DHAKA: Indian separatist organization United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) seems to have established a sanctuary in the remote Garo Hill areas on the frontier in greater Mymensingh district by setting up training camps for its activists.
Locals said military training has long been going on in those jungle camps, acquiring huge arms and ammunition. Chief commander for the 13 camps Ranjan Chowdhury alias Masud Ranjan Chowdhury had led the campaign until he was arrested recently along with one of his local aides by RAB personnel.
Ranjan, better known as ‘Masud Ranju Chowdhury’ in the backwoods, is now on seven days’ remand in a case filed under the Explosives Act.
The ULFA camps are Gazni Rangaburi Barir camp, Bakakura camp, Bara Gaznir Khrista Barir camp, Tilapara camp, Baliajuri border camp, Nolchapra Nurse Barir camp, Haluaghat Manikura Sushil Drong’s camp, Ramchenga camp, Durgapur Coachpara Tila camp, Robin camp of Sandhyakuri rubber garden, Dhobaura Cangpara Club camp, Panchkahania-Baghmara 2 camp and Hariakona camp of Jamalpur.
While visiting the area, the banglanews24.com.bd reporter came to know about the detail of ULFA and its guerrilla war preparations in their trans-border rendezvous.
The first open camp of ULFA was set up in 2001 under the direct supervision of Ranjan Chowdhury on the premises of the house of Rangaburi at frontier village Gazni in Jhenaigati upazila of Sheprur district.
The setting up of the camp opened up an opportunity of unabated trespass by ULFA armed separatists into the bordering Gazni. Three more camps were set up near Gazni alone where about 300 to 350 ULFA cadres used to stay permanently, either in the camps or the houses of indigenous people.
Alfa Zagir alias Bitu, commander James and commander Ripon alias Shahid are acting as camp commanders.
Bhairab thana OC Shahjahan Kabir told banglanews24.com.bd that Ranjan, during interrogation, gave important information about arms and grenades. “More vigorous interrogation is needed for getting all secrets out about the organisation,” the OC said.
ULFA’s connections with many sensational arms scandals, including the 10-truck arms haul in Chittagong and the recovery of truckload of explosives in Bogra, reportedly came to light through the interrogations. Earlier in 2004, Ranjan Chowdhury was arrested in connection with the Bogra explosives-seizure incident.
This correspondent, who undertook an extensive walkabout through the whole of Garo hills, has gathered many bits and pieces of sensational information about this self-styled commander-in-chief of the northeastern Indian separatist outfit on their trans-border front.
Ranjan Chowdhury became ‘supreme leader’ in the remote Garo-hill haunts setting up 13 makeshift ULFA camps there in 1997.
Sherpur Police Super Anisur Rahman told banglanews24.com.bd that, after the arrest of Ranjan, a vigorous investigation is on to know about their activities in the area.
Despite making a den inside the country by a foreign separatist leader, neither police nor the intelligence has got adequate information about him. There is no record of any cases against him in the police stations, sources said.
According to a high-level intelligence source, preparation is on to interrogate the dauntless ULFA commander at the Joint Interrogation Cell (JIC) in Dhaka.
Once a meritorious student of Dhubri Raj College in Assam, Ranjan Chowdhury, whose real name is Ranju Baroi, got baptized to militancy through ULFA in 1987, said a source close to the Front leader. He reportedly entered Bangladesh in 1994 for the first time to avoid Indian army hunt for the outlaws.
He took up organizational activities with the support of two late ULFA leaders-- Avinash Adhikary and Diganta Das--in 1988. Later in 1990, he took three months’ military training under the Liberation Front in Goalpara of Assam and in neighbouring Meghalaya. He is learnt to be an expert at operating various firearms and grenades, including SMG, AK-47 rifle and Uzi gun.
Paresh Barua and Anup Chetia connections:
Ranjan became Dhubri district secretary of ULFA in 1995 and was later nominated as party’s organizing secretary of the central committee in 2001.
Sources said Ranjan went to Bhutan to meet top ULFA leader Paresh Barua in June 1995. He was arrested in July the same year while going back to India from Bhutan. He was released from Guwahati jail in late 1996.
He intruded into Bangladesh through Roumari border in Kurigram district for the second time in September 1997, without passport, to meet ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia. He met with Chetia at a house in Monipuripara in the capital. Thereafter, he had stayed in Sherpur and used to visit Assam, Ranjan admitted during debriefings.
Friendship, eminence and marriage:
Due to his long-time stay in Bara Gazni, Bakakura and Mariam Nagar of inaccessible Garo Hill area, Ranjan made friends with a good number of people. Locals said that he was well acceptable to many of them for his friendly overtures.
As the story goes about the latter-day Rabin Hood, Ranjan married Sabitri Bhrum, daughter of one Manindra Hagidar, in Sherpur border area in 2001. Top ULFA leaders, including Paresh Barua and Sashadhar Choudhury, were present at his wedding ceremony in the hideout.
He also enlisted himself as a Bangladeshi voter in Mariam Nagar and started staying at Bara Gazni village permanently with his wife and two children.
After the haul of a cache of arms in Bogra in 2004, a special team of CID conducted a raid at Mariam Nagar and arrested five persons, including Ranjan. They were interrogated in the JIC in Dhaka for five days. Then all the five were sent to jail following a court order.
Earlier, the name Ranju came up in connection with the trading of one AK-47 rifle. But no administrative actions were taken against him for reasons not known.
An intelligence officer, recently transferred from Sherpur, informed the correspondent that Ranjan was instructed to move only within a three-kilometer free zone on Gazni border after he had been bailed out from prison through Sherpur Judges court.
Local sources further informed that ULFA zonal commander Ranjan Chowdhury alias Masud Ranju Chowdhury used a microbus with fake number plate. Besides, the brigands use 7-8 microbuses and more than 20 motorcycles with fake number plates and having no registration.
BDST 1530 HRS, JULY 23, 2010