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Fresh glare on KLO after arrests and conviction of two militants with elephant tusks

This past year, Jibon Singha, the self-styled chief of KLO, has been in Assam to hold peace talks with the Centre, which however did not happen so far

Our Correspondent Jalpaiguri Published 31.12.23, 04:39 AM
The Manas National Park in Assam where the elephant was killed.

The Manas National Park in Assam where the elephant was killed. File picture

The arrests and conviction of two militants of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) for trying to smuggle elephant tusks have made foresters and senior police officers suspect that some of its members are involved in poaching animals and smuggling animal parts.

This past year, Jibon Singha, the self-styled chief of KLO, has been in Assam to hold peace talks with the Centre, which however did not happen so far.

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A senior forest official said that in June this year, five persons, including two KLO militants were nabbed by a team of foresters. Elephant tusks were recovered from them.

“Arrested Ratneswar Barman and Tilak Barman are KLO militants. During the investigation, it was found that they had used sophisticated firearms fitted with silencers to kill an elephant at the Manas National Park. They then chopped off the tusks and had plans to smuggle them to Nepal through Siliguri,” said an official.

Located in Assam, Manas National Park is a world heritage site recognised by
the Unesco.

“We suspect that some members of the outfit have got involved in illegal activities like poaching and smuggling of animal parts,” the official added.

In the Northeast, there are earlier instances when terrorist outfits have resorted to poaching to sell animal body parts and make quick money.

In 2017, when two rhinos were poached in Gorumara National Park of Jalpaiguri, the CID probed the case and found the involvement of sharpshooters who were associated with terrorist groups.

“The KLO chief is under the monitoring of the central government. It is obvious that other members of the outfit, who are still at large, are in crisis. They have also not returned to the mainstream as no peace talks have been held so far. That is why, it seems, they are getting into this new way of making money,” said a retired police officer who has served in north Bengal.

On Friday, the Centre inked an accord with a faction of the Ulfa, an Assam-based terror outfit, in Delhi.

On December 27, a local court in Jalpaiguri ordered three years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 25,000 to all five, including the two KLO members, for smuggling elephant tasks.

“As we probed the case after arresting the five, we came to know that two of them are KLO militants. Also, there is information that some people near the reserve forests in north Bengal have links with poachers and smugglers in Assam. Our officers are working on the inputs. We can’t rule out the role of militant groups in such activities,” said a forest official.

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