Bangladesh is likely to deport jailed ULFA leader Anup Chetia to India as he sought his repatriation along with two other detained members of the outfit after languishing 16 years in jail,officials said here today.
“Wait (and see),” Home Minister Mahiuddin Khan Alamgir told PTI without elaborating as asked exactly when Chetia was expected to be deported. But a Home Ministry official preferring anonymity said the United Asom Liberation Front (ULFA) leader was shifted to Kashimpur Central Jail on the outskirts of Dhaka yesterday as his petition was being reviewed for necessary actions.
The ULFA’s founder general secretary sought political asylum in Bangladesh thrice in 2005,2008 and in 2011 after Bangladesh police arrested him in December 1997 and was subsequently handed down seven years of jail terms by two courts for cross-border intrusion,carrying fake passports and illegally keeping foreign currencies.
Despite the expiry of his term,Chetia was in jail under a 2003 High Court directive asking authorities to keep him in safe custody until a decision was taken on his asylum plea. But a senior prison official earlier told PTI that Chetia has expressed his willingness to return to India and we have forwarded his petition to our home ministry for consideration”.
He said Chetia,who was kept at a “division ward” meant for socially privileged inmates under jail code,also wanted repatriation of two other detained ULFA leaders Laxmiprasad Goswami and Babul Sharma – lodged in a separate prison. Chetia’s repatriation prayer came as media reports said that most ULFA leaders preferred a negotiation with Indian authorities after decades of armed conflict for self-rule.
Bangladesh in January this year had signed an extradition treaty with New Delhi mutually agreeing to deport wanted “criminals” hiding or lodged in jails in each other’s country. Under the agreement,only persons with charges like murders,culpable homicide and other serious offenses would come under the purview of the deal while offenders of small crimes awarded with imprisonment for less than one year will also not be wanted under the treaty.
The Home Minister at that time,however,said Chetia’s issue was pending for a judicial decision as he sought Supreme Court intervention after Dhaka rejected his petition seeking asylum in Bangladesh following arrest in 1997. Alamgir also cited the provision of keeping political asylum seekers out of the purview of the treaty and added that once the Supreme Court directive was issued the government would take an appropriate decision.
Bangladesh in September last year said it decided to return Chetia,long been sought by India,and the home ministry was examining the legal options for his return. “Take it,the procedure is underway,” Alamgir had said. A Bangladesh court earlier issued an arrest warrant against fugitive ULFA’s armed wing chief Paresh Barua to face a trial in a case related to a 2004 weapon haul when the outfit tried to smuggle 10 truck loads of weapons to their hideouts through Bangladesh territory.
Several other ULFA stalwarts including its chief Arbind Rajkhowa were reportedly arrested in Bangladesh and subsequently were handed over to India in recent years but Dhaka did not officially confirm it.