Darjeeling, August 15, 2017: Independence day commemorations in North Bengal displayed a marked difference this year. While the Indo- China standoff continued, Bhutan-India Friendship Association celebrated Indian independence day in the border town of Phuentsholing. While most of the areas in the plains of North Bengal commemorated the day amidst floods, for the Hills it was independence day in the ongoing indefinite bandh. Former deputy commander of the banned Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) also hoisted the tricolour.
The 71st Independence day was commemorated by the Bhutan-Indian Friendship Association (IBFA) in the border town of Bhutan with a vibrant cultural show. "The commemoration has sent a strong message of friendship that Bhutan and India enjoy " stated Raj Basu, Secretary General of the Association.
Despite the standoff between India and China at Dokalam, Bhutanese and Indians commemorated the day together thereby laying to rest allegations that the relation between the two nations had soured.
A cake was presented to the Consul General of India to Bhutan. IBFA, was established in 1995 to promote and foster friendship between India and Bhutan and also to create strong platform for people to people contact. Its main objective is to create a viable, operative and effective platform for promotion of bilateral friendship between the two countries.
In another development Joydeb Sarkar alias Tom Adhikari, hosted the tricolour in Fatakatari . Tom had gone underground for many years. He was the deputy commander of KLO. As a militant he had given the call for boycott of independence day commemorations in the past.
Tom has surrendered and returned to the Indian mainstream. "I request West Bengal Chief Minister to work for the upliftment of our community. Those who surrender should be adequately compensated and helped to be rehabilitated," stated Tom Adhikari.
The Kamtapur Liberation Organization (KLO) was formed on December 28, 1995 by students from the indigenous Rajbongshi community who were interested in breaking away and forming an independent Kamtapur State in the north-eastern portion of the country.
The KLO is still committed to the creation of an independent Kamtapuri State comprising of all seven districts of north Bengal namely Malda, North and South Dinajpur, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar and four contiguous districts of Assam namely Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara.
They had launched an arms struggle, carrying out bomb blasts in North Bengal leading to the death of many. Although several of its major leaders have been either killed or imprisoned between 1999 and 2003, it is believed that the group was revived by the ULFA after it nearly fell apart in late 2004.
It is believed that they are trying to regroup. Camps are still being run in Mayanmar. The outfit was banned by the Indian Government in 1997. "I had been contacted to work as training commanders in KLO camps but I rejected the offer" stated Manaka Rai, wife of Tom Adhikari. talking to Oneindia. She is a surrendered KLO who now works as an Anganwadi worker.
KLO Chairman Singh was arrested in 1999 but was released by Assam Police to encourage more surrenders. He however absconded. However recently Singh had sent a press release and photograph to media houses, thereby writing off speculations of his death.
Darjeeling too marked the day amidst a bandh with rallies carrying placards and tricolors. With no picketers on Tuesday, vehicles both private and taxis were seen on the roads. Gorkha Janmukti Morcha President Bimal Gurung hoisted the Indian flag. He stated that he is now residing in the jungled and would return home only after Gorkhaland is achieved. Gurung stated that the indefinite bandh could continue for the next 6 to 7 months also and that tea gardens would not be exempted from the bandh.