EDITORIAL MESSAGE FOR TODAY When men understand what each other mean, they see, for the most part, that controversy is either superfluous or hopeless. CARDINAL NEWMAN
The controversy over the hoisting of a flag resembling a Pakistani flag in the trouble torn district of Udalguri had been given so much of prominence that all other important issues like finding out the root cause of the ethnic conflict resulting in the death of more than fifty persons and displacement of more than a lakh of population from their hearth and homes, their relief and rehabilitation, security and restoration of peace between the two communities pale into insignificance. The BJP, the AGP and the AASU minced no words to castigate the State government and expressed apprehension that the sovereignty of the country was at stake. The national television channels repeatedly telecast the flag and commented that the illegal Bangladeshi migrants living in the area were responsible for the crime with the ulterior design of converting the area into a part of greater Bangladesh. It was also alleged that a group committing arson shouted the slogan of Pakistan Zindabad.A Pakistani newspaper, Pakistan Daily, in its over enthusiasm claimed that by hoisting the Pakistani flag the inhabitants of the area expressed their allegiance to Pakistan. Thus a stray incident was blown out of proportion casting doubt on the loyalty of the minority community who were Indian citizens.
It is unfortunate that the State government led by Tarun Gogoi, miserably failed to anticipate the situation and allowed the mayhem to continue for several days. It also made the situation more complicated by issuing off the cuff remarks by the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and the government spokesperson, Minister Himanta Biswa Sarmah. The State government should have informed the public that police would investigate the matter and apprehend the guilty persons. Instead the Chief Minister tried to mislead the people by a superfluous comment that the flag in question was not a Pakistani flag but a flag hoisted during the Idd.The Government spokesperson, Dr. Sarmah took pains to exhibit a Pakistani flag and asserted that the flag fluttering in Udalguri did not resemble a Pakistani flag. Due to inept handling of the issue by the State government, the opposition parties and the press made capital out of this insignificant issue to their advantage. Besides the flag issue, several contradictory comments by the Chief Minister and the Government spokesperson have created confusion. The Chief Minister and the spokesperson blamed 3rd and 4th forces for the ethnic riots and the involvement of the NDFB. If the NDFB which declared ceasefire and kept in designated camps were involved then the State government should also assume responsibility for its failure to rein in the NDFB.The ethnic riots in Udalguri and Darrang districts expose the failure of the State government to maintain law and order and provide security to the people living in sensitive areas.