Friday, May 13, 2011

ULFA Leader To Visit Dhaka To Discuss With Anup Chetia

Despite tremendous pressure from India to hand over Anup Chetia, self-styled general secretary of the separatist outfit United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) of the Indian state of Assam, who has been in `protective custody’ in Bangladesh, the government could not able to do this as there is no extradition treaty between Bangladesh and India. But many other ULFA leaders, who were arrested in Bangladesh, were handed over to the Indian law enforcement agencies clandestinely without producing them before the court. There are widespread allegations that Awami League-led government has been more than accommodative of Indian interests, handed over all other ULFA leaders including its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, who were in Bangladesh. It was also alleged that after coming to power in January 2009 ,  Awami League government has allowed Indian intelligence agencies to carry out operations in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country to arrest ULFA leaders. As the situation did not improve in Assam even after arrest of ULFA leaders and armed confrontation, the government of India took a policy of resolving the issue through negotiation with the secessionist leaders and ULFA has prepared a charter of demands and now Bangladesh government is ready to give access to someone from ULFA to meet Anup Chetia in order to obtain his consent to go ahead with the peace talks. Following the signal from Dhaka, at least one leader from among the eight leaders of ULFA engaged in peace efforts with the Central government of India will visit Dhaka. The purpose is to try and include Chetia in the talks. ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and several others joined the peace initiative after visiting New Delhi in February 2011. Formal talks are yet to begin. Anup Chetia was arrested in Dhaka on December 21 , 1997 and sentenced to seven years imprisonment for illegal entry and possession of firearms. When his prison term ended, he refused to return to India and sought political asylum. He also requested for refugee status to the United Nations in 2008. Since then he remained in protective custody. Sources in Assam said the charter of demands was primarily prepared by the pro-ULFA intellectuals and submitted to the ULFA high Command. The charter did not include the demand for Assam’s sovereignty for which the secessionist outfit carrying out their struggle for three decades. But the framers of the charter claim that if the center fulfill the demands incorporated in the charter, Assam would enjoy greater autonomy and get special status like Jammu and Kashmir. Chetia is seen in the group as close to Paresh Barua who is not only the commander chief of ULFA, but reported to have emerged as a major arms dealer in Southeast Asia. Anup Chetia’s inclusion in the talks would reduce the chances of divergent views coming to the fore later and could help the outfit reach a lasting solution. But Assam Gano Parishad predicted that peace talks will be a futile exercise without the participation of Paresh Barua, who still wields all power in the secessionist outfit. He is reported mobilizing strength from his safe sanctuary along the Myanmar border.