Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO)
The origin of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) can be traced to the attempts of certain members of the Rajbongshi community belonging to the all Kamtapur Students’ Union (AKSU) to organise an armed struggle for a separate Kamtapur State. For this purpose, they approached the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). ULFA reportedly agreed to train them in order to gain foothold outside Assam, in the other geographically contiguous Indian States, to use them as transit routes. ULFA’s line of thinking was that, it would not only facilitate the movement of its cadres to their base camps in Bhutan but also provide a safe haven for the injured or sick cadres.
The KLO came into existence on December 28, 1995. At the time of its formation, its cadre strength was an estimated 60. However, subsequently, it is said to be operating with approximately 300 'active cadres'.
The objective of the KLO is to carve out a separate Kamtapur State comprising six districts–– Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, North and South Dinajpur and Malda––of West Bengal and four contiguous districts of Assam––Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara. At its inception, the KLO was an over-ground organisation and was formed to address problems such as large-scale unemployment, land alienation, perceived neglect of Kamtapuri language and identity, and grievances of economic deprivation. Soon, its strategy transformed into waging armed struggle.
Leadership and organisation
Tamir Das alias Jibon Singha is the chairman of the KLO. He was arrested in October 1999. However, he regained control over the outfit after he was released by the Assam Police in a bid to make the other KLO cadres surrender.
Milton Burman alias Mihir Das is the second in command of the outfit. Tom Adhikary alias Joydeb Roy is the outfit's 'crack squad' chief. Both of them were arrested by the RBA during the December 2003 operations.
Bharati Das, Chairperson of the Women's Wing, was arrested from Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal on August 7, 2002.
The outfit's operations chief, Suresh Roy, surrendered on January 24, 2002.
Some of the other prominent KLO insurgents who could be in positions of decision-making are Hiten Roy, Ravi Rajbongshi, Rahul Roy and Kajal Roy.
Area of Operation
The KLO is active in following areas of West Bengal and Assam
West Bengal—six districts of North Bengal
Assam—four districts of lower Assam
However, the outfit is most active in Alipurduar in Jalpaiguri and the Shiliguri sub-division of Darjeeling.
The KLO maintains a string of camps in Bhutan. Several of its camps are located across the Wangchu river, close to Chuka district in Bhutan. According to Lyonpo Thinley Gyamtsho, the Bhutanese Home Minister, two of its camps are in the Bhangtar and Lhamoizingkha areas of Bhutan.
The KLO is alleged to be the armed underground wing of Kamtapur People’s Party (KPP). Available evidence suggests that it maintains close linkages with the ULFA. Soon after its formation, its members were imparted arms training during 1996-97 in Samdrup Jhankar in Bhutan, and also subsequently at Gelengphu and Kalaikhola. The KLO's headquarters is situated near that of ULFA's at Samdrup Jhankar. Reports even suggest that the KLO is the brainchild of Raju Baruah, ULFA's 'deputy commander'.
As mentioned already, the ULFA wants to use West Bengal as a transit point to cross over to Bhutan, and then into Bangladesh. Also, this area provides a safe haven for injured and battle-weary ULFA cadres.
The outfit is also reportedly linked to the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). Media reports suggest that the KLO, ULFA and the NDFB have formed an umbrella organisation to coordinate their activities. Moreover, the KLO is also said to have linkages with the Maoist insurgents of Nepal. An August 2001-report indicated that, a meeting of NDFB, KLO, ULFA and the Maoists was held at Birganj, near the Indo-Nepal border, to discuss a joint strategy to carry out subversive activities against India.
Besides these linkages, the Tiwa National Revolutionary Front (TNRF), an insurgent outfit based in the Nagaon district of Assam, also has a working relationship with the KLO. In addition, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), too, reportedly maintains links with the KLO.
Reports also suggest that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is assisting terrorist groups, including the KLO, to commit subversion along the Siliguri Corridor of West Bengal.