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regular-article-logo Saturday, 20 July 2024

KLO talks must include Bengal government: Rajbanshis

The organisations reaffirm that no resolution can be reached with the rebel group without including the Mamata Banerjee govt in the negotiations

Avijit Sinha Siliguri Published 19.12.21, 12:19 AM
'The KLO leadership must realise that unless the Bengal government is in the talks, it is unlikely they will yield any result.'

'The KLO leadership must realise that unless the Bengal government is in the talks, it is unlikely they will yield any result.' Shutterstock

A number of social and political organisations of the Rajbanshis in north Bengal have demanded involving the Bengal government in the proposed peace talks with the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), reaffirming that no resolution can be reached with the rebel group without including the Mamata Banerjee government in the negotiations.

Around a fortnight ago, Himanta Biswa Sarma, chief minister of the BJP-led government in Assam, said the KLO leadership, including its self-styled chief Jeevan Singha a.k.a. Tamir Das, was interested in peace talks. His government will properly reciprocate, Biswa Sarma had added.

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The possibility of peace talks with the KLO under the aegis of the BJP government in Assam triggered a debate in neighbouring north Bengal, which has an overwhelming presence of Rajbanshis.

“The KLO leadership must realise that unless the Bengal government is in the talks, it is unlikely they will yield any result,” said Sanjoy Roy, vice-president of Kamtapur Students Organisation (KSO), the students’ front of Kamtapur Progressive Party (KPP).

Roy’s response, police sources said, should not be seen in isolation. “We have information that Singha has spoken to his contacts in the local media and appreciated the gesture of the Assam chief minister and also thanked the Prime Minister and the Union home minister for their sincerity in resolving their issue. However, he is silent so far on the Bengal government,” said a source.

Singha’s silence on the role of the Bengal government in the talks doesn’t seem to have gone down well with Rajbanshi outfits in north Bengal.

“If he intends to leave the armed struggle and return to the mainstream, we have no problem in talks with him. But he cannot be silent (over inclusion of Bengal government) as his basic demand for statehood, which is also the demand of many other organisations, involves six districts of north Bengal,” said a senior leader of the Greater Cooch Behar Peoples’ Association, one of the proponents of statehood in the region.

Observers pointed out that in north Bengal, where the BJP gloats over its political might, the party has tried to play identity politics to consolidate votes. Since 2009, the BJP has come up with assurances for the Gorkhas who are also demanding a state. The Centre started talks with the Gorkhas recently but the state hasn’t joined the discourse properly as Nabanna feels Delhi is trying to keep the state government away from the issue.

“Over the past few years, the BJP has been playing the Rajbanshi card, knowing well that Rajbanshi votes matter in north Bengal. It seems the proposal for talks with the KLO is part of the strategy of keeping Nabanna away from the discourse,” said an observer.

The observer said Singha and a number of his associates have several police cases pending against them, including charges under the UAPA, in Bengal.

“That is why, the KLO chief may find it convenient to get into negotiations with Assam, particularly because the Trinamul government is against any further division of Bengal,” the observer added.

Ever since Biswa Sarma has invited the militant outfit for talks, the Trinamul leadership in north Bengal have said no talks should be held without including the state government in the process.

A senior leader pointed out that many prominent faces of the Rajbanshi community in north Bengal, including a number of former militants, are with Trinamul’s establishments or are close to the state government.

“It would be wrong to perceive that a call from Jeevan Singha or from the Assam government or the Centre will prompt all these organisations to sit for discussions... In fact, most of them will not budge unless our state government is included in the talks,” the Trinamul leader said.

Additional inputs by our Jalpaiguri correspondent

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