Explained: The second coming of Kamtapur Liberation Organisation

What is the KLO fighting for?

The Kamtapur Liberation Organisation is a banned outfit engaged in an armed struggle for a separate Kamtapur state including six districts of North Bengal (Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, Malda) and four of lower Assam (Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri, Goalpara). Its other objectives and demands include fighting unemployment, illiteracy and backwardness in the Kamtapuri community, and special status to the Rajbanshi language and culture. The outfit was formed around a decade ago after some Rajbanshi and Kamtapuri members of the All Kamtapur Students' Union approached Assam's ULFA for arms training.

What is its strength?

Police say it did not have more than 100 cadres when it was formed but grew to over 300 between 2000 and 2006 with support from within the Rajbanshi community in North Bengal. That strength dwindled between 2008 and 2011 thanks to a crackdown by the Bengal police. Important leaders such as Tom Adhikari (second-in-command ) and Milton Burman (military chief ) were arrested, and several cadres surrendered. Chairman Timir Das alias Jibon Singh, arrested in 1999, was released by the Assam police to encourage others to surrender. He is believed to be in Bangladesh.

Does the recent blast in Jalpaiguri indicate a resurgence?

After two years of silence, Kamtapuri militants have indeed started resurfacing, though this time under the name Kamtapur Democratic Liberation Organisation. The demand of this group, believed to be a faction of the KLO, is autonomy for the region and rehabilitation of surrendered KLO cadres.

How active is the new faction?

It is believed to have gone on a recruitment drive. In the last five months, two blasts have taken place in Jalpaiguri. The first one killed two bomb squad men trying to defuse bombs strapped on a bicycle. The second was last week's blast, in which six persons were killed . There have also been attempts at abduction and police arrested three KLO supporters recently. The same day as the second blast, a group fired on a public bus in Malda and police suspect the KLO' s involvement there too. Sashikanta Pujari, IG, North Bengal, said several teams are working on nabbing the militants behind the Jalpaiguri attack.

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