Two Indian Separatist Leaders Sentenced in Bangladesh

By Kamran Reza Chowdhury
150409-BD-IN-ulfa-cadres-620 A United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) cadre guards a camp in Tinsukia district, in the northeast Indian state of Assam, June 27, 2008.

A court in Bangladesh this week sentenced two leaders of a northeast Indian militant group to life in prison for using Bangladeshi territory to stage cross-border attacks.

On Wednesday, Judge Md. Mahbub-ul-Islam of the sessions court in Kishoreganj district handed life sentences to United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leader Ranjan Chowdhury (also known as Major Ranjan) and his associate, Pradi Marak, following their convictions on terrorism and illegal weapons charges. ULFA is a separatist group fighting for the Indian state of Assam to break away from the Indian union.

“The charges were proved beyond reasonable doubt,” the judge said in reading the verdict out to the two defendants, who were present.

Five years ago Chowdhury and Marak were caught on Bangladeshi soil by the country’s elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

“Both are senior officials in ULFA and they had been using Bangladeshi territory for years to carry out guerrilla war in the Indian state of Assam before they were arrested with arms and explosives,” Agence France-Presse quoted public prosecutor Shah Azizul Haque as saying.

In addition to the weapons and terrorism charges, the two were prosecuted for possessing explosives and entering the country illegally, he said.

“This judgment demonstrates that Bangladesh is committed to curbing terrorism of all sorts and against its friendly neighbor, India,” Aziz added.

Their trial opened in February 2013.

According to a summary of the charges, a RAB unit arrested Chowdhury and Marak along the Dhaka-Sylhet highway near Laxmipur in Bhairab, a subdistrict of Kishoreganj, on July 17, 2010.

The militants tried to escape but RAB personnel arrested them and seized four grenades, a pistol, a revolver, and four rounds of ammunition in their possession.

Dismantling cross-border havens

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi authorities have stepped up efforts to prevent northeastern Indian militants from crossing into Bangladesh and establishing sanctuaries there, Anwar Hossain Khan, Kishoreganj district superintendent of police, told BenarNews.

“We have increased our intelligence vigilance to root out the terrorists in line with the government's zero-tolerance for militancy, extremism and violence,” Khan said.

Relations between India and Bangladesh had been strained mainly because of Bangladesh's alleged harboring of anti-India militants active in the seven states of northeastern India.

Bangladesh toughened its stance against cross-border infiltration by Indian separatists after the Awami League government, headed by Sheikh Hasina, came to power in January 2009.

The two nations have signed an extradition treaty for the handover of Anup Chetia, ULFA's general secretary, who was arrested in Bangladesh for illegal entry in 1997.

He now awaits extradition to India after serving a long sentence in Bangladesh.


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