Top United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) leader Golap Barua alias Anup Chetia, the second fugitive after underworld don Chhota Rajan to be deported to India this month, may not be able to participate in the peace talks with the Centre on November 24.
But his return, 23 years after fleeing to Bangladesh, is expected to boost the peace process.
Chetia, 58, is the Ulfa’s general secretary and is closely related to Paresh Barua, the chief of the anti-talks Ulfa (Independent) that refuses to negotiate peace unless the government has sovereignty of Assam on the agenda.
Chetia spent almost 16 years in captivity in Bangladesh since 1997 and his request for political asylum there was turned down thrice. In 2013, he wrote to the Bangladesh government saying he wanted to go home (India).
On Tuesday, Bangladeshi authorities handed over Chetia to a CBI team in Meghalaya on the India-Bangladesh border. The CBI arrested Chetia in connection with a murder case in Assam. The agency has been granted six days custody of him, on expiry of which he is likely to be handed over to Assam police.
“The procedural formalities needed for him to participate as an Ulfa delegate might not be completed in time for the November 24 talks,” a top government official said, seeking anonymity. Central agencies are also expected to question Chetia before he is handed over to the Assam Police.
“Chetia’s arrival is good news for the peace process. We hope his involvement will give a final shape to an agreement,” Pradip Gogoi, Ulfa vice chairman, said.
Security officials said Chetia was kept informed about the content of the talks in Bangladesh, but he has not made his stand — whether he would pursue peace or side with cousin Paresh Barua — clear. Assam DGP Khagen Sarma, however, said Chetia’s return would deal a psychological blow to the anti-talks faction.
Politically, the BJP is expected to play up the Chetia episode during the upcoming assembly election. Local party leaders lost no time in pointing out how Prime Minister Narendra Modi succeeded in 18 months where predecessor Manmohan Singh could not in 10 years.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi retaliated by saying it was an outcome of an effort initiated years ago by the Congress government.