Friday, August 5, 2011

HANDING OVER ANUP CHETIA TO DELHI : Ulfa, allies may retaliate in Bangladesh

The government is set to handover United Liberation Force of Assam (ULFA) leader Anup Chetia to India against his will. It may incur rancour of the secessionist groups fighting for independence. ULFA army chief Paresh Baruah and 30 other secessionist groups of Northeast Indian states, so far fighting for independence, have recently forged unity under the aegis of their Chinese and Myanmar friends who have allegedly held out assurance of necessary support.

The secessionist groups and the Maoists in central India have agreed to collaborate in their fight. Worried at the intelligence reports about secessionist groups and Maoists coming together, the security forces in India were apprehending tough fight in the coming days.

The secessionist groups area already annoyed with Bangladesh for the move to prove New Delhi with corridor in the name of transit facility. They assume that the corridor will be used for transporting arms, ammunition and troops from the western India to Assam and Tripura over Bangladesg territory. This is an old design but could not be achieved as Dhaka had so far refused the corridor. The alternative route through the chicken neck of West Bengal through Meghalaya is long, difficult, time consuming, and expensive because of the terrain perched with hills.

"I don't think there is any obstacle in handing him (Chetia) over to India," PTI quoted Home Minister Shahara Khatun as saying last Wednesday. Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram who recently visited Dhaka on return to Delhi told newsmen that Anup Chetia may be returned before Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka early next month.

Chetia, now 44, general secretary of ULFA, was first arrested in Assam in 1991 but soon set free by the Hiteswar Saikia government. He was arrested in Dhaka in December 1997 and sentenced to jail for 7 years for illegal trespass and possession of satellite phone and foreign currencies. The jail term ended, he refused to return to India because of security of his life. He applied to the UN High Commission for Refugees requesting to grant him refugee status and political asylum in Bangladesh. He also moved the High Court seeking protection that ordered his keeping in protective custody.

Of late New Delhi mounted pressure on Dhaka for his handing over with the hope of his participation in peace talks. ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and five of his associates held in Bangladesh were taken back to Assam at the fag end of 2009. On return to Assam he agreed for unconditional peace talks with the government. But the political leaders viewed that talks without participation of Paresh Baruah and Anup Chetia who wields the real power in the party would be a futile exercise. Paresh in a statement disowned Rajkhowa for announcing unilateral ceasefire saying his action was contrary to the party's constitution. None who has suffered in jail or detained in government custody can take any action on behalf of the party.

Efforts to take Chetia in the government's grip was intended to tame ULFA army chief Paresh who is close to him. Assam media had reported that attempts of sending two personal friends of Chetia to Dhaka to pursue him for joining the peace talks went in vain. They sensed Chetia is firm in his stand. Emissaries from pro-talks ULFA faction also did not come knowing his rigid stance.

Barrister Sigma Huda, a lawyer and an eminent human rights activist, who had stood for Anup Chetia said he can be handed over to India. "Ball is now is in the government's court. It can refuse him political asylum and send back home or to a third country," she told a reporter.

What concerns the people of Bangladesh is possible retaliation by ULFA. All the secessionist groups of Northeast Indian states plus the dreaded Maoists active in central India are now united. With assistance from their external friends they can create serious trouble across our porous border.