G Vinayak in Guwahati
The Bhutan government, already facing major problems due to the presence of two militant groups from Assam on its territory, is now confronted with another insurgent outfit, this time from North Bengal.
Cadres of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland have been holed up in Bhutan for the past five years. Now, the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation, an outfit operating in the Siliguri-Coochbehar area of North Bengal bordering Bhutan, has set up camps across the Wangchu river, very close to Chukha district in the Himalayan kingdom.
According to Bhutan's state-run weekly Kuensel, the KLO's proximity to Chukha has become a matter of great security concern for the Royal Government of Bhutan.
Chukha is a hub of trade and commercial activities and two important hydro-electric projects are being executed there.
The Bhutan government's concern over the KLO presence was evident from the fact that a recent meeting of the Security Coordination Committee drew up a 19-point resolution on strengthening security measures to protect the government infrastructure, service facilities and the people in Chukha district.
The KLO has been demanding an independent state for the Kamatapuri people spread over seven districts in West Bengal and Assam.
The latest edition of Kuensel has reported that Bhutan Home Minister Lyonpo Thinley Gyamtsho, who chaired the coordination committee meeting, said KLO militants were seen in the vicinity of the district. He said the group has posed a grave risk of destabilising the relations between the people of West Bengal and Bhutan which have always been cordial.
The KLO, formed with the aim of creating a separate state of Kamatapur in 1995, has taken considerable help of ULFA. At least 60 KLO cadres have been trained in ULFA camps located in the Kalikhola area of neighbouring Bhutan, intelligence sources said
Intelligence operatives point out that ULFA has a definite aim of setting up bases in this area in coming forward to help the KLO. ULFA activists have been using North Bengal areas as a transit point to go from Bhutan to Bangladesh and vice versa, while, some militants have also crossed over to Nepal through this area.
ULFA militants often visit North Bengal for treatment. There are reports that the area was also used by them to tranship weapons to their camps in Bhutan. ULFA reportedly also has some hideouts, which are being maintained with the help of KLO militants.
The KLO has already started taking a leaf out of ULFA's training manual. Like ULFA in the late Eighties, KLO has also targeted tea gardens in North Bengal to amass a war chest.
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