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Assam unveils Ulfa leaders caught in Bangladesh

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By Staff Reporter in Guwahati
  • Published 7.11.09
Chitrabon Hazarika (left) and Sasha Choudhury in Guwahati on Saturday. Eastern Projections

Guwahati, Nov. 7: Assam police today produced in court Ulfa leaders Chitrabon Hazarika and Sasha Choudhury, partly taking the veil off an undeclared operation that began unfolding earlier this week across the border in Bangladesh.

The special operations unit of Assam police booked Hazarika, the “finance secretary” of the outfit, and Choudhury, its “foreign secretary,” on charges of possessing illegal arms and cash. The case was registered with the unit in 1998. Kamrup chief judicial magistrate Robin Phukan remanded the two to 10 days’ police custody.

Ulfa has called a 12-hour Assam bandh on Monday demanding that the two leaders be produced before the media.

Choudhury told reporters on the court premises that they had not surrendered and expressed ignorance about the identity of the persons who had detained them in Bangladesh. They were handed over to Assam police on Thursday, Choudhury said.

Mori jam kintu Sasha Choudhuryea surrender nokore (Sasha Choudhury will rather die than surrender),” Choudhury said in reply to a question on the circumstances of his “arrest”.

The grey-haired duo, looking older than their years (both are in their late forties) appeared relaxed, showing little sign of strain. They were later taken to an undisclosed location in a police bus.

Advocate B.K. Mahajan, who represented the Ulfa leaders in the court, quoted the police as saying the duo were detained by the BSF when they tried to “infiltrate” through Tripura on the night of November 4.

“The BSF, accordingly, summoned the spotters of Assam police. They identified the Ulfa leaders and the BSF handed over the duo to Assam police on November 6,” he said.

Sources, however, said the Ulfa leaders told the court that they were picked up by the Bangladeshi agencies on November 1 and later pushed back into India by the authorities there.

Choudhury said he had no idea of the whereabouts of Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua and chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa. He also denied that Ulfa had links with the LTTE and the ISI.

Asked about the outfit’s future plans, Choudhury said: “We will carry on with our struggle for an independent Asom. There is no question of sitting for talks.”

In a statement hours before the duo were produced in the court, Rajkhowa demanded that the two leaders be produced before the media immediately to avoid the situation that followed an operation in Bhutan. Ulfa had alleged that several cadres had gone missing after that operation which Indian forces had launched with the co-operation of Bhutan.

Rajkhowa said armed, unidentified persons from Bangladesh had abducted the two leaders on November 1 midnight.

The Ulfa chairman added that the detention of the two leaders was an “evil design” of the “forces in India” who were out to confuse the outfit’s rank and file that were fighting for the freedom of the Assamese people.

Echoing Rajkhowa, Hazarika told reporters that their detention was a conspiracy hatched by the “forces of India”.

Earlier in the day, chief minister Tarun Gogoi confirmed that the two Ulfa leaders were in the custody of Assam police and that the law would take its own course. But he iterated that the door for talks was still open.

Hazarika and Choudhury were pushed back into Indian territory through the Tripura sector on Wednesday by the Bangladeshi authorities as it was the only option because the countries have no extradition treaty.

Anup Chetia, the Ulfa general secretary arrested in Bangladesh in 1997, continues to languish in a Dhaka jail as he could not be deported because of the absence of such a treaty.

The two Ulfa leaders were kept in the Gokulnagar camp of the BSF in Tripura before being handed over to Assam police. With the two in police custody, the banned outfit is left with only three known senior leaders — Arabinda Rajkhowa, Paresh Barua and his deputy Raju Barua.