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Ex-KLO men regroup over govt apathy

Jalpaiguri, April 13: A section of former KLO militants has returned to the path of armed struggle, disgruntled by the Bengal government’s lack of initiative to deliver on any of the promises made at the time of their surrender.

Intelligence officials said they had specific information that at least 80 former KLO militants were regrouping under Jeevan Singha and they had held meetings in the Dooars.

The KLO was formed in 1993 to demand a separate Kamtapur state for the Rajbangshis. Under the leadership of Jeevan Singha, the KLO soon became a security concern for law enforcers in north Bengal as the group carried out political murders and abducted businessmen for ransom.

There has been a lull in the outfit’s activities since early years of the last decade when then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee appealed to the militants to lay down arms and the Royal Bhutan Army launched Operation Flushout to dismantle KLO camps in the Himalayan Kingdom. A large number of cadres surrendered after Bhattacharjee promised them employment and the KLO’s strength further dissipated with the arrest of militants in the Bhutan crackdown. Many of the arrested rebels were later acquitted of charges, while some were released by the Mamata Banerjee government.

Milton Burma, who was the self-styled second-in-command of the KLO during his arrest in Bhutan, said the government had initially provided some training to the surrendered cadres for self-employment. “None of these initiatives worked and the youths turned jobless in a few months. They found it hard to run their families and there was no effort on the part of the government to look after them,” said Milton Burma, who was released from jail after Mamata Banerjee had come to power.

He said the ex-rebels continued to be neglected even after Mamata had become the chief minister.

“We hoped that Mamata Banerjee would address our problems. But she has done nothing so far. We had written to her a few months back, seeking an appointment with her to discuss our problems. Till now, she hasn’t got back to us,” said Milton.

Intelligence officials said 80 ex-rebels had gone underground to wage a war against the state again. Most of them are from Rajganj, Mainaguri, Dhupguri, Falakata and Kumargram and are regrouping under Jeevan Singha. The intelligence officials said the rebels had already held secret meetings in the Dooars.

“The former militants have been away from homes for months. Our investigation has revealed that none of them has moved to other towns or states in search of jobs. There were inputs that the KLO was trying to regroup,” said an official.

Tom Adhikary, who was the chief of action squad in the KLO and was released on bail a few months back, said there were high chances that the armed movement would be revived as the government was silent on the welfare of the ex-rebels.

Santosh Pandey, the additional superintendent of police of Jalpaiguri, said there was no information that the ex-rebels were regrouping.