New Delhi: Anup Chetia, a top leader of militant group ULFA who had fled India nearly two decades ago, has been handed over to New Delhi by the Bangladesh government reportedly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention.
The 48-year-old founder member and general secretary of the United Liberation Front of Asom was wanted by India in several cases of murder, abduction, bank robberies and extortion. He was handed over to Indian officials this morning.
Chetia was in Bangladesh ever since he fled India in early 1990s. He was arrested by the Bangladesh police in 1997 and sent to jail for seven years for cross-border intrusion, carrying fake passports and illegally keeping foreign currencies. After the expiry of his jail term in 2003, a High Court in Bangladesh asked authorities to keep him in custody till a decision was taken on his asylum plea.
The Indian government was pushing hard for his deportation for over two decades but successive governments in Bangladesh refused to co-operate citing non-existence of an extradition treaty.
Sources say Bangladesh’s Home Minister wanted a “swap deal” seeking return of some criminals Bangladeshi allegedly hiding in India, but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina overruled that to deport Chetia unconditionally.
Sources say he could share crucial details on ULFA’s finances and support base in neighbouring countries. There are indications that he may join peace talks with the government, further isolating ULFA commander Paresh Barua, his cousin, who has refused to be a part of them. ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa had surrendered in 2009 and joined peace talks.
“The PM is very committed to handling such cases so this is an achievement for his government,” he said, Minister for Home Kiren Rijiju said today.
But Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has said that it was his government which continuously demanded the rebel leader’s extradition to help ongoing ULFA peace talks with the central and state governments. He also demanded that Chetia should be handed over to Assam.
“It is we who have been pushing for Chetia’s extradition all along. The people of Assam are intelligent and know that. BJP won’t get any mileage from this,” he said.
A tweet posted on the official account of the prime minister’s office says when PM Modi called Sheikh Hasina on Diwali today, he thanked her “for the help in fighting terrorism.”
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