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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Dhaka may hand over 50 Ulfa leaders to India

Courtesy: Daly Sun, front page, Dhaka, Dec 2, 2011
Dhaka may hand over 50 Ulfa leaders to India

Bangladesh may hand over around 30 to 50 top leaders of the United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa), including general secretary Anup Chetia, to Delhi in a major development on the diplomatic front as India has initiated a move for a negotiated end to the dreaded insurgency.

Different Indian newspapers published reports in this regard on Saturday, with speculations that the deportation may take place by April 2011.

However, authorities in Bangladesh did not confirm such move from their side.

Home Minister Sahara Khatun told the agency that no decision in this regard had so far been taken.

“We received a list of 35 Ulfa members from India and held meeting on it but did not take any decision to hand over them,” said the minister.

She said some of the listed persons could not be traced in Bangladesh by the government.

About the reports in Indian newspapers she said their media often publish report like this and “I don’t want to make any comment on it”.

As far as Anup Chetia is concerned, handing him over to the Indian government is a matter of “political decision”, which has yet to be taken, said the minister for the home affairs.

When communicated, home secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder said he did not want to make any comment over the reports published in Indian media.

Meanwhile, a source in the ministry of home affairs told the agency that at least 47 Ulfa leaders and activists are now behind bars in six jails in Bangladesh.

Indian premier news-agency Press Trust of India (PTI) said quoting a government official that Ulfa general secretary Anup Chetia, who was arrested on December 21, 1997 in Dhaka for illegally entering into Bangladesh and possessing two forged passports of that country, is likely to be handed over to India before the Assam Assembly elections. The election is likely to be held in April 2011.

An Indian Home Ministry official also said that around 30 to 50 mid-level leaders of Ulfa have ‘packed their bags’ in the neighbouring country and would return to India ‘very soon’.

Times of India and Assam Tribune have also published news on the same issue.

Kolkata-based The Tele-graph Saturday reported that besides Anup Chetia, Bangladesh would also hand over around 30 Ulfa leaders, including Antu Chowdang, an aide to Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua.

The Telegraph termed this news as real good news from Dhaka.

‘India is in touch with Bangladesh and in all probability Chetia will be handed over to us before Assam’s biggest festival, Rongali Bihu, which starts on April 15,’ the government functionary said.

The forty-three-year-old Chetia is considered to be only person in the insurgent group who can take on elusive ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah.

If Chetia is handed over to India, he may join Ulfa’s other top leaders, including ‘Chairman’ Arabinda Rajk-howa, in holding discussion with the government for bringing a lasting peace in Assam.

Rajkhowa was already set free on bail Saturday from Guwahati jail and is expected to start peace talks with the government soon. However, Paresh Baruah is still opposed to any dialogue with the Centre.

“Those Ulfa cadres who have already come to India have encouraged the current batch to come back home,” the official said.

The Ulfa leaders are expected to enter India through the Indo-Bangla border in Meghalaya, sources added.

Apart from Rajkhowa, Ulfa’s self-styled general secretary Chitraban Haz-arika, deputy comm-ander-in-chief Raju Barua, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhary, vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi and two other leaders — Mithinga Daimary and Bhimakanta Burha-gohain — have already got bail.

Peace talks with the separatist leaders may give a political boost to Congress party — which has been ruling Assam for the past ten years — before the Assembly elections. —Banglanews

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