Kamtapur Liberation Organisation
Formed in the year 1995, Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) is an organisation responsible for piloting the Kamtapur movement. For last one and half decade, this organisation has been disrupting civic life and undermining civil administration particularly in the area of North West Bengal. Many cases of extortion from traders and industrialists have also been highlighted against KLO in its area of operation. Reports reveal that the organisation has developed an implicit relation with Kamtapur Peoples’ Party (KPP), a political party formed way back in 1997. KPP is known for its demands of a unified territory and statehood for the Koch Rajbanshis inhabiting the North West Bengal and west Assam, with no cessation from India. The economic conditions of the above mentioned areas are not very ideal. However, the present government has also not yet taken up an effective strategy for rejuvenating these areas.
The movement, led by the KLO, 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. This movement has potential serious security implications, not only in West Bengal, but also the sensitive eastern and north eastern part of India. Besides disrupting civil and administrative life in north districts of West Bengal , it has developed logistical and operational linkages with militant organizations like ULFA, NSCN(IM) and the NDFB (anti-accommodation Songbijit faction) etc.
In November 2014, Central Government has banned Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO).
The KLO has been apparent with respect to its demands relating to cessation and is campaigning for restoration of the so-called past independence of a notional Koch Kamta Kingdom (believed to have 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).
Though the movement led by KLO has not yet become a menace to India’s security since the organisation does not have the armed might of outfits like the ULFA, NSCN (IM) and the NDFB, nevertheless, it has a enough potential to threaten the Indian security system as it has gradually developed operational and logistical coordination with these outfits. The impact of the KLO’s activities is more in West Bengal; therefore, an internal proactive and long-term multifaceted policy is required to be adopted by the West Bengal government soon. The scenario is little different in Assam where management is the main concern, specifically in the region inhabited by different ethnic groups, as it may stir up the convergence of interests between Koch-Rajbanshis and other ethnic groups. Any such situation can however be tackled by providing certain special benefits to Koch-Rajbanshi community through specific targeted government investments.
Underdevelopment and economic distress incentivize the spread of dissatisfaction and separatist sentiment among people. The economic conditions prevailing in the Dooars and Buxa Reserve areas of North West Bengal, substantially inhabited Koch Rajbangshis further adds to their discontent. The West Bengal budget (2013-14) does not have an appropriate area development sub-plan covering the areas inhabited by this community. The KPP`s demands concern among others, cultural protection of the Koch-Rajbangsi’s.
Therefore, current situation demands a strategic approach both from the security perspective and development angle.
- To tackle security issues, ground-level coordination towards intelligence sharing and prophylactic operations between the Assam Police and its West Bengal counterparts is required. There is a dire need to revive state-level police action like ‘Operation Shadow’ which was undertaken jointly by West Bengal and Assam Police in 1990.
- Coordination with Bhutan will also be indispensable e.g. ‘Operation Flush Out’ in 2003 to evict the militant outfits from India who were regrouping and training in Bhutan.
- Since the impact of the KLO`s activities is more in West Bengal, the state government will have to adopt an internal proactive and long-term multifaceted policy to contain the outfit.
- On development angle, a package which enables comprehensive economic development on the lines of the ‘Saranda Action Plan’, in respect to Naxalism affected areas in Jharkhand, could also be considered for the affected West Bengal districts.
Moreover, the demands of KPP such as cultural protection of the Koch-Rajbanshis and the inclusion of Kamtapuri (Rajbangsi) language in the Eighth Schedule of India’s Constitution can be suitably accommodated without affecting the interests of other communities living in the region.