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KLO spin-off for extortion

- Kamtapur Protection Force threatens traders

Jan. 5: The Kamtapur Liberation Organisation has formed a wing whose activists extort money from traders in Jalpaiguri district, intelligence sources have said.

The Kamtapur Protection Force, as the wing is called, has been active for the past six months and intelligence sources also said it was formed to put more pressure on the business community to part with the money and to shift the focus of the law enforcers from the KLO.

The KPF issues letters, handwritten in Bengali, to traders and warns them of consequences if they don’t cough up cash. One such letter, which is in the possession of The Telegraph, shows that Anupam Burman and G. Ch. Barman, general secretary and the president of the KPF, respectively, have asked for Rs 5 lakh from a businessman on November 25 last year.

“If you do not pay the money within the next five days, that is, by November 30, you will have to face severe consequences,” reads the letter.

Intelligence officials said the KPF was a branch of the KLO and had been launched to extort money from traders in Jalpaiguri district, especially those who live in Alipurduar subdivision and do business in Assam.

“The new outfit has been extorting money from the traders for the past six months. The businessmen are initially called over the phone for money and then, sent letters. In the letter, the KPF doesn’t write the name of the trader to whom it is sent. It seems that a general draft has been prepared and the only change in each letter is the amount sought from the trader concerned,” said an intelligence officer.

“We are trying to find out the identity of the president and the secretary of the KPF and its other members. It is evident that the KPF is just a branch of the KLO as there is information that it was formed after KLO top leader Tom Adhikary had been granted bail and went underground last year.”

Police had arrested a number of KLO militants and linkmen in Darjeeling, Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri and Malda districts last year for trying to extort money from businessmen.

The intelligence said apart from the extortion, the KPF had been created with two other intentions.

“First, we suspect that the KPF has been created to mount extra pressure on the businessmen, who might feel more insecure over the presence of one more outfit, other than the KLO. Another reason for the KPF’s launch was to divert the attention of the law enforcers from the KLO,” said the intelligence officer.

Traders in areas like Kumargram in Alipurduar, a known hotbed of the KLO, said some local people were working as the informers of the KPF.

“These people drop letters at the addresses of the traders. During the earlier years of the KLO, no other organisation had existed to extort money from us. But over the past few months, as the KLO is regrouping fast, a new outfit has emerged and is demanding money from us,” said a trader in Kumargram.

So far, however, there have been no reports of any trader being attacked by the KPF for not paying the money.

“It seems that the KPF is only into extortion, while subversive activities are carried out by the KLO,” said another intelligence officer.

The extortion letters by the KPF, sources said, were served on a number of small tea growers in Jalpaiguri district as well.

“Some tea cultivators have received threats over the phone and in writing, wherein, they are asked to pay money or else, face dire consequences,” said a small tea grower at Mainaguri.

Amit P. Javalgi, the superintendent of police of Jalpaiguri, said they were aware of the KLO’s activities.

“We know the KLO and some other outfits have plans to extort money from the people. Whenever we receive information about individuals who are into extortion, we arrest them. The members of the business community and others should inform police in case they receive letters asking for ransom,” he said.