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KLO for talks, not package

Jalpaiguri, Oct. 8: The Kamtapur Liberation Organisation has rejected the rehabilitation package that was announced by the Mamata Banerjee government recently and said the solution to their political and economic problems could be found only through talks.

“Since 1993, our chief Jeevan Singh has been leading our movement. A separate state of Kamtapur, recognition of Kamtapuri language and better economic status for our people are the aims of our struggle. Many have laid their lives for the cause. Some have been in jail for years and there are others who are facing prosecution even after getting bail. Our problems can be solved only politically. But north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb recently announced a package for those of us who had surrendered or are out on bail. We strongly condemn this decision as it has hurt the long-drawn aspirations of the Kamtapuri people,” said Pran Narayan Koch, the joint secretary of the KLO, over the phone.

He added that the KLO movement was for the overall development of the Kamtapuri people and not “for packages”. “We will soon send a formal appeal to the state government asking for proper dialogues to address our demands,” Koch said.

KLO militants who wanted to return to the mainstream were first offered economic packages in 2005 by the Left Front government. Koch today said the packages had been a “dismal failure”.

In September this year, Deb announced another set of rehabilitation schemes at a programme in Cooch Behar. A workshop was also held by the Jalpaiguri district administration to create awareness of the package.

At the workshop the surrendered KLO members were offered bank loans and government subsidies to start small businesses and to open shops. “The final package has not been worked out yet but some of the participants have agreed to apply for loans ranging from Rs 60,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh,” a source in the administration said.

According to police sources, around 150 KLO members from Jalpaiguri had surrendered in 2004-2005. About 15 leaders of the outfit, including Jeevan Singh, are believed to be in Bangladesh.

Tom Adhikary, the Jalpaiguri area commander of the KLO who was arrested from Bhutan in December 2003, was among the 46 political prisoners released last year. Tom has gone underground again.

Deb today said: “I will call those who have decided to join the mainstream to my office to listen to their problems regarding our package. I will then report back to the CM.”

Koch added that Tirtha Barman, who had surrendered last week, was not the deputy commandant of the KLO as claimed by the police. “He is a general member and had surrendered long ago. The state is resorting to false propaganda to stop our movement.”