| Bloodstains in Sarkar’s shop. Telegraph picture
Jalpaiguri, March 14: The strike by militants belonging to the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation at Mainaguri is a slap on the face of the district police force, which has been claiming that the backbone of the outfit has been broken following the Bhutan flushout and the consequent arrest of five of its top leaders.
Two people were killed when the militants opened fire at Banglarjhar, a small rural settlement around 12 km from Mainaguri town, last evening.
The attack also comes as a blow to the peace overtures of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who has repeatedly appealed to the militants to lay down arms and join the mainstream.
Intelligence sources said they had been sending regular inputs to Jalpaiguri police on a possible retaliation by the KLO, but no action was taken. “We had been apprehending such strikes as the elections have been declared. They will choose soft targets now to terrorise people and prove their existence. The militants, who are desperate now, are targeting youths to spread fear,” said an intelligence official.
In December, then inspector-general of police (north Bengal) Bhupinder Singh had claimed that the “backbone of the KLO” had been broken with the arrest of top guns Tom Adhikary, Milton Burma and Pabitra Singha. The three militants were among five handed over to the police following the military offensive launched against militant outfits by the Royal Bhutan Army.
The police had said that there was very little chance that the KLO would strike back.
But yesterday’s attack at Banglarjhar in Mainaguri has forced the police on the backfoot. The force is now scurrying to trace the route the militants could have taken to get to Banglarjhar.
“They entered Banglarjhar through Rakhalhat. The rebels came from Bangladesh, where they had fled after the strike at the video hall in Cooch Behar last month.
“We know that they might again try to sneak into Bangladesh and have therefore stepped up vigil in the bordering areas,” said Jalpaiguri superintendent of police Siddh Nath Gupta.
Police sources said they suspect a KLO group led by Mrinal Roy to have been behind yesterdays killings. Mrinal is the son of former MLA Jagadananda Roy and brother of Kamtapur People’s Party (KPP) leader Mitali Roy. He is believed to have been assisted by Chhoto Bijoy alias Jagadish Basunia and Nimai Dutta, all hardcore KLO militants.
According to police records, the trio, which is now operating on Indian soil, was involved in earlier incidents of abduction and murder.
“Prem, a trained militant of the first batch, was involved in the kidnapping of Pratik Banerjee and Gopal Debnath and the firing at Hazrahat,” Gupta said.
Witnesses said that around 8.45 pm, a group of six militants drove into the village on two motorcycles.
Sushanta Das, a student who was returning home on a bicycle, said: “I found six men, on two motorcycles, standing near the shops of Nitaipada Das and Prakash Sarkar. They were wearing black dresses with black bandanas tied around their forehead. I was curious but did not ask anything. But as soon as I reached home, I heard gunshots.”
Sushanta said he came out and saw six people lying in a pool of blood and heard the fading roar of the motorcycles.
Bishnupada Das, 18, a shopkeeper, and Deepak Sarkar, 21, a neighbour of Das, died on the spot. Nitaipada Das, father of Bishnupada, Nandalal Sarkar, Prakash Sarkar and Krishna Sarkar sustained bullet wounds. Prakash was shifted to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri while the others are recuperating at Jalpaiguri Hospital.