Top ULFA leader Anup Chetia, a fugitive for over two decades, was on Wednesday handed over to India by Bangladesh, a significant development that comes close on the heels of deportation of Mumbai underworld don Chhota Rajan from Indonesia.
48-year-old Chetia, the founder general secretary of the banned United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), is wanted for killings, abductions, bank robberies and extortion activities.
The insurgent leader, whose original name is Golap Barua, was handed over by Bangladesh to Indian officials this morning at the personal intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and through active involvement of NSA Ajit Doval, highly-placed sources told news agency PTI in New Delhi.
India had been repeatedly demanding Chetia’s deportation for over two decades but successive governments in Bangladesh had been refusing to cooperate citing non-existence of an Extradition Treaty.
The Sheikh Hasina government finally decided to repatriate him following a written application from Chetia that he was “keen to return to India”, the sources said.
“The decision was personally taken by Sheikh Hasina in line with her policy of not allowing anti-India forces to operate from Bangladeshi soil,” the sources said.
The significant development comes days after the deportation to India of Chhota Rajan, one of country’s most-wanted criminals who was on the run for 27 years.
Chetia was in Bangladesh ever since he fled India in early 1990s. He had been arrested in March 1991 but the then Assam Chief Minister Hiteshwar Saikia released him from jail, following which he fled from India, official sources said.
Significantly, Chetia had been arrested in Bangladesh on December 21, 1997 during Hasina’s first term as Prime Minister. He had been arrested by Dhaka police under the Foreigners’ Act and Passports Act and charged with unlawful entry into Bangladesh, besides for carrying illegal foreign currencies, firearms and satellite phone.
Chetia had been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. However, on completion of the jail term, he preferred not to be released and sought political asylum. He remained in jail under a 2003 High Court directive asking Bangladesh authorities to keep him in safe custody until a decision was taken on his asylum plea.
“Although his asylum application was turned down, successive Bangladesh governments had been reluctant to repatriate him to India even after all legal hurdles were removed,” the sources said.
Even while being in jail, he maintained regular touch with ULFA chief Paresh Barua and other top leaders through his wife Rani Akhtar alias Monica.
Chetia had sought political asylum in Bangladesh thrice in 2005, 2008 and in 2011. He had also petitioned the UN and other international organisations to grant him asylum abroad, claiming that his life would be in danger if he was sent back to India.
In 2008, he had also appealed to the UNHCR seeking refugee status and political asylum in Bangladesh or in any other safe country, preferably Australia or New Zealand.