Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ulfa Arrests : Whither Sovereignty???

With the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) already in place ensuring people's access to information from public authorities as a right guaranteeing transparency and comprehensibility, the incumbent government agencies and operatives including some ministers seem to obscure and obfuscate vital matters concerning national sovereignty in contravention of the RTI Act's affirmed legal provisions.

When info or disclosure is held back, it spawns wild conjectures leading to labyrinthine enigma of confusion --- much to the nation's chagrin, and even peril. Contravening the RTI Act the government's smokescreen over the issue of the recent arrests and handing over of the clandestine terror outfit members of the 'seven sisters' states of India is being viewed as a great faux pas.

Recently the Indian media have credited the Bangladesh law enforcing agencies regarding the arrest of no less than three major leaders of the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom ( ULFA), including its chief Arabinda Rajkhowa, since November 1.

The Detective Branch ( DB) of Bangladesh police arrested Arabinda in the capital on December 1.

The DB also arrested the chairman of the National Liberation Front of Tripura, Biswamohan Debbarma, along the border at Kamalganj, some 160 km northeast of Dhaka.

These four persons were handed over to the Indian authorities, according to the Indian media report. Reportedly, some high officials of the Bangladesh law enforcement agency in question have confirmed the arrests and subsequent handover, but the government has swung between silence and total denial, which engendered hearsay and speculation, thus making people concerned as well as disturbed.

What is more, there is no extradition treaty between the two countries. Extradition denotes delivery of a person, suspected or convicted of a crime, by the state where he has taken refuge to the state that asserts jurisdiction over him. Its purpose is to prevent criminals who flee a country from escaping punishment.

However, international law does not recognise extradition as an obligation in the absence of a treaty. Whilst the Indian media broke the news of the arrests of the ULFA leaders in Bangladesh and subsequent handover to the Indian authority, Dhaka remained tight-lipped over the subject. The foreign minister evaded reporters' question relating to Rajkhowa's arrest. As expected, the government's secretiveness at that time caused doubt as to whether it was involved in covert operations.

Afterwards the home minister, Sahara Khatun, stated that the ULFA chief "was not arrested in Bangladesh" and the news given in the Indian media report was incorrect.

Khatun's statements intend to imply that the Bangladesh law enforcement authorities have not made the arrests. Now, will it not be cogent for the body politic to deduce that the Indian law enforcement agencies were involved in their arrest on Bangladesh soil? Undeniably, it is tantamount to impingement on the country's sovereignty.

What is more, if the Indian media reports of the arrests and handover to New Delhi are true, then is the Bangladesh government doing the Indian government's bidding by obeying diktat of a foreign country?

In the absence of an extradition treaty between Dhaka and Delhi -- which will require India to reciprocate by extraditing several hundred Bangladeshi most wanted underworld lords hiding in India for years --- this is not legally or ethically acceptable. Since 1979 India's north-eastern region has been the hotbed of insurgency and fierce armed conflict killing a large number of people.

Over the years about 20 ,000 people have died in Christian-dominated Nagaland alone. The Indian media reports tend to suggest that the Bangladesh government may have already taken a side in the conflict, favouring the Indian government and against the northeast Indian people. In that terrifying decades old strife it will be most dangerous for Bangladesh take any side.

Hence Dhaka must not allow herself to be caught up in the turmoil [in which various parties from Maoists to ISI are said to be the stakeholders] because such an involvement can unavoidably incite and provoke the rebels to open a battlefront targeting Bangladesh and endangering her security. More importantly, the government must not forget the most vital concept of our nationhood -- - sovereignty. The onus is on the government to clarify in detail if it has not compromised the country's sovereignty.