The pro-talk faction of the banned United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) is optimistic that Anup Chetia, the separatist leader who was extradited from Bangladesh on Wednesday, would join the peace process initiated by the Indian government.
Bangladesh on Wednesday handed over Chetia, whose extradition India has been seeking for nearly two decades.
The pro-talk faction of the ULFA, under the leadership of its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, has already sat in six rounds of talks with the Indian government.
“Chetia’s extradition to India will boost the ‘peace process’ initiated by government of India. He is one of the most influential leaders of Ulfa. Right from the first round of talk, we had been repeatedly requested Govt. of India to bring back Chetia from Bangladesh. He has already expressed his desire to join in the peace talk process for political solution of Assam – India conflict”, said Sashadhar Choudhury , foreign secretary of the outfit.
Chetia (61) whose original name is Golap Barua, is the founder general secretary of the ULFA and is wanted for killings, abductions, bank robberies and extortion.
Choudhury said that he was in touch with Chetia since his involvement would be crucial for reaching a permanent solution for the three decades old problem.
Choudhury was himself arrested in Bangladesh capital in 2009 along with Chitraban Hazarika, finance secretary of the outfit and later both were handed over to India.
The first ULFA – government peace talk was held in early 2011 under the initiative of the then prime minister Manmohan Singh. Since then a few rounds of talk were held with major headway for a solution. ULFA had submitted its ‘Charter of Demands’ to the Indian government.
The pro-talk faction of the outfit had set a list of pre-conditions for the talks, one of them was that Chetia must be present during the negotiations.
On the other hand, the anti-talk faction is led by ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah and was later named ULFA (Independent).
The ULFA (I) had set up its general headquarters in Myanmar with support from Naga insurgent group Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang).
Baruah is one of the key founders of northeast militant outfits’ conglomerate – UNLFWSEA (United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia) to launch separatist – armed struggle against India.
Chetia is a cousin of Baruah and were together instrumental in developing the ULFA, which was formed on April 7, 1979 at Rang-ghar in Sivasagar district of the state.
Chetia was regarded as one of the most trusted leaders in the outfit.
Baruah has desperately tried to foil the Indian government’s moves to bring back Chetia to the country from Bangladesh.
On December 21, 1997, Chetia was arrested in Dhaka under the Foreigners Act and the Passports Act of Bangladesh for illegally carrying foreign currencies and a satellite phone. After completing his seven years imprisonment in Bangladesh jails, he had sought political asylum in Bangladesh thrice in 2005, 2008 and in 2011.
Since his arrest, India was asking the Bangladesh government to hand over Chetia with an aim that he could join other separatist leaders in the peace process.
Indian security agencies were successful in bringing back Chetia’s wife ( Monika Gohain Baruah), son and daughter from Bangladesh earlier this year. They are now in Chetia’s ancestor village Jeraigaon in Dibrugarh district of Assam.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Wednesday expressed hope that Chetia would play an important role in the peace process and said the militant leader should be handed over to the state government.
“We believe that he will play an important role in the talks process. We have been demanding for extradition of Anup Chetia from Bangladesh for fruitful discussion between the government and pro-talk ULFA. It has been a demand of the pro-talk group too,” Gogoi said in a statement.