Life may have returned to normal for the Sukma collector, but will the lives of the families of his two bodyguards who died during his abduction be the same again, asks Shobha Warrier.
He has a name: Alex Paul Menon. He has an identity: An IAS officer and district collector, Sukma, Chhattisgarh. He also has a wife who is pregnant. For his honeymoon, he went to the Taj Mahal and posed lovingly with his wife. He is from Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu.
Though he has the surname Menon, he is not a Menon; his father gave him that surname because of his admiration for V K Krishna Menon, India's defence minister during the 1962 war with China. He is asthmatic.
Is there anything we do not know about this man now?
When this IAS officer was abducted by Maoists while on duty last month, the government machinery went into a tizzy. Mediators were called for discussions with the Maoists.
Television channels in India went overboard, debating and analysing how the Maoists had to be dealt with, with whom the central and state governments should hold discussions and how important it was to send asthma medicines to the Sukma collector.
It was also reported that at the time the Maoists captured Menon, they killed two of his bodyguards in cold blood.
Amidst all the frenzy, I looked for some news on these two men. Who were they? Where did they come from? Do they have families?
They appeared to be two faceless, nameless, unknown men in the sea of people who lost their lives to save their 'masters'.
I was reminded of an essay I studied in school, The Unknown Warrior, by A G Gardner, who went by the name of Alpha of the Plough. He had written it after the Great War of 1914-1918 on the day the 'Unknown Warrior' was to be interned in Westminster Abbey.
We shall not know his name. It will never be known, and we should not seek to know it. For in that nameless figure that is borne over land and sea to mingle its dust with the most sacred dust of England, we salute the invisible hosts of the fallen. We do not ask his name or whence he comes. His name is legion and he comes from a hundred fields, stricken with a million deaths.
I always wondered why the so-called angry, exploited, sections of society do not care about people like them, people who live and die like them. How different are the Maoists from the security guards, the policemen, a bus full of innocent villagers, all ruthlessly murdered by them?
Are these people also in some way or the other, not exploited by the rich and the powerful?
In their eagerness to show anger, the Maoists destroy people like themselves. They know that if they had abducted Menon's security guards instead of the collector, the politicians, the administration, the media would not have cared to even listen to them.
When the rich and powerful are held for ransom, the entire government machinery falls on its knees to bring them back.
Years ago, had Veerappan abducted a make-up man instead of the Kannada superstar Rajkumar, would there have been mayhem?
Thousands of unknown Indians are killed in many bomb blasts. Did the world care to know about the victims? No. When Americans and Israelis are attacked when holidaying in India, it grabbed the world's attention. Because the attack occurred at five-star hotels where the rich and powerful stayed, it became agonising news for the Indian media.
Had Ajmal Kasab and his fellow terrorists stuck to a railway station and killed a few faceless Indians, would it have angered the powers-that-be in the country and around the world like it did? Would they have screamed 'Enough is enough'? I doubt it.
These are the ways of the world, and we are all aware of it. The unknown and the faceless will always remain unknown and faceless. Nobody wants to give them faces lest they trouble someone's conscience.
What I cannot understand is the actions of the Maoists who fight against exploitation by the powerful. Are they not perpetuating the very same thing they fight against by killing their own people?
How different are the collector's security guards from the tribals who have joined the Maoists? How different are the poor policemen who were ruthlessly beheaded by the Maoists in the 1970s in Kerala?
After 12 days, when Menon was released by the Maoists after hectic negotiations, there was chaos on the television channels in India. As the tired Menon disappeared into the dark after meeting the media, the channels said, 'India celebrates' his release.
Well, India may have celebrated, except maybe two families. Once again, I looked for news on those faceless men who were first murdered and then forgotten by the country.
Except one television channel, nobody bothered about these two men, not even the Maoists who call themselves fighters against exploitation.
On that television channel, I saw a numb mother sitting in the dark and heat, guarding the site where her son was cremated. Another young mother held her children close to her and looked vacantly into the future, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Life may become normal for the collector, but will the lives of these two women be the same again?