Better late than never
The General Secretary of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), Anup Chetia had been on the run and missing for the last 18 years. For almost two decades, as this man boasted of a successful escape, neighbouring countries got a bad name for providing secret asylum to this wanted individual. However, the 18-year wait has finally come to an end as Chetia has finally been handed over to the authorities in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the Bangladesh police. Chetia, whose original name was Golap Baruah, along with Paresh Baruah and many others in the year 1979, had founded the ULFA. Their argument was that Assam was never originally a part of India and carried on armed insurgency within the state in order to achieve a free socialist state of Assam. Chetia is wanted for various crimes by the Assam Police which include that of abduction, murder and extortion among many others. In 1997, Chetia was also under arrest in Bangladesh when the police there had arrested him for entering the country and living there without any valid documentation. For this offence, the courts in Bangladesh had also sentenced him to 7-year imprisonment.
During his term, he had appealed for political asylum on a number of occasions, repeated in 2005, 2008, and 2011. It was also discovered that Chetia and other members of the ULFA were involved in a number of commercial ventures within Bangladesh that involved luxury hotels, clinics, soft drink manufacturing factories etc. Throughout his tenure in jail the Indian Government kept demanding the return of Chetia but the Bangladeshi Government kept refusing till the address the asylum plea by the culprit. This also created a rift between the two countries. It was only during this current Sheikh Hasina Government that Bangladesh adopted a zero-tolerance policy on terrorist activities on their soil. They also had a mutual discussion with India where both countries agreed to act against insurgency on each other’s territory, and the handing over of Chetia marks a new beginning. Way back in 2013, there was an extradition treaty being signed by the two Governments where the countries had mutually accepted on giving control over each other’s prisoners that had been jailed in the two countries for over a period of 12 months; the only exception being political criminals on an asylum plea. However, it is also believed that Hasina has accepted in trading Chetia back in exchange for two Bangladeshi prisoners in India which the Indian Government wasn’t too keen on. While the return of Chetia to India remains a positive sign, it still unclear how India plans to use Chetia in order to track down other insurgents within the country. The north east as everyone knows is home to insurgency now especially with the Chinese also making inroads. Chetia’s intelligence may prove useful.