A Teesside family doctor is accused of running a terror group set up after a campaign of bombings and executions in his native India.
Mukul Hazarika, 75, who faces an extradition case tomorrow, is respected by patients who praise his care. He lives in a £450,000 home and locals admire his immaculate garden, tended by his wife.
But authorities in India say his real name is Abhijeet Asom and accuse him of helping to orchestrate a campaign of violence as chair of United Liberation Front of Assam Independent – the ULFA(I), reports the Mirror. The outlawed group wants independence for north-eastern state Assam.
Dr Hazarika denies any criminality. He is facing extradition over claims relating to alleged earlier involvement with the ULFA, which was linked to kidnappings, murders and bombings over 30 years.
He allegedly became leader of the ULFA(I) splinter group in 2012. At that time, he was a GP at the Queenstree Practice in Billingham – where he still works. He faces trial in India for conspiracy to murder and the preparation of an act of terrorism between 2004 and 2007. The maximum sentence is life in jail.
One attack by the ULFA, in 2011, derailed a train and left dozens of seriously injured passengers. Dr Hazarika was arrested last July by officers from the National Extradition Unit. His 10-day extradition hearing is being held at Westminster magistrates court.
He is on £50,000 bail and must wear a tag under a nightly curfew.
Dr Hazarika, who has a bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery, holds a British passport and is believed to have been in the UK since 2004. According to court papers seen by the Sunday Mirror, Indian authorities accuse him of “running and commanding the activities of ULFA(I)” while in Britain. India claims that, under Dr Hazarika, the ULFA(I) has been involved in “illegal and anti-national activities”.
It allegedly ran terror camps, recruited militants and engaged in extortion and kidnap to raise funds to wage war against the government.
The doctor is said by the Indian government to have made a speech to activists at a ULFA(I) camp in Myanmar in 2016. A judgment in India’s Court of the Special Judge in June 2019 claimed Dr Hazarika and alleged ULFA(I) commander Paresh Baruah “conspired in association with their cadres to wage war against the government”.
The judgment claimed Dr Mukul Hazarika “is presently the SS Chairman of ULFA(I)…he commands and administers the overall workings and activities of ULFA(I).”
The court papers alleged the GP was linked to threats to “wage war through terrorist activities” in 2013 and to statements where ULFA was allegedly responsible for a call to “kill security forces” in September 2014. Just a week ago, the ULFA(I ) claimed responsibility for executing two “infiltrators” allegedly spying for police. It is not known whether that followed a command from the leadership.
In its bid to crush the ULFA(I), Indian forces have been accused of killing and torturing suspects. The original ULFA group is engaged in peace talks with the Indian government and thousands of diehard fighters have surrendered.
But the 400-strong breakaway group is said to be still engaged in hostilities.
The ULFA(I) has previously denied the GP is involved with the group. But India’s National Investigation Agency claim video and photos suggest he is his leader. They also claim to have evidence from ex-militants, including a man said to have guarded the GP.
Patients at Queenstree, where GPs earn £71,000-plus, have been told the doctor is on annual leave until May 30. One patient said: “He’s one of the most respected people in Billingham and runs the health center very well.
“If he turned out to be involved with anything unexpectedly it would be a massive shock.”
In Elton village – population 324 – a neighbor said: “He’s very well respected and loved by staff and patients. It’s impossible to think he’s involved with a terrorist organization.
“His wife does all the gardening and always has the place looking lovely. They’re highly thought of, hard-working, decent people.”
The doctor refused to comment. His lawyer Anand Doobay said: “Dr Hazarika strenuously denies all allegations of criminal wrongdoing and he intends to contest them vigorously. As there are ongoing proceedings we are unable to provide further comment.”