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April 9, 1998


ULFA vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi arrested in Calcutta

The West Bengal police arrested outlawed United Liberation Front of Assam vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi, wanted for his key role in arming the insurgents and other grave crimes, from New Market area in central Calcutta on Wednesday night.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Branch) Rajit Pachnanda said the arrest took place at Lindsay Street around 2215 hours. Acting on a tipoff from the army, sleuths from the Calcutta police's special branch laid a trap for the ULFA leader and apprehended him. Gogoi had spent two nights at Howrah station before entering the city.

Pachnanda said the special branch officials laid the trap when Gogoi came to Lindsey Street to meet a friend, and that the Assam police had been informed of his arrest.

The DCP said Gogoi was currently being interrogated. ''There are a number of charges against him,'' he added. Gogoi, who was produced before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate D Pal on Thursday, has been remanded to police custody till April 21.

Public prosecutor Krishna Chandra Das said the Assam police had five charges, including two under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, against the ULFA leader and prayed for remanding Gogoi to police custody to facilitate further interrogation. Gogoi prayed for medical treatment, complaining of pain in his shoulder and wrists.

CMM Pal then directed the city police to make necessary arrangements for his medical treatment.

A report from Guwahati said an Assam police team will arrive in Calcutta on Friday to take Gogoi back to Guwahati for trial.

Gogoi was allegedly responsible for clinching arms deals with foreign agencies. He was reported to be a guest of the Pakistan government from March to December 1991. He has also been charged with involvement in a series of armed robberies, bomb blasts and the killing of a large number of people.

The 43-year-old terrorist, a college dropout, hails from Betabari Mouthgaon in Sibsagar district. He joined ULFA soon after the militant outfit was formed.

Sources said Gogoi's arrest was a blow to the underground organisation, and it comes on the heels of the ULFA raising day on April 7.

Gogoi is the second ULFA leader to be arrested from Calcutta. Earlier, ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia was arrested from a guest house in south Calcutta five years ago.

Official sources said Calcutta had virtually become a sanctuary for terrorists from different parts of the country.

On a number of occasions in the past, the police had arrested Kashmiri and Punjabi terrorists from different parts of the city.

A report from intelligence officials in north Bengal said the banned outfit was found to be running an arms training camp in the jungles of Jalpaiguri district a year ago. An ULFA militant was arrested in the district last year.

The report said Bodo and ULFA militants were also responsible for a number of deaths in north Bengal in the past few years.

In New Delhi, the Union home ministry played down Gogoi's arrest, and explained it as part of the government crackdown on the militant organisation.

"There is nothing unusual about his arrest. He was arrested earlier, but he jumped bail in 1996. Ever since, he has been a wanted man," G K Pillai, joint secretary in charge of the North-East at the home ministry, told Rediff On The NeT.

"ULFA is a banned organisation, as and when its office-bearers are tracked down they will be arrested," home ministry officials asserted.

The home ministry is awaiting extradition proceedings to begin in Bangladesh to bring Anup Chetia back to India. Chetia, who jumped bail in Calcutta, was arrested in Dhaka in January.

"As long as Chetia is in jail in Dhaka we are happy. Now it is for the Bangladeshi authorities to complete the legal formalities. We have not fixed any time-frame, but hope to finish the formalities soon," says Pillai.

Interestingly, Gogoi's arrest comes only a couple days after Fernandes toured the North-East and made conciliatory gestures to ULFA.

UNI, Rajesh Ramachandran in New Delhi

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