GUWAHATI, Aug 16 - Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had described The Assam Tribune as a powerful instrument of social, political and economic change in Assam and other states of the northeastern region. He made this comment while addressing a function to mark the Diamond Jubilee celebration of The Assam Tribune in the FICCI auditorium in New Delhi on December 4, 1999.
Vajpayee, who was then the Prime Minister of India, also made the announcement that the government was formulating a right to information law, which later became the Right to Information Act.
Vajpayee lavished praise on The Assam Tribune and said, �Since its inception on August 4, 1939, The Assam Tribune has evolved from being a sedate weekly courier of news to a robust daily newspaper. Those of us who live in Delhi are rarely aware of newspapers published from other states, especially distant states like Assam. They are referred to as regional papers. But just like India�s national identity is a sum total of her regional identities, India�s national media would be incomplete without what is described as the regional Press.�
He said that labels like national Press and regional Press are often misleading. �If we look at history of our regional Press, we will find that their contribution, both as vehicles of information and instruments of change, is no less, if not more, than that of the so-called national Press,� he added.
Vajpayee pointed out that newspapers like The Assam Tribune were never a part of the imperial enterprise. �On the contrary, they contributed to the freedom movement by refusing to be co-opted by India�s colonial rulers and openly opposing the policies of India�s colonial government. For the owners and editors of these newspapers, journalism was not a commercial proposition. For them it was a mission that demanded unimpeachable integrity and fierce intellectual independence,� he said.
�Soon after launching The Assam Tribune, late Radha Govinda Baruah proved that he had both in abundant measure. Severe restrictions were placed on newspapers, especially those run by Indians, under the Defence of India Rules following the outbreak of the Second World War. Undaunted by these restrictions, the late Radha Govinda Baruah maintained the highest traditions of journalism, combining them with the nationalist fervour that was then sweeping through the whole of India. He displayed exemplary courage by standing up against the Cabinet Mission Plan. Starting then, The Assam Tribune was in the forefront of arousing the latent nationalism of India�s Northeast, thus making a major contribution to the national freedom movement, and to the subsequent consolidation of the country,� he said.
Vajpayee went on to say that after Independence, too, The Assam Tribune has displayed remarkable national perspective in its editorial columns, even while playing the role of a catalytic agent in the social, political and economic changes that Assam has witnessed in the five decades since Independence. �The Assam Tribune deserves credit for actively channelling the northeastern states� regional aspirations towards India�s national development efforts. By taking up issues like the establishment of the Gauhati University, a separate high court, a radio station and oil refineries, The Assam Tribune has rightly focused attention on the development and other legitimate needs of our northeastern region. Promoting the cause of development in Assam � indeed, the entire Northeast � however, is only one facet of The Assam Tribune�s contribution in the post-Independence era. Whenever India has faced a challenge to her sovereignty and territorial integrity, this newspaper has played a frontline role in mobilizing opinion and boosting public morale. This was most evident during the 1962 Chinese aggression and more recently during this summer�s Kargil conflict,� he said. He also mentioned the role played by The Assam Tribune during the dark days of emergency and hoped that the newspaper would continue to play a greater role in nation building in the years to come.
He also asserted that his government was committed to a prosperous India � and, therefore, a prosperous northeastern region. �Rapid economic growth and equitable social development figure high on my government�s agenda. You can help us achieve these goals by continuing to play a constructive role and serving as a bridge between the people of Assam and the rest of India,� Vajpayee said.