Reenactment of the popular 2010 Bollywood movie ‘Peepli Live” which took a dig at the electronic media is taking place in Sukma from where Alex Paul Menon was abducted by the maoists.
The sudden convergence of media personals, police and politicians to this small district has provided an opportunity for the poor villagers to earn extra income as make shift shops selling eatables and tea have come up in the popular points of Sukma.
Karan Dev, a local resident said that this was for the first time that he was watching the national media anchors personally. “I had never seen the logo of news channel so closely before nor had I seen vans with umbrella like structure on their top (OB vans). So many outsiders have come here and they are just running from one place to the other.”
For the journalists who are camping in Sukma, it’s either former MLA, Manish Kunjam’s place or Alex Menon’s residence, from where exclusive news can be extracted. A state head of a national daily is however not amused. “I have been sleeping in my car for the last two nights. I wish the collector would have acted more sensibly.”
Sukma which means Comfort, pleasure ('Sukh' in Hindi) derives its name from an old folklore. However being a newly carved district it’s deprived of any modern ‘Sukh’ as such. There is only cyber café in the whole town; the owner of which is milking money because of the scores of desperate journalists who jostle with each other to send their stories. The slow internet connection too has taken its toll as a reporter for the local Hindi daily shouts at the owner for not being able to attach and send pictures to Raipur.
Sukma is famous for its Guava which are as big as a Watermelon but which lacks in taste. It is also well known for its Tamarind which is exported to Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia.
Harish Lakhma a youth ‘leader’ of the district said that the locals were not accustomed to enjoying such attentions but now have started relishing it. “ Mele jaisa mahol ho gaya hai (It is like a village fair).
Showing of solidarity and sympathy cutting across religious lines is also happening in Mosque,Temple and Church of this small town. Salim Qureshi who was a part of a candle light protest said that his community is praying for the safe release of the abducted collector.“We have offered Namaz and sought Allah’s help in diffusing this crisis.”
Last evening, when a Helicopter carrying the Gynaecologist from Jagdalpur to attend Menon’s wife who is pregnant landed at Sukma, the whole of the electronic and print media along with a motley crowd of curious villagers ran towards it in the vain hope of getting a ‘credible bite’. The same scene was again re-enacted when the chopper with Manish Kunjam who was deputed by the maoists to carry medicines for Menon arrived.
Being close to the South Indian states, the eateries here too offer delicacies like Idli,vada and Dosa. Ameya Netam who owns a small ‘dhaba’ said that he was making lots of money since last Sunday. “After the Saheb was abducted by the ‘mamas’( maoist) the crowd at my place has increased rapidly. However I pray that he comes back safely to his family members.”
The sudden rain last evening forced the anxious and excited journalists to scurry for cover but it also provided the much needed relief from the scorching heat to media representatives like us who have come to Sukma from Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Delhi and Tamil Nadu to cover the high profile abduction.
The locals however know that this jamboree won’t last long. Manish Rajat, a freelancer for local dailies, observing the profusely sweating ‘elitist’ media personnel said that he knows that all these ‘sudden changes’ will cease soon. “Once the issue is over then all this cauldron will die. And then Sukma will be forgotten again like it has been all these years.”