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.
Friday, May 13, 2011
"They said they would kill me if I don't call off the protests. They beat me with sticks. I begged for my life. They broke my hands and left me in a field." These are the words of Sagir Rashid Chowdhury, the chairman of the Employee Association of Grameen Bank , who last week was brutally beaten at the hands of thugs for supporting Professor Yunus and the work of Grameen in Bangladesh. Since I last wrote on the subject , there has been an escalation in the Bangladeshi government’s resolve to rubbish and ruin Yunus and his supporters, intended to pave the way for the government’s take-over of Grameen, which various sources say is now underway. At the same time and with similar resolve, support for Yunus, known as "the banker of the poor", has become unstoppable, with 3.7 million people now having signed a petition; Mary Robinson leading Friends of Grameen with a powerful international coalition of supporters; and the French and American governments speaking up for Yunus at the highest levels. Privately, the UK government has also said it is sympathetic. One might expect such an outpouring of support for a Nobel Laureate, but the intransigence on the part of the Bangladeshi government is perhaps more surprising. The stand-off stems from two events, one in 2006 , the other in 2007 , that upset the Bangladeshi prime minister, Sheikh Hasina. The first was that Yunus, not Hasina, received the Nobel Prize; the second, that Yunus was pushed to consider setting up a political party to challenge corruption in Bangladesh. Apparently Hasina has not forgiven Yunus and more recently she has called Yunus an "enemy of the country". Hasina’s bid to remove Yunus from Grameen started with the forced appointment of a new chair of Grameen whose first task was to sack Yunus on spurious grounds of age (he is 70). Yunus went to court to overturn the decision and then to appeal, and in both cases he lost. For a country at the top of the list of the most corrupt, it is perhaps unsurprising that the legal system kowtowed to the ruling party and that sinister forces on the ground have been allowed, even encouraged, to intimidate Grameen supporters since then. The government’s motives are clear and their methods are blatantly transparent, but of course only to those that know. For others, seeds of doubt circulate when accusations are made, legal cases are presented and stories about unscrupulous micro-credit lenders circulate. Mud sticks and some people less noble or less knowledgeable start to believe that there must be some truth in what is said. And perhaps most disheartening is that however effective the domestic and international opposition to the Bangladeshi government has been, it has been able to carry on regardless.