ULFA demands‘honourable’ repatriation’ of Chetia
Dimapur, July 16
The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has sought Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s intervention for early repatriation of its general secretary Anup Chetia, as both Dhaka and New Delhi are finalizing the modalities for the insurgent leader’s release.
Abhizeet Asom, chairman of ULFA (Independent), in a letter to Sheikh Hasina has requested the Bangladesh government for an “honourable” and “decent” repatriation of its leader, who had sought refuge in the neighbouring country “to carry on the liberation struggle of Assam”.
The Ulfa general secretary has been languishing in Bangladesh jail, and had sought an asylum in that country after completing his prison term. Later, he changed his mind and approached Bangladesh government, seeking repatriation.
Chetia was arrested in December 1997 along with his two security guards, Babul Sarma and Lakhi Prasad Saikia from the posh locality of Mohammadpur. He was charged for illegally staying in Bangladesh, and for illegal possession of a satellite phone, and huge amount of foreign currency. It was reported that currencies of 16 different countries was confiscated from Chetia’s possession.
Though chairman of the anti-faction wrote to the Bangladeshi PM, both New Delhi and the moderate ULFA faction became proactive to get Chetia back in India. The moderate faction led by Arabinda Rajkhowa believed that Chetia’s return could boost their ongoing peace talks with New Delhi.
It has been reported that senior home ministry official last month had assured the pro-talk Ulfa group that Chetia would be handed over to India by July 16. Definitely Chetia’s association with the pro-talks faction would marginalize the influence of ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, who is against the peace process, and has vowed to continue with his armed movement against India.
The Indian intelligence agencies claim that after being pushed out of Bangladesh, Paresh Baruah is based in the Kachin province of Myanmar. The anti-talk faction led by Abhizeet Asom and Paresh Baruah are against peaceful negotiation as New Delhi is not ready to discuss on the issue of sovereignty of Assam.
As the pro-talk ULFA leaders are gearing up to welcome Chetia, and attract him to their fold, ULFA (Independent) chairman Abhizeet Asom’s letter is an indicator that there would be some kind of a “tug-of –war” between the two factions over Chetia’s affiliation.
Interestingly, caught in jail for the last 16 years, Chetia has not expressed anything about his plans whether to align with the pro-talk or the anti-talk factions of the ULFA.
Requesting for an early release of Chetia, Abhizeet Asom expressed concern over the reports of Dhaka trying to “bargain” the release, and trying to convince New Delhi to hand them over some Bangladeshi criminals, who are hiding in India.
“I am deeply dismayed that Mr. Chetia’s request for voluntary repatriation has been used as a bargaining tool in getting hands on Bangladeshi criminals currently in India,” the chairman of ULFA (Independent), said, adding that Chetia’s “exchange” with Bangladeshi criminal Subrata Bain would be a great humiliation, and will hurt the sentiments of the people of Assam.
Abhizeet Asom said, “Mr. Anup Chetia is not a criminal, but a leader of the freedom-loving people of Assam”. The anti-talk ULFA leader claimed people Assam had played a pro-active role in the freedom struggle of Bangladesh, which was spearheaded by Bangabandhu Sheikh Muzibur Rahman.