Friday, December 19, 2008

ULFA leader Anup Chetia seeks political asylum

NAVA THAKURIA

AS NEW Delhi starts talking tough on Dhaka regarding the terror issues, the banned Indian armed group leaders, who are taking shelter in Bangladesh, have foreseen a difficult time ahead. After the Mumbai terror attacks in November, which aroused unprecedented public anger against the terrorists as well as the authority, the new Indian Union Home minister P. Chidambaram echoed the sentiment of the people with strongest words in the Parliament.

The leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom, who reportedly run training camps inside Bangladesh, predicted the outcome and hence they went for engaging the United Nation's refugee rights body to pursue for their jailed leader Anup Chetia. Apprehending the India's next course of actions to be tougher, the General Secretary of ULFA recently appealed for the political asylum in a safe country. Anup had written to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on December 7 urging for refugee status and political asylum. Besides Anup, who had been inside bar in Dhaka for a decade, his solicitor Muhammad Abdus Sattar also sent a letter to the Representative of UNHCR Bangladesh Office in Dhaka asking for intervention. Both the letters have been included in the December 15 issue of the ULFA's electronic fortnightly mouthpiece 'Freedom'.

Mentionable that, answering the questions from the Parliamentarians in the Lok Sabha on December 16, the Home minister commented, "A message must go that Bangladesh is duty-bound to honour its commitment and assurances." Asserting that the ministry had information regarding the presence of Indian insurgents in Bangladesh soil, Chidambaram stressed on Dhaka's prompt actions against Northeastern insurgents, who were operating from the neighbouring country.

Chidambaram also commented that Bangladesh must realise that it would only be hurting itself in the long run if it did not share a good relationship with India and its borders with India were not secure. He also added that the ULFA and other insurgent groups had been working with the Bangladeshi terror outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) to continue disrupting activities in Assam and other parts of Northeast.

The ULFA leader Anup described, in his letter to António Guterres, head of the Geneva based UNHCR, as being held at Kashimpur Jail in the outskirts of Dhaka. He pleaded that he was 'no longer a convict to be held in a jail' as, Anup argued that he had completed seven years of imprisonment for entering Bangladesh illegally carrying foreign currencies and a satellite phone.

He also repeated declaring the aim of ULFA to restore Sovereignty of Assam (meaning a Swadhin Asom out of India). As this is in direct conflict with the Government of India's policy of national integrity, Anup argued, he became an enemy of New Delhi. Eventually the organisation was proscribed and the Indian Army operations were launched against ULFA resulting in deaths of many of its cadres, Anup stated.

Disclosing about his birth at Jerai Gaon in Tinisukia of Assam, Anup, whose real name is Golap Barua, added, "I was arrested in India and was mercilessly tortured and finding my life was in danger I escaped using a ploy with the Indian authorities. Since then I have been trying to avoid capture by the Indian authorities."

India has seriously been pressurising Bangladesh government from the very beginning of my arrest in this country to hand me over to the Indian authority, Anup said adding that he had already denounced his Indian Nationality. More over there is no extradition treaty between India and Bangladesh, which inspires Dhaka has so far rejected New Delhi request to hand over him.

Apprehending his life 'will not be safe soon after his release from the prison', Anup urged for his safety and appealed for intervention by the UNHCR Bangladesh Office to grant him 'a refugee status and political asylum'. Anup claimed that the 'long ten years and eight months in Bangladesh prison has taken its toll' and he was 'craving for a normal existence'.

Meanwhile the letter addressed to Pia Pyrtz Phiri, the Bangladesh Representative of UNHCR, by his advocate Muhammad Abdus Sattar termed Anup as a 'Freedom Fighter', whose life was under threat as Dhaka might extradite him to India. Apprehending his possible handing over to Indian authorities, Anup applied for political asylum to Bangladesh government. The government in Dhaka summarily rejected his prayer, following which a Bangladeshi human rights organisation filed a writ petition to the Supreme Court (of Bangladesh) against that rejection, the advocate elaborated.

The apex court issued a 'Rule to Bangladesh Government that why Anup Chetia shouldn't be given the asylum and the Rule not yet been disposed of'. The case is pending in the court, said Sattar adding, "Without considering the legal and political status of my client Anup Chetia, I came to know that there is a covert move possibly emanated from the terrible pressure created by Indian Government, the Bangladesh authority is preparing to hand over Anup Chetia to Indian authority very soon."

Mr Sattar concluded his letter saying, "Considering the gravity of the situation I should earnestly solicit your kind, effective and swift intervention so that Anup Chetia is not handed over to Indian authorities and would request you further to take trouble to arrange his asylum in any possible country to save his life." #

Nava Thakuria is a journalist based in Guwahati, India. He specialises on North-East India riddled with militancy and insurgency. He could be reached by:
navathakuria@gmail.com