March 11: Racked by fighting within, leaders of the Kamtapur Peoples’ Party (KPP) have forced founder-president Atul Roy to step down to add steam to their movement for a separate state for the Rajbanshis.
At a closed-door meeting held on Sunday night at Barnish in Mainaguri, the central committee unanimously chose hardliner and “fugitive” leader Nikhil Roy to head the party.
Nikhil Roy, a former science teacher with Dahukimari D.N. High School, had been on the run since being accused of being involved in the armed looting of the railway payroll shipment at Rangapani station in November 1999. An arrest warrant is out against him for waging war against the country. Though he was arrested, Roy jumped bail and went underground.
The KPP’s Malda chief, Subash Burman, will take charge as the general secretary and Nashir Ali Pramanik will serve as Roy’s deputy.
Pramanik, like Burman, was recently granted bail after languishing in jail since November 2000, when he was put behind bars as part of the government’s crackdown on separatists.
Other prominent leaders who figure in the new set-up include Paulin Singha, the treasurer, and Nupen Burma, who will be the assistant general secretary.
Atul Roy said his removal was part of the efforts to refurbish the image of the party and infuse fresh blood before the May panchayat polls, which the party wants to use as a “testing ground” for its revival.
Atul Roy told The Telegraph: “I abided by the wishes of the KPP central committee’s verdict and stepped down to give the younger breed of leaders a chance. I had been leading the party ever since its inception in the mid-1990s and it was time to give the party a new image.”
KPP observers, however, described the decision as a “well-orchestrated move by hardliners”, who have not minced words to condemn Atul Roy’s alleged “proximity” to the ruling CPM. “The party, under Atul Roy, was straying from its stated objective. He was getting too comfortable with the ruling CPM,” said a senior leader.