Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Handing Over Indian Citizens And Some Questions

With historical commonality since the days of yore, geographical affinity and familiar cultural traits, India remains our closest neighbour. In 1971 Pakistan Army's genocide and other brutalities caused the worst mass exodus from Bangladesh --- close to 99 hundred thousand --- to neighbouring India. In Tripura, refugees outnumbered local inhabitants. An enormous influx of such a scale had naturally been a colossal burden on the Indian economy and took India some months to provide refugees shelter in improvised refugee camps. More importantly, our youths were trained to join resistance as Freedom Fighters. These are all historical facts acknowledged by us. Thus during the Liberation War, India was our greatest friend in need which we always remember with gratitude.

But after independence India could not keep it up in so far as bilateral relations with her closest neighbour Bangladesh are concerned. The developments that unfolded since the early seventies regarding the big neighbour's attitude were not pleasant. The issues are many beginning from depriving co-riparian Bangladesh of the legitimate share of the Ganges water, maritime boundary demarcation, greater plan to divert waters of the 54 common rivers, the Tipaimukh dam threat, frequent shooting down of Bangladeshis by the BSF, a sustained media campaign against this country and so on.

Over the years India has been accusing that dozens of fugitive insurgents from Assam and adjoining states were hiding in this country. Recently two insurgents have been captured. India's The Hindu, in a story datelined Guwahati, November 7, reported that two top leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) - Sashadhar Choudhury and Chitraban Hazarika --- were produced before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, by the Special Operation Unit of the Assam police. India and Bangladesh do not have any extradition treaty; hence the process of handing over each other's wanted criminals had always been cumbersome. The ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia, arrested in 1997 in Dhaka, is yet to be handed over to India due to legal complications.

Home minister Sahara Khatun indirectly admitted the action saying strong collaboration among the South Asian courtiers should be forged to root out the causes of militancy. "Our countries must engage in regional cooperation to counter terrorism," she told a workshop of South Asian Task Force on anti-terrorism held in Dhaka. The gesture is appreciable as insurgents are causing trouble to the Indian authorities. But beneath the surface---as they claim---are long stories of injustice done to the people of that region. Leaders of these outfits have reportedly appealed to the Bangladesh government and the people explaining their struggle while reminding that they had extended support to the Bangladesh people when they were on the run from the Pakistani occupation forces during 1971 liberation war. They said, they are now going through the same ordeal and look upon the Bangladesh government and its people to extend similar support to their leaders.

Now the question has been raised here whether or not the Indian detectives or undercover agents arrested the two ULFA terrorists and took them away to Assam. A BBC report later confirmed they were pushed back under the cover of an understanding. But the question is how could it happen in the absence of an extradition treaty between the two countries?

And what about the Bangladeshi gangland lords in India who have caused great damage to us? Have they been handed over to Bangladesh government? According to police records, from 2003 to 2007, as many as 18,994 people were murdered in four years alone and those gangsters now in India are said to be responsible for those murders through their followers in Bangladesh for failing to pay ransom or other demands.

In sum, a good neighbour is a great blessing. There is no doubt that as a neighbour Bangladesh certainly and definitely cherishes lasting friendly relations with India based on understanding and cooperation for mutual benefit. But the way the two ULFA rebels were allowed to be nabbed in Dhaka and smuggled out to India gives rise to a lot of questions that call for answers. .