|Subrata Mukherjee offers wreaths to those who died in the blast at a burial ground in Bajrapara in Jalpaiguri on Friday. Picture by Biplab Basak
Dec. 27: A statement attributed to the KLO denied the outfit’s hand in yesterday’s Jalpaiguri blast, but a report from the state intelligence branch indicated that the group had tried to target a local market close to NH31, where the fatalities could have been higher.
The statement purportedly released by the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) says the police were “trying to bring misunderstanding among the Kamatapuri people by blaming us”.
Oddly, the letter mentioned the place of the blast as Paharpur Bazar, which is almost a kilometre away from Bajrapara, where the bomb went off around 7.30pm yesterday, killing five persons.
The statement was signed by Kailash Koch, a KLO general secretary.
In Calcutta, a senior home department official said: “A preliminary report has reached us. All the possibilities are being explored.”
Sleuths suspect the militants had planned to carry out the explosion at Paharpur More which is close to Paharpur Bazar, about a kilometre from the actual site of the explosion, but the bomb detonated before it was meant to for some reason.
The Paharpur Bazar is a rural market, frequented by daily-wage labourers on their way home in the evening after work in Jalpaiguri town. The Paharpur area is just outside Jalpaiguri town, where many labourers reside.
This evening, at a railway crossing 4km from Bajrapara an abandoned bag was found. The bomb squad was alerted but had not arrived till late at night.
The intelligence report reached Nabanna today less than 24 hours after the explosion and had details of the plot, where the blast was supposed to occur and from whom the explosives were procured.
“So far, indications are that the KLO was behind the blast,” said a government official.
The outfit went into hibernation after Operation Flushout in Bhutan where the outfit had set up camps. But since last year, it has shown signs of regrouping and police sources said the KLO was trying to come to the forefront again.
On August 19 this year, the suspected KLO militants triggered a bomb on a bus in Jalpaiguri’s Barobisha, which is close to the Assam border. Nobody died. On August 30, a bomb, suspected to have been planted by the KLO in Alipurduar, went off killing a bomb squad constable trying to defuse it without wearing a bomb suit.
Formed on December 28, 1995, the KLO’s longstanding demand has been a separate state of Kamtapur comprising all six districts of north Bengal and four of Assam — Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara.
According to home department sources, the blast mastermind is 26-year-old Dhubri resident Nityananda Sarkar, alias Shyam Roy, a key member of KLO’s central committee. “We have reports that the central committee was reconstituted recently and Sarkar is one of its top leaders. He is suspected to have visited Alipurduar between August and September,” said a source.
Police sources said Sarkar was also working as a linkman between the KLO and the NDFB-IKS faction, which is believed to have supplied the explosives. The National Democratic Front of Bodoland-I.K. Songbijit (NDFB-IKS) is active in the Bodo belt in Assam’s Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri districts.
Yesterday was the KLO’s martyr’s day and on December 28, the KLO marks its foundation day.
After the blast, police sources had said it may have been planned to target the ongoing Jalpaiguri book fair, about 2km from the site, but the bomb detonated before it could be taken to the fair.
A blast witness in Bajrapara, however, refuted the police’s theory that the explosives were on a bicycle and detonated midway.
A shopkeeper, whose store is close to the site, said a bag was kept on the pavement of the culvert linking NH31. “Yesterday, 10-15 minutes before the blast, some youths walking past my shop told me a bag was lying on the culvert,” said grocer Kalibhusan Debnath. Minutes later, there was a “deafening sound which left me stunned for a few moments”, he said.
“A man, with his hands pressed to his stomach that had split open, appeared before me and requested for help. I felt giddy, seeing all the blood and I lost consciousness,” the shopkeeper said. “It is clear that the bomb was not on a bicycle but was kept on the pavement," Kalibhushan said.
Voice for talks
Representatives of the Kamtapur Peoples’ Party (KPP), which also wants to form a Kamtapur state, on Friday said the state should immediately hold talks with representatives of the Rajbangshi community and work for their socio-economic development.
“We condemn the incident (the Jalpaiguri blast). We do have the demand of a separate Kamtapur state like the KLO but we do not support the path of violence…. However, the state must understand that Rajbangshi youths, most of whom are unemployed, are frustrated and feel ignored. It is prompting them to join the KLO’s armed struggle” said Atul Roy, the KPP president.