GUWAHATI: Assam origin Dr Mukul Hazarika alias Abhijeet Asom now based in north-east England, appearing before the District Judge Michael Snow at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on May 16 contested his extradition to India on a terror charge as the alleged chairman of the United Liberation Front of Asom –Independent (ULFA-I).
He completed his MBBS from Gauhati Medical College in 1972 and migrated to the UK immediately after that.
Hazarika alias Abhijeet Asom allegedly made a speech to “assembled cadres” to encourage an armed struggle for a separate sovereign Assam at a camp in Myanmar in 2016.
75-five-year old Dr Hazarika belongs to Kaliabor in Central Assam’s Nagaon district and is now a general practitioner (GP) at County Durham.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) sought his extradition to India for his involvement in the banned outfit.
Dr Hazarika has been charged with organising terrorist camps and recruiting cadres for terrorism as part of his membership of the terror outfit.
Appearing on behalf of the Indian government, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) barrister Ben Lloyd informed the court, “In essence, he is charged with waging or attempting to wage war, or abetting the waging of war, against the government of India, which is a terrorist act.”
Dr Hazarika had been interrogated several times by UK government agencies in London over the past couple of years following an extradition request by the Indian government.
Both the countries have an extradition treaty inked in 1992, which means that he could be sent to India without being arrested.
A source claimed that the extradition of the chairperson was almost ‘certain’ after the completion of the legal formalities in the UK.
A charge sheet was filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) at an NIA court in Guwahati in 2017 against Hazarika, chief of the armed wing Paresh Baruah and another functionary Gagan Hazarika. It was submitted after a case was registered on the basis of an order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Both Gagan Hazarika and Baruah were declared ‘absconders’ by the court.
Dr Hazarika was charged under Sections 18, 18A, 18B and 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Sections 121A and 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The charge sheet alleged that ULFA(I) had been making serious efforts to revive terrorist activities by recruiting new cadres, organising camps, and training sessions and raising funds through extortions and kidnappings with the goal to wage a war against the government.
In all likelihood, Baruah knew that the chairperson would land in trouble which was why he issued a press release early in September declaring Dr Hazarika as a ‘fictitious character’ who never existed. He told a journalist on the phone that the photograph of Dr Avijit Asom that had been circulated and published was of Dr Mukul Hazarika, who is a doctor by profession and a human rights activist.
The press release was issued three days after ULFA(I)’s organisational structure was revamped which Dr Hazarika did not find mentioned in the list of officer bearers. Baruah made himself the president of the ‘supreme council’ above two more committees.
Hazarika had already started campaigning for ULFA at some global forums in Europe even before he came into contact with the outfit’s general secretary Anup Chetia in 1995. The occasion of the meeting was the UN-sponsored World Summit for Social Development at Copenhagen, held during 6-12 March, where Chetia participated as an environmental activist from Bangladesh.
Subsequently, Dr Hazarika’s links with ULFA were strengthened after he introduced the outfit to an NGO called Liberation and helped it to secure membership with some other organisations in Europe. The campaign at these forums was severely weakened after ULFA abducted Sanjoy Ghose from Majuli, which provoked sharp reactions among different organisations across several countries. Ghose disappeared never to be traced again.
Dr Hazarika’s association with ULFA was not known to many people until 2011 when he shot into prominence as Dr Avijit Asom as the acting chairperson of the independent or anti-talks faction led by Baruah. Two years later, he was appointed chairperson of the group after Arabinda Rajkhowa was expelled ,. In 2016, Dr Hazarika visited ULFA(I)’s council mobile headquarters in Myanmar’s Taga and interacted with the leaders of rebel outfits of Manipur. A photograph of him delivering a lecture at the camp was also published by the media.