Bangladesh to hand over ULFA leader Anup Chetia to India

Shillong, July 1 (IANS) United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) general secretary Anup Chetia, who has been in a Bangladeshi jail since 1997, would be repatriated this month to India, a senior union home ministry official said Monday.

“He (Chetia) should be reptratriated to India by July 15 or a few days before that,” Shambhu Singh, joint secretary (northeast) in the union home ministry, told IANS.

Chetia is wanted in India for various crimes including murder, kidnapping and extortion. He was arrested in Assam in 1991, but was freed by the state government.

On Dec 21, 1997, the ULFA general secretary was arrested from Mohammadpur in Dhaka for illegally entering Bangladesh and for illegally carrying foreign currency and a satellite phone. He is under detention after completion of his jail term.

Chetia sought political asylum in Bangladesh on three occasions – in 2005, 2008 and in 2011. He also applied to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for political asylum in Bangladesh, contending he had been fighting for a sovereign Assam.

But later the separatist leader who is fighting for a “soveriegn Assam” sought that his application for political asylum in Bangladesh should be cancelled and he be returned to India.

“He wanted to come back to India after much persuasion by his family members and friends. He wanted to be part of the ongoing peace talks between the government (of India) and the ULFA,” Singh said.

Chairman of ULFA’s pro-talk faction Arabinda Rajkhowa on several occasion had asked the Indian government to seek Chetia’s repatriation from Bangladesh to deportation to India.

On May 13, Chetia in his petition submitted to Rajshahi Central Jail, where he has been in detention, said: “Earlier, I wanted to stay in this country. I have changed my mind and I have decided to live the rest of my life with my children in my country (India).”

The prison authorites forwarded the petition to the Bangladesh home ministry.

India has long been demanding Chetia’s deportation but Bangladesh has been saying that the issue needs to be settled by the court as he had sought political asylum.

India and Bangladesh had signed an extradition treaty earlier this year.

Although Bangladesh never officially acknowledged handing over of the several top Indian rebels leaders to India since Sheikh Hasina took office of the prime minister in January 2009, it is now an open secret that Dhaka facilitated their arrests by capturing them and later handing them over to Indian authorities.

Those handed over include ULFA chairman Rajkhowa, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitraban Hazarika and other leaders of the outfit, as well as National Democratic Front of Bodoland chief Ranjan Daimary, and in the recent time Garo National Liberation Army chief Champion R. Sangma.

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