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Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO)


History


KLO is one of the recently formed insurgent outfits in the northeast. It was formed on 28 December 1995 by the Koch-Rajbongsi tribes who strove to carve out a separate Kamatapur State. Koch- Rajbongsis live in four lower Assam districts of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara, West Garo Hills of Meghalaya and in the six districts of north Bengal. Intelligence sources reveal that the outfit was propped up by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) to use the area of north Bengal as a transit point to cross over from Bhutan to Bangladesh. The decision to prop-up a Rajbongsi insurgent outfit was taken by the ULFA in December 1995 at the initiative of Raju Baruah, the deputy leader of the outfit 's military wing. The ULFA entrusted the then Chairman of its Darrang district Unit, Ajit Kachari with the task of setting up a Koch-Rajbongsi Organisation (KRLO) in lower Assam. Subsequently, the KLO was formed in north Bengal following a meeting at Kumaragram. KRLO became defunct after a brief spell of activity and most of its cadres joined the ULFA.

Objectives

The proposed State of Kamatapur comprises of six districts of north Bengal (South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, Malda and Darjeeling) and four districts of lower Assam (Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara). Even though KLO was formed as an overground organisation to seek its objective on the grounds of large scale unemployment, land alienation and perceived ignorance of its language and a host of other grievances including economic deprivation, soon its strategy transformed into an armed struggle.

Strategy

The role of ULFA in transforming the character of KLO is considered to be significant. The ULFA, facing an uphill task in terms of maintaining its cadre strength and influence in face of repeated army operations, sought to use the relatively unmanned area of north Bengal for variety of purposes. Firstly, this area provides ULFA a transit point to commute from Bhutan to Bangladesh and vice versa, while some insurgents crossed over to Nepal through this area. Secondly, the area is being used by ULFA to transship weapons to their camps in Bhutan. Thirdly, KLO maintains some hideouts for ULFA in this area. Fourthly, this area provides a safe haven for injured and battle-weary ULFA cadre. 

KLO, till date, is not a very strong and capable outfit. Whenever it indulges in any act of insurgency, it invariably takes help from ULFA cadres. Even though ULFA oversaw the training of the KLO insurgents in the initial period, it is believed that the latter was given only a lower level training as compared to the ULFA cadres. Though the KLO insurgents also used sophisticated weapons like the AK series rifles, Chinese grenades, sources point out that those were joint operations by the KLO and ULFA, with the latter dominating and flexing its sophisticated arsenal.

The first reported KLO-ULFA armed operation was the abduction of a tea garden owner Roshanlal Garg from Latabari tea estate in central Dooars in July 1999. Garg was released after KLO was paid a huge ransom in February 2000. In November 1999, KLO and ULFA insurgents looted a railway cash counter near Siliguri. 

In 2000, a KLO and ULFA joint operation resulted in the deaths of two prominent Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) activists. On 4 May 2000, Paresh Pal, a CPM leader was killed at Ghogsapara near the Assam-West Bengal border. On 7 August 2000, a CPM activist Nitai Das was killed at Jalpaiguri. In October 2000, a tea garden owner Om Prakash agarwal was abducted by a joint team of KLO and ULFA insurgents. 

In January 2001, KLO, along with ULFA, called for a boycott of the Republic Day celebrations on 26 January from 1a.m. till 6p.m. with the proclaimed objective of overthrowing the Indian colonial rule. 

Conflict Management Initiatives

 Representatives of the government 's of Assam and West Bengal met on 23 May 2000 and decided to jointly tackle the problem of cross-border insurgency. In the second half of the year 2000, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was deployed to deal with the situation. 

Command and Structure

KLO, until date, is not a very strong and capable insurgent outfit. According to some sources, it has an estimated cadre strength of one hundred, many of whom have been trained in ULFA -run camps. Nothing much is known regarding the command structure of the outfit whose activity revolves around the dictates of its chairman.

External Linkages

KLO operates in tandem with the ULFA. According to available information, initially thirty-five KLO insurgents were trained. In July 2000, about twenty KLO cadres were receiving training at a particular camp.

The Tiwa National Revolutionary Front (TNRF), an insurgent outfit based in the Nagaon district of Assam also has working relationship with the KLO. In addition, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) understandably maintains links with the KLO.

Popular Support

The KLO tries to garner support from the Koch-Rajbongshis of lower Assam (Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara districts), West Garo Hils of Meghalaya and six districts of North Bengal. However, it 's support base is not that strong due to the presence of other Kamatapuri political organisations such as the Kamatapuri People 's Party (KPP), All Kamatapur Students ' Union (KSU), the Kamatapur Women 's Right Front (KWRF) in West Bengal fighting for a similar cause. 

Funds

KLO exhibits the typical characteristics of an insurgent outfit, which requires a regular flow of finances to buy arms, support its cadre and to maintain its effectiveness. Extortion forms the major source of its income. Like the ULFA, for its purpose, it has targeted the tea gardens in north Bengal, especially in the Dooars region. In the initial stages, the KLO insurgents used to come directly to the tea garden managers and demand money instead of sending demand notes and very often, the garden managers, in a bid to buy peace, came to a settlement rather than informing the police. However, this brand of extortion soon paved way for a more serious and organised mode of operation. 

Loot of garden remittance in various attacks on the National Highway 31 passing through the heart of the tea belt, abductions, demand of huge ransom, theft of gardens ' properties like green tea leaves, costly irrigation implements and even fence wiring became the common modes of acquiring finance. 

In addition, ULFA also provides financial assistance to the KLO.

Leadership

Tushar Das alias Jibon Singha was the chairman of KLO, until he was arrested in October 1999. Nothing much is known regarding the succeeding leadership of the KLO after that. However, some of the prominent KLO insurgents who could be in positions of decision-making are Hiten Rai, Ravi Rajbongshi, Rahul Rai and Kajal Rai.




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