The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Top guns seek shelter in tell-all

Siliguri, Dec. 26: The KLO’s chief strategist, Tom Adhikary, second-in-command Milton Burma and other arrested militants like Harshavardhan Das and Pabitra Singha have expressed willingness to turn state witnesses if offered amnesty.

“We do not rule out the possibility of the top KLO militants, now in police custody, turning state witnesses in the cases registered against the outfit. Though they have been charged on many counts, we hope the three will turn witnesses against the KLO and reveal its alleged political links,” said inspector-general of police (north Bengal) Bhupinder Singh, indicating that talks were on between the police top brass and the three rebels — Tom, Milton and Pabitra.

The three were arrested along with Bhima Dakua by the Royal Bhutan Army on December 15, the first day of Operation Flushout, from the Bucca camp in Samchi district.

Singh said the police and intelligence agencies have been grilling the arrested, particularly the top three, for the past few days and persuading them to “cooperate” with the government.

The militants, who have revealed vital information on the operations of the KLO, its funding sources and arms supply routes, have been silent on the whereabouts of their self-styled chief Jeevan Singha and core-committee member Pulasta Burman.

There have been contradictory reports on the fate of Singha but the police have not received any confirmation on either of them. “With the death of most KLO core-committee members, barring Jeevan Singha and Pulasta Burman, the KLO is practically as good as dead. Tom and Milton have expressed their willingness to turn approvers provided they are given amnesty,” said the sleuths interrogating the trio over the past few days.

A statement issued today by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s secretariat said: “The camps of the KLO and other militant outfits have been dismantled by the Royal Bhutan Army. Many of the top leadership of the KLO are now in police custody. In the present situation, I appeal to all those who have links with the KLO to step away from this undemocratic movement and return to normal life. The state government will ensure their full social and economic rehabilitation.” The chief minister had made a similar appeal earlier. While touring north Bengal, Bhattacharjee had asked the militants to surrender and return to the mainstream.

Harshavardhan and Debananda were today produced in court and remanded in 10 days’ police custody.

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