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  Asia-Pacific
ULFA Leader Appeals UNHCR for Political Asylum
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
ULFA Weapons
Indian Army displays weapons taken from United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) rebels in Gauhati, India. ULFA rebels have been fighting since 1979 for an independent homeland in India's northeastern Assam state. The militant group was banned and classified as a terrorist group by Indian government in 1990 whereas the US State Department lists it under "Other groups of concern."

As New Delhi starts talking tough on Dhaka regarding the terror issues, the banned Indian armed leaders, who are taking shelter in Bangladesh, have foreseen a difficult time ahead. Soon after the Mumbai terror attacks in November, which aroused unprecedented public anger against the terrorists as well as the authority, the new Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram echoed the sentiment of the people with strongest words in the Parliament. The leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom predicted the outcome and hence they went for engaging the international refugee rights body to pursue for their jailed leader Anup Chetia. Apprehending the India's next course of actions to be more tough, the General Secretary of ULFA recently appealed for asylum in a safe country (including Bangladesh).

Anup had written to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on December 7 urging for refugee status and political asylum. Besides Anup, who had been inside bar in Dhaka for a decade, his solicitor Muhammad Abdus Sattar also sent a letter to the Representative of UNHCR Bangladesh Office in Dhaka asking for intervention. Both the letters have been included in the latest issue of ULFA's electronic mouthpiece 'Freedom.'

Taking part in the lower house of Parliament on December 16, the Home minister commented, "A message must go that Bangladesh is duty-bound to honour its commitment and assurances." Asserting that the ministry had information regarding the presence of Indian insurgents in Bangladesh soil, Chidambaram stressed on Dhaka's actions against Northeast Indian insurgents, who were operating from the neighbouring country.

Chidambaram also commented that Bangladesh must realise that it would only be hurting itself in the long run if it did not share a good relationship with India and its borders with India were not secure. He also added that the ULFA and other insurgent groups had been working with the Bangladeshi terror outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) to continue disrupting activities in Assam and other parts of Northeast.

Addressing António Guterres, head of the Geneva based UNHCR, Anup described as being held at Kashimpur Jail in the outskirts of Dhakal. He pleaded that he was 'no longer a convict to be held in a jail' as, Anup argued, "I completed my seven years of imprisonment for entering Bangladesh illegally carrying foreign currencies and a satellite phone.

He also repeated declaring the aim of ULFA to form a Swadhin Asom (Sovereign Assam) out of India. As this is in direct conflict with the Indian Government's aggressive policy of so-called national integrity, I became an enemy of the Indian Government. Eventually the organisation was proscribed and the Indian Army operations were launched against my organisation resulting in deaths of many of the members of our organisation, Anup stated. Disclosing about his birth at Jerai Gaon in Tinisukia of Assam, Anup, whose real name is Golap Barua, added, "I was arrested in India and was mercilessly tortured and finding my life was in danger I escaped using a ploy with the Indian authorities. Since then I have been trying to avoid capture by the Indian authorities."

India has seriously been pressurising Bangladesh government from the very beginning of my arrest in this country to hand me over to them. But as I have denounced my Indian Nationality and there is no extradition treaty between the two countries, have so far been the rejected India's request.

Apprehending his life 'will not be safe soon after his release from the prison', Anup urged for his safety and appealed for intervention by the UNHCR Bangladesh Office to grant him 'a refugee status and political asylum.' Anup claimed that the 'long ten years and eight months in Bangladesh prison has taken its toll' and he was 'craving for a normal existence.'

Meanwhile the letter addressing Pia Pyrtz Phiri, the Bangladesh Representative of UNHCR, from his advocate Muhammad Abdus Sattar termed Anup as a 'Freedom Fighter', whose life was under threat as Dhaka might extradite him to India. "Apprehending his possible handing over to Indian authorities he (Anup) applied for political asylum to Bangladesh government. Bangladesh government while summarily rejected his prayer a human rights organisation in Bangladesh filed a writ petition to Bangladesh Supreme Court against that rejection," the advocate informed.

The apex court of Bangladesh issued a 'Rule to Bangladesh Government that why Anup Chetia shouldn't be given the asylum and the Rule not yet been disposed of.' The case is pending in the court, said Sattar adding, "Without considering the legal and political status of my client Anup Chetia, I came to know that there is a covert move possibly emanated from the terrible pressure created by Indian Government, the Bangladesh authority is preparing to hand over Anup Chetia to Indian authority very soon."



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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at navathakuria@gmail.com

 

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