February 28, 2014
The Kamtapur movement has been simmering for quite some time. The movement, led by the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), formed in 1995, had carried out at least three violent attacks in the latter part of 2013. The last one on December 26 at Paharpur in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, masterminded by Malkhan Singha, military chief of KLO, resulted in six deaths. The KLO is also extorting from traders and industrialists in its area of operations. The organisation is reported to be having a tacit understanding with the Kamtapur Peoples` Party (KPP).
The KPP, formed in 1997, however claims that it demands a unified territory and statehood for the Koch Rajbanshis inhabiting the north West Bengal and west Assam only, and not cessation from India. The KLO is contrastingly clear in its cessationist demand and is campaigning for restoration of the so-called past independence of a notional Koch Kamta kingdom, which existed during the 12th to the 15th century under the control of the Khen dynasty, with capital near Moynaguri in present Alipurduar sub-division of Jalpaiguri district. The KLO`s activities encompass the six districts of north West Bengal and Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara districts of west Assam.
The implications of the KLO movement in the sensitive eastern and north-eastern parts cannot but be ominous for India`s security. Though the KLO armed cadre strength has increased from 60 at the time of its formation in 1995 to a few hundred now, the organisation does not have the armed might of outfits like the ULFA, NSCN(IM) and the NDFB (anti-accommodation Songbijit faction). It has, however, developed operational and logistical coordination with these outfits. Nevertheless, the KLO’s potential for disrupting civic life and undermining civil administration, particularly in the six north West Bengal districts of Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, North & South Dinajpur and Malda, have been proven.
After Jibon Sigha, Chairman of KLO, was arrested in October 1999, and later released by Assam Police to wean away other KLO cadres from the organization and induce them to surrender, there has been a distinct change in strategy of the KLO. The organization has lurched towards a more violent path once again. While the Centre may be keeping a tab on the KLO`s activities, ground-level coordination towards intelligence sharing and prophylactic operations between the Assam Police and its West Bengal counterparts is required along with political initiatives by the Tarun Gogoi and Mamta Banerji governments.