.
“Operation Green Hunt” is the name used by the Indian media to describe the Government of India’s paramilitary offensive against the Naxalite rebels in the late 2000s. The operation began in November 2009 along five states in the “Red Corridor.”
The Red Corridor is a term used to describe an impoverished region in the east of India that experiences considerable Naxalite communist insurgency. These are also areas that suffer from the greatest illiteracy, poverty and overpopulation in modern India, and span parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal states.
The Maoists have named
- Manish Kunjam,a Communist Party of India leader and President of All India Adivasi Mahasabha, and a former MLA from Konta district.
- Prashant Bhushan, a noted Supreme Court lawyer and a core committee member of Team Anna, and
- B.D. Sharma, former commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, one of India’s foremost experts on tribal issues and a former Collector of undivided Bastar.
as mediators acceptable to them to negotiate the release of Alex Paul Menon. The Chhattisgarh government, in turn, has named
- Suyogya Kumar Mishra, former Chief Secretary of Chhattisgarh, and
- Nirmala Buch, former Union Secretary and Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh
as the government representatives.
In the meantime Prashant Bhushan, has refused to accept the Maoists’ proposal saying that the Collector should be released unconditionally. “In my view kidnapping a civilian officer and holding as a hostage is not right. Maoists should release the officer unconditionally. Most of the demands of the Maoists are justified, but I cannot negotiate with the Maoists in this situation,” said Mr Bhushan.
Manish Kunjam was also reluctant to negotiate, but decided to carry medicines to Tadmetla for the abducted Collector Alex Paul Menon, who is an asthma patient, when the abductors informed the Chhattisgarh government that their hostage was critically ill.
Till now, only B.D. Sharma, has agreed to get involved in the mediation.
S.K. Mishra, mediator appointed by the Chhattisgarh Government, says that it is a tough task to negotiate with Maoists.
Nirmala Buch, the second mediator appointed by the Chhattisgarh Government, told Tehelka, “I was approached by the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary to mediate and I will be leaving for Chhattisgarh shortly.”
Alex’s wife, who is three months pregnant, had earlier said that her husband had medicine supplies that would last him just two days. She has refused to leave Sukma till her husband is home and safe. Asha Alex has appealed to the Centre to take steps for her husband’s release from Maoist captivity. She has asked the people to pray for his safety.
This is what Alex Paul Menon says about himself in Facebook:
A small town middle class boy who has come up in life just by sheer hard work, sincerety, commitment, dedication and above all who just heeded to the CALL to SERVE in the SERVICES. Simultaneously somebody who has not forgotten his roots n values n friendly next-door-boy manners… Also funloving mischievous n a travel freak n foodie n film n music lover. (sic)
He studied at
- Rose Mary Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Palayamkottai, Tamilnadu.
- Keins Matriculation School, Vallioor, Tamilnadu.
- RVS College of Engineering and Technology, Dindigul, Tamilnadu.
He was a topper in the IAS examination in 2006.
Since 2009 to present he is working for the Govt of Chhattisgarh. In June 2009, he took office as the Additional Collector of Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh.
From May 2010 to January 2011 he held the posts of Additional Collector of Dhamtari and CEO, Zila Panchayat, Dhamtari, Chattisgarh.
He married Asha Alex on October 24, 2011.
Alex is fluent in Tamil, English, Hindi and Chattisgarhi.
These are the favourite quotations of this brave, fearless young District Collector:
- Genius is nothing but 1% inspiration and 99 % perspiration.
- Genius is nothing but perseverance in disguise.
- All problems are nothing but absence of ideas.
Prestigious moments with the Prime Minister of India in Mussoorie.