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13 Jul 2018

Bengal jobs for former KLO rebels

Mamata hands over a job letter to one of the former KLO rebels. (Passang Yolmo)
AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Jul 13, 2018, Siliguri: Thirty-six former militants of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) were on Thursday hired as home guard volunteers in the Mamata Banerjee government's first initiative to rehabilitate the ex-rebels who wanted a separate state.

Mamata handed over job letters to the group, including Mihir Das and Madhusudan Das, once prominent faces of the KLO. The 36 - 21 from Alipurduar and 15 from Jalpaiguri - will be engaged in their districts.

The former rebels - most were arrested during Operation Flushout in 2003-04 by the Royal Bhutan Army - have been disgruntled and long demanded rehabilitation. "They have been provided jobs and will work for the interest of the society. The initiative was taken by the chief minister," said Amitabha Maiti, the Jalpaiguri police chief.

The decision to address the grievances of those who had resorted to armed struggle demanding a separate Kamtapur state - most were from the Rajbangshi community - follows another important decision the chief minister took during her ongoing trip of north Bengal.

On Tuesday, she had announced the elevation of Bangshibadan Burman as the chairman of the West Bengal Rajbangshi Development and Cultural Board. Burman, board vice-chairman till then, is a top leader of the Greater Cooch Behar Peoples' Association, also formed to demand a separate state.

A section of the former militants had shunned Trinamul and supported the BJP in the May rural polls in some pockets of Alipurduar. "This had helped the BJP score well in some areas, particularly in the Kumargram block that borders (BJP-ruled) Assam," an observer said.

The former rebels expressed satisfaction. "We have been raising the demand for 15 years. Some others like us who have been left out should also be provided similar jobs or some other assistance," said Mihir Das, who hails from Kumargram.

Additional reporting by Anirban Choudhury in Alipurduar

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