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KLO leader sends out talks signal

- Stress on ‘unconditional’ talks, but govt wants outfit to lay down arms

Jalpaiguri, Jan. 14: A KLO leader today said the outfit was ready for “unconditional” talks with the state and the Centre as it wants peace.

The leader who identified himself as KLO assistant general secretary P.N. Koch spoke over phone to The Telegraph from an undisclosed location.

“We have come to know that Trinamul leaders have expressed the desire to sit for talks with us. I am speaking on behalf of our outfit,” said Koch, whose real name is Pradeep Roy. The KLO leader said the outfit would sit for talks if the government approached it in a “respectful” manner.

On January 10, Chandan Bhowmik, the Jalpaiguri district Trinamul president, had said party leaders in the district were willing to mediate for talks between the state government and the KLO but the outfit would have to shun violence. Today when minister Gautam Deb was told about the KLO leader’s offer, he stressed that the outfit must lay down arms first.

Trinamul’s offer for mediation came days after two back-to-back attacks allegedly by the KLO in Jalpaiguri and Malda.

Today, when Koch was asked which “government” he was talking about — the state or the Centre — he said: “We will make further comments once we get a response from either the state or the Centre. It is better to have tripartite talks on such matters.”

Asked if they would send mediators to speak to the government, he said: “We want to sit for unconditional talks and whether it will be through a mediator or a group of mediators will depend on the state government’s position.”

The KLO wants a separate state of Kamtapur to be carved out of the six north Bengal districts and four contiguous districts in Assam — Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara. The current Trinamul government is against any statehood demand, a stand that chief minister Mamata Banerjee has clarified several times in the context of Darjeeling.

When Koch was asked if the outfit would seek an autonomous body like the GTA, as both the Centre and the state government were against statehood, he said: “Let the government first call us in a respectful manner. These things will be decided later.”

He said the KLO would wait for the response from the state and the Centre after its appeal.

North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb, when told about the KLO’s offer, said: “They will first have to formally announce that they are laying down arms and then let them send the state their proposals. We shall decide after that.”

On December 26, an improvised explosive went off in Jalpaiguri town, killing six people. A day later, a bus in Malda was fired at, allegedly by KLO leader Malkhan Singh and his associates. Four persons were injured in the attack.

‘Wanted’ posters

Malda police on Tuesday put up a poster asking for information on three KLO militants, among them its chief Jiban Singh.

The poster has coloured photographs of Jiban, Kumod Mondol alias Jhanksu, and Nabanu Barman. The poster has a mobile phone number for informants, who would be rewarded.

Malda police superintendent Kalyan Mukherjee said the three were wanted in connection with many cases, and specifically for the firing on the bus in Malda on the night of December 27.

“We gathered information that two days prior to the shooting Jiban Singh and the others met at the home of Falen Roy, a KLO member. We arrested Falen along with Subhas Barman, who is a central committee member of the Kamtapur Peoples’ Party,” he said.