ULFA leaders deny surrendering, sent to 10-day police custody
Two senior leaders of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) - Sasha Choudhury and Chitraban Hazarika - were Saturday remanded to police custody for 10 days even as both claimed they had not surrendered and would not sit for peace talks with the government.india Updated: Nov 07, 2009 17:34 IST
Two senior leaders of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) - Sasha Choudhury and Chitraban Hazarika - were Saturday remanded to police custody for 10 days even as both claimed they had not surrendered and would not sit for peace talks with the government.
The two leaders were produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate's court in Guwahati after they were flown in by a special army helicopter accompanied by Assam police officials from the Gokul Nagar Border Security Force (BSF) outpost in Tripura, bordering Bangladesh.
Choudhury is known as the ULFA 'foreign secretary' and Hazarika as the 'finance secretary'.
"Choudhury and Hazarika surrendered before BSF officials in Tripura and after that we brought them here. Since a number of criminal cases were pending in various police stations, we arrested the duo and forwarded them to the court," Assam police chief Shankar Baruah told journalists.
"There will be a thorough interrogation and investigations into all the cases."
But the two ULFA leaders told journalists while being taken to court that they had not surrendered.
"The question of surrendering simply does not arise. We don't know who actually arrested us from Bangladesh and then brought us here. We shall never sit for peace talks with the government under the prevailing circumstances," Choudhury told journalists outside the court.
Hazarika said: "This is a big conspiracy on the part of the Indian government in getting us arrested and the talk about us surrendering is a big lie."
There were earlier reports that the duo was arrested by Special Branch sleuths of Bangladesh Police on the intervening night of Nov 1 and Nov 2 from downtown Dhaka.
"The two ULFA leaders were handed over by Bangladesh Police to Indian intelligence officials who in turn brought the duo to Gokul Nagar and made them surrender before BSF officials for technical reasons as India and Bangladesh do not have an extradition treaty," an official told IANS requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile, ULFA has called for a general strike Monday for 12 hours beginning 6 a.m.
"We have called for a total shutdown across Assam demanding the immediate release of our two leaders," ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said in a statement e-mailed to IANS.
There are also reports that Indian intelligence agencies have already convinced the two ULFA leaders to revive the deadlocked peace process with the top militant leadership.
"First we shall have to interrogate and investigate their cases and then only the issue of holding talks would come. As I have been saying, doors for peace talks with the ULFA are open, but they should first shun the path of violence and surrender their weapons," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told journalists Saturday.
There are also reports of Bangladesh stepping up its offensive against ULFA leaders holed up in that country.
"We have information that even the family members of ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah's wife were kept under surveillance by Bangladesh Police in Dhaka," the official said.
Paresh Baruah, according to intelligence agencies, had fled Bangladesh about a month ago and is now in China's Yunnan Province, while Rajkhowa had shifted base from Dhaka and is hiding in some secret location in Bangladesh.
India has repeatedly claimed that separatist militants in its northeastern states were operating out of bases in Bangladesh with several of their leaders staying in safe houses in Dhaka.
Bangladesh had earlier denied such allegations. But the Awami League government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has assured New Delhi of its cooperation in evicting Indian separatists from Bangladesh.
Last month, Bangladeshi State Home Minister Shamsul Haque Tuku was quoted as saying that the government had directed the law enforcement agencies to crack down on ULFA bases in view of intelligence reports that the group was planning major strikes in Dhaka.
Amal Das, a senior ULFA leader, was arrested by security forces in Dhaka last month as part of a crackdown, media reports from Bangladesh said.
ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia has been imprisoned in Bangladesh since 1997 due to the absence of any extradition agreement between the two countries, despite Delhi's repeated appeals to hand him over for trial in India.