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Pranati Deka remanded to custody

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BIJOY KUMAR SHARMA   |   Dhubri   |   Published 25.10.03, 12:00 AM

Dhubri, Oct. 25: Ulfa cultural secretary Pranati Deka, arrested by Assam police yesterday in Meghalaya, was today remanded to 14 days’ police custody by the Goalpara chief judicial magistrate.

Deka, her six-year-old ailing son and another Ulfa militant, Bimol Hajong, were picked up from Phulbari area of Meghalaya yesterday.

They were on a bus when the police team, which had been on their trail for nearly seven days, finally caught up with them with the help of Meghalaya police.

The police said Deka was planning to cross over to Bangladesh to join her husband Chitraban Hazarika, who is the finance secretary of the militant group, after getting her son treated in Assam. Deka, her son and Hajong were produced before chief judicial magistrate Jallaluddin Ahmed amid tight security at 12.30 pm today.

Police sources said during initial interrogation, the arrested Ulfa cultural secretary had disclosed that the outfit’s top gun, Benning Rabha, has already crossed over to Bangladesh from the rebel group’s central headquarters in Bhutan. Inspector-general of police (special branch) Khagen Sharma said in Guwahati that Deka had come down from the Ulfa central headquarters in Bhutan nearly a week back.

This is the second time that the Ulfa functionary has been arrested. She was first taken into custody at Mumbai’s Santa Cruz airport in August 1997, a development that sparked a chain of events leading to a much-publicised investigation into the alleged funding of Ulfa activities by Tata Tea.

Deka jumped bail in 1998 and returned to Bhutan along with her son, when he was a year old. The police recovered Rs 41,000 in cash and medicines from Deka, who was masquerading as a Bangladeshi labourer.

She told the police yesterday that she had came down from the Bhutan camp for treatment of her son, who has been suffering from malaria since last month. A pathological report of her son has tested positive for malaria, police sources said.

Chaliha dead

Guwahati, Oct. 25: Dance exponent and folklore expert Pradip Chaliha breathed his last at his Uzanbazar residence late last night, adds our staff reporter. He was 84.

Winner of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, Chaliha was known for his immense contribution to the field of music. He was the first chief secretary of the Lalit Kala Akademi, from which he had retired in 1972.

Chaliha is survived by his wife and son. He was cremated at the Nabagraha crematorium in Guwahati this afternoon.

Apang condoles: Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Gegong Apang has expressed shock on the untimely demise of former deputy speaker and minister Chera Talo, reports PTI from Itanagar.

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