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Ulfa chief in China arms shop - 'Abducted' duo in Dhaka hands: Indian officials

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By NISHIT DHOLABHAI WITH INPUTS FROM OUR GUWAHATI BUREAU in Delhi
  • Published 5.11.09
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New Delhi, Nov. 5: Ulfa chief Paresh Barua is in China to strike an arms deal with a Chinese company, home ministry sources have said.

Barua is in Yunan province in southern China but may later leave for a major industrial city to meet his contacts in the company, known for its high-tech defence products, the sources said.

The Ulfa commander-in-chief had visited Yunan last year too and this is his third visit to China in two years, the ministry officials said. They added that Barua was engaged in gun-running in Bangladesh besides plotting terror attacks in Assam.

Barua had also been accused of having links with the now-defeated Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. Documents found in Assam showed “Ulfa paid Rs 2.3 million to the LTTE towards purchase of weapons”, an Indian army commander was quoted as saying on the official website of the Sri Lankan defence ministry last month.

Barua’s alleged trip to China, whose government is not known to support or control his actions, comes at a time Bangladesh, a safe haven for Ulfa for years, may have kicked off some action against the group’s brass.

Indian home ministry sources said Ulfa foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury and finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika, who apparently vanished from their Dhaka residence this week, had been arrested by Bangladesh authorities. They claimed that Barua too would be arrested if and when he returned to Bangladesh.

Dhaka apparently plans to crack down on Indian insurgent groups in Bangladesh in the run-up to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s likely visit to India next month.

“The next targets are Paresh Barua and (Ulfa chairman) Arabinda Rajkhowa, along with others like Ranjan Daimary of the National Democratic Front of Boroland and Jeevan Singh of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation,” a source said.

If that happens in the near future, Barua will have been apprehended after almost 20 years in Bangladesh. For most of these years, Dhaka had refused to acknowledge the presence of northeastern militant leaders on Bangladeshi soil.

Since last year, however, there have been joint efforts by the border forces of both countries to contain militancy and catch their leaders. Dhaka apparently wants to repay New Delhi for its co-operation during the crisis last year, when the BSF had shown extreme restraint as the Bangladesh Rifles and the Bangladesh army fought each other.

Ulfa, however, has appealed to Dhaka to reveal the whereabouts of Sasha and Chitrabon, even hinting that Indian agents may have abducted the duo.

The families of the two Ulfa leaders today said they were considering moving court to ascertain their whereabouts. Prosen Choudhury, brother of Sasha, and Chakra Hazarika, brother of Chitrabon, said their families were not aware of anything except what had appeared in the media.

Prosen said the Choudhurys would wait for the Centre to clarify matters. “If the government says it knows nothing, then we will plead before the court to ask the external affairs ministry to make inquiries about their whereabouts,” Prosen said.

“After all, my brother is an Indian citizen and we must know the facts in view of the reports that have appeared,” he said.

Chakra, a businessman based in Nagaon, Assam, said: “We have consulted lawyers and, if required, we will move New Delhi too. We are absolutely confused with these (media) reports.”

An email purportedly sent last evening by Raju Barua, Ulfa’s military spokesman, had said Sasha and Chitrabon had been taken away by unknown people from a house in Sector 3 in Dhaka’s Uttara locality.

Raju had appealed to Prime Minister Hasina “to take up the issue as a concern of sovereignty and security of Bangladesh and resolve the issue amicably with India, if they have indeed been abducted to the other side of the border”.