Armed struggle for a separate Kamatapur

Print edition : January 16, 2004

Joydeb Roy alias Tom Adhikari, head of the KLO's operations squad, at a police camp in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district, on December 20. - RUPAK DE CHOWDHURI /REUTERS

Formation: The origin of the KLO can be traced to the attempts of some members of the Rajbanshi community, who belonged to the All Kamatapur Students' Union, to organise an armed struggle for a separate Kamatapur State. They approached ULFA for this purpose, which agreed to train them in order to gain a foothold outside Assam. ULFA's line of thinking was that the tie-up with the KLO would not only facilitate the movement of its cadre to base camps in Bhutan, but also provide a safe haven for its injured or sick cadre.

The KLO came into existence on December 28, 1995. It aims to carve out a separate State from six districts of West Bengal and four contiguous districts of Assam.

Leadership: Tamir Das, who uses the alias Jiban Singha, is the chairman. He was arrested in October 1999. However, he regained control over the outfit after he was released by the Assam Police in a bid to make the other KLO cadres surrender. Singha was killed in December 2003 operations launched by the Royal Bhutan Army. Milton Burman alias Mihir Das is the KLO's second-in-command, and Joydeb Roy alias Tom Adhikari is the head of its `crack squad'. Both were arrested by the Bhutanese security forces during the recent operations. Bharati Das, the chairperson of the KLO's women's wing, was arrested in West Bengal on August 7, 2002. The outfit's operations chief, Suresh Roy, had surrendered on January 24, 2002. Important KLO personnel on whom the mantle of leadership could now fall include Hiten Roy, Ravi Rajbanshi, Rahul Roy and Kajal Roy.

Military capabilities: The KLO is most active in Alipurduar in Jalpaiguri, and the Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling. Apart from its close links with ULFA and the NDFB, the KLO also has a long record of aiding the Maoist groups in Nepal. The KLO is believed to have provided shelter, cover and some armed support to the Maoist groups.

According to Indian intelligence, a joint meeting of ULFA, the NDFB, and the KLO was held with members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) to work out a joint strategy for operations in the region. The discussions are believed to have focussed on the prospect of creating a compact revolutionary zone, which would allow all these groups some cross-border elbow room.

The KLO is also believed to have a working relationship with the Tiwa National Revolutionary Front (TNRF), an insurgent outfit based in the Nagaon district of Assam. Some security experts believe that the ISI has a particular interest in the KLO, since the latter helps to escalate sabotage activity along the strategically and economically vital Siliguri corridor of West Bengal.

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