ULFA-I Anup Chetia
ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia

ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia, who is the key negotiator of peace with New Delhi, did not want to come back to India, and had made every effort to get his jail term extended in Bangladesh.

Chetia, who spent 18 years in Bangladesh jail, revealed this on Tuesday at The Fourth Pillar, an interview-based programme hosted by to Northeast Now editor-in-chief, Anirban Roy.

The ULFA leader was arrested on December 21, 1997 in Dhaka.

He said as a strategic move, he had pleaded Bangladesh police to book him under stringent laws so that his release was delayed.

“Initially only one case was registered against me for illegally entering Bangladesh,” Chetia said, adding that he would have been easily released after six months in jail.

Chetia said he was worried that Bangladesh would have handed him over to India after the release from jail.

“I never wanted to get back to India at that stage. So I requested the investigation officer of the Bangladesh police to slap additional charges on me,” he said.

Chetia said he himself informed police about foreign currencies and illegal possession of satellite phone in his hideout at Mohammadpur in Dhaka.

Subsequently, cases were registered against him under multiple sections of the Bangladesh Penal Code (BPC), the Foreigners Act and the Passports Act, and for illegally carrying foreign currencies and a satellite phone.

“In fact, I had requested police to do so,” Chetia said during the interview.

The ULFA leader said he had sought political asylum in Bangladesh and had written to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on December 7, 2008.

“During that time, the Government of India wanted to arrest me and had appointed two officials of Assam police at Dhaka-based Indian High Commission,” he said.

Chetia said New Delhi wanted to arrest him as he had played a key role in maintaining diplomatic relations with different human rights organizations across the globe.

“The way the Government of India was behind me, even chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and ‘military chief’ Paresh Baruah did not face that situation,” Chetia recalled.

Later in 2011, he claimed, he had requested the Bangladesh government to find out ways to send him back to India.

Chetia said the situation in India is conducive now, and that is why he is now negotiating peace with New Delhi.

Speaking on the ongoing peace talks with New Delhi, Chetia said government must have a ‘positive attitude’ for arriving at a consensus.

He said there is every indication that the High Level Committee on Clause 6 of Assam Accord is likely to come up with recommendations soon, and the peace process is likely to head towards a positive direction by April this year.

“We have been given enough indication that the peace process may see a respectable settlement by the Rongali Bihu,” he said.

He said it is a positive sign that there are efforts are now on to include even Paresh Baruah within the ambit of the peace process.

Chetia said Paresh Baruah has expressed his desire to come to the negotiation table only if the issue of sovereignty is included in the agenda of talks.

“I think there should not have any obstacle in discussing sovereignty. Talking on sovereignty does not necessarily mean granting sovereignty,” Chetia said.

He also conceded that the situation in Assam now has changed and ULFA has lost public support to a great extent, and youths are not dedicated enough to join the outfit.

Anirban Pathak

Anirban Pathak is a Senior News Producer of Northeast Now. He can be reached at: anirbanpathak57@gmail.com