Monday, 24 April 2017

Surrendered KLO militants seek meeting with the CM of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee


Former KLO militant Tom Adhikary addressing a public meeting in Jalpaiguri in 2011. He got bail last week. (HT Photo)

By Pramod Giri, Hindustan Times

Former Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) militants have sought an appointment with the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. They want to inform her about the problems surrendered KLO militants are facing and also try to impress upon her the need to bring back Jeevan Singha, the leader of the banned outfit, into the mainstream. Singha is believed to be hiding in Myanmar.

The surrendered militants said they will help the government in getting Singha back.

There are about 160 surrendered militants in different arts of north Bengal.

Tom Adhikary after his arrest in 2014. (HT Photo)

KLO has been demanding a separate state of Kamtapur constituting a few districts of North Bengal and lower Assam. It is responsible for many subversive activities including killings, kidnappings and extortions. Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts were the areas most affected by the KLO activities.

Among the acts of violence associated with KLO are, a bomb explosion in Jalpaiguri district on December 26, 2013 that killed six, seven persons losing their lives to another explosion in Belakoba in the same district on November 20, 2006 and eight persons being killed by a bomb that went off at New Jalpaiguri Railway Station in 1999 when the Kargil conflict was at its peak.

On Saturday, six former senior KLO leaders and members sent a letter through Cooch Behar district magistrate P Ulganathan seeking an appointment with the chief minister. Mamata Banerjee is coming on a north Bengal tour to Cooch Behar and Alipurduar on Monday.

Significantly, the Bengal chief minister would attend a public meeting of the Kamtapur Progressive Party (KPP) at Raash Mela ground in Cooch Behar’s Raash Mela ground on Tuesday. The KPP, a democratic party, is also demanding recognition of Kamtapuri language and creation of a separate Kamtapur state.

A section of the crowd in a public meeting by KLO. (HT Photo)

“Though our earlier request for a meeting with the chief minister was rejected, we are hopeful she would meet us this time,” Milton Barma, alias Mihir Das, former commander-in-chief of the KLO who is among the six to sign the letter told HT.

“If the chief minister meets us, we will apprise her about the problems faced by former KLO militants.” “We will also try to impress upon her to bring Jeevan Singha, the KLO chief, back to the mainstream.” Singha who is still in hiding is believed to be in Myanmar.

Milton Barma, Harshabardhan Barma alias Bardawan Das, former KLO vice chairman Tom Adhikary alias Joydeb Roy the former deputy commander in chief and many others were arrested during the ‘Operation Flush Out’ inside Bhutan jungles in December 2003 and were in jails for years.

The former militants alleged the state government has failed to implement the rehabilitation package for them.

Immediately after the Trinamool Congress formed the government in Bengal in 2011, the former militants advocated dialogue between the state government, Centre and the KLO. They also assured the state government that they will work to bring back the KLO chief and other KLO members back to the mainstream.

KLO was suspected to be involved in a number of bomb explosions in north Bengal, especially in Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling district, where a number of people lost their lives. (HT Photo)

However, the state government thought otherwise and many former KLO leaders and members including Tom Adhikary and Manchalal Singha (who later became the finance secretary of the organisation) again went underground. They were arrested in February 2014 from Nepal and released by the court five days ago.

The genesis of the KLO movement goes back to mid nineties when the Kamtapur People’s Party (KPP) started its democratic movement for the recognition of Kamtapur language and creation of separate Kamtapur state.

The KPP movement was able to rope in a large section of Rajbonsis in north Bengal. However, it failed after 1999 when the state government arrested a large number of its leaders. The formation of the KLO by former leaders of All Kamtapuri Students Union (AKSU) to pursue the same demands through armed movement resulted in many killings, kidnappings and extortions. Many innocent Rajbonshi youths also lost their lives.

The KLO that was assisted by ULFA and NDFB had many camps inside Bhutan jungles that were destroyed during ‘Operation Flush Out’ in December 2003 by Royal Bhutan Army.

Milton said the path of violence and bloodshed should end, but quickly added, “The government must come forward and try to understand why the Rajbonshi youths took up arms.”

A senior police officer with experience of dealing with the KLO movement told HT, “In 2011 as the state government was besieged with two burning problems of Maoism and Darjeeling hills. Perhaps it did not have the opportunity to start another dialogue.”