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KLO chief offers to surrender
- Ex-militants say outfit bosses ready for dialogue with government

Jalpaiguri, Nov. 20: A former leader of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation today said the militant outfit’s chief Jiban Singh and seven others were ready to give themselves up if the state government made an appeal to that effect.

The surrender offer on behalf of the underground militants came from Tom Adhikary at a meeting organised by a group of former KLO men under the banner of Alochona Panthi (those in favour of dialogue) at a school ground in Belakoba this afternoon. The forum has Singh as the chairman.

“Singh is willing to surrender. If the government gives the green light, we will mediate the surrender of Singh and others who are underground,” said Adhikary, the former No 2 in the KLO. He was among those released from jail by Mamata Banerjee soon after she became the chief minister.

A group of ex-KLO link men had met the Cooch Behar district magistrate, M. K. Gandhi, a week back and told him that they wanted to start a dialogue with the government. Gandhi contacted home secretary turn suggested to the former militants to submit their agenda for the dialogue in writing.

Politicians and academicians, who had welcomed the militants’ decision to lay down arms and join the mainstream of the society with the help of the government, were invited to the meeting at Belakoba, 16km from here.

That the Alochona Panthi has Singh’s name as the chairperson sends a message to the government that the “commander” is very much a part of its efforts to hold talks with the government.

“We are willing to discuss demands like a separate state, recognition of our language, and education, health, employment and other demands of the Rajbangshis. But first, the government should appeal to Jiban Singh and the others to surrender. We are going to meet the Cooch Behar district magistrate with our demands so that he can place them before the state government,” Adhikary said today.

The vice-chairperson of the forum, Harshabardhan Barma, welcomed the Mamata government’s efforts to end the strife in the Darjeeling hills and Jungle Mahal. “Let the government now come out with its reply to the offer of Jiban Singh and seven other underground leaders to surrender. After that, we will sit with the government to discuss the problems faced by the Kamtapuris-Rajbangshis.”

Groups like the Kamtapur People’s Party and the Greater Cooch Behar People’s Association, which espouse the cause of the Rajbangshis, were also present at the meeting. The KLO was launched in Kumargram in Jalpaiguri district in December 1993 to fight for a separate state of Kamtapur.

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