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Rajbanshis demand 'peace talks' with Kamtapur Liberation Organisation

At meeting held in Agomani, number of speakers also underscored that if Centre kept dilly-dallying, BJP might have to face political consequences

Our Correspondent Cooch Behar Published 16.05.23, 06:57 AM
Representatives of various Rajbanshi outfits present at the meeting in Assam's Dhubri district on Sunday

Representatives of various Rajbanshi outfits present at the meeting in Assam's Dhubri district on Sunday

Representatives of a number of organisations of the Rajbanshi community congregated in lower Assam on Sunday and demanded that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre initiate peace talks with the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), a proscribed terror outfit, and meet their long-standing demand of a separate state.

At a meeting that was held in Agomani of Dhubri district, a number of speakers also underscored that if the Centre kept dilly-dallying on the issue, BJP might have to face its political consequences in next year’s Lok Sabha elections.

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“We will send a memorandum to the Prime Minister to initiate the peace talks with the KLO. The Centre should accept our demand for a separate Kamtapur state and also recognise the Rajbanshi language by including it in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution,” said Anupam Kumar Roy, a former IAS officer and the president of Kamtapur Suraksha Samiti.

They said in January this year, Jeevan Singha, the self-styled chief of the KLO, had entered Assam from Myanmar with some of his cadres. Since then, they have been staying in the northeastern state under the monitoring of the Centre.

“He was called for peace talks... five months have passed and so far, there hasn’t been an inch of progress. We want the Centre to start the talks immediately and resolve the issue. Rajbanshis living both in Bengal and Assam are disgruntled because of this delay,” said Anwar Hossain, a former leader of the Greater Cooch Behar Peoples’ Association who was present at the meeting.

Since December 2021, there had been indications that the Centre had initiated a process to hold talks with the KLO and to ensure that members of the outfit returned to the mainstream. The negotiations continued through mediators and eventually, in January this year, Singha reached Assam.

The samiti, which has been formed by intellectuals, academics, retired government employees and social workers of the Rajbanshi community, along with representatives of outfits which have been organising movements for years, also said they were ready to join the talks as representatives of the community.

Bhupesh Das, a former KLO militant based in the Alipurduar district, said the BJP had managed to secure the support of Rajbanshis by capitalising on the statehood issue.

“In the recent elections, Rajbanshis voted the BJP en masse in Bengal and Assam. The party suffered a debacle in Karnataka and if the Centre keeps delaying the talks, the BJP will face the consequences in next year’s Lok Sabha polls,” said Das.

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