Amit Shah’s Hindi remarks: Tripura tribal body seeks Roman script for Kokborok

A confederation of 56 tribal organisations in Tripura on Friday hailed the CBSE’s decision to include the Kokborok—a lingua franca—in its curriculum even as it expressed concern about Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent statements that Hindi would be made compulsory for all Northeast states and that Devanagari script introduced for all languages without a script.

Bikash Rai Debbarma, chief of the confederation called Roman Script for Kokborok Choba, termed the CBSE decision as the result of the decades-long work of language activists. “We feel introducing Roman script for Kokborok would be easy. The government should not introduce any language for their own or personal interests. India is a country of unity in diversity. Leave the matter to the people of the language community. Let them decide what is good for themselves,” he said at a presser in Agartala.

However, Debbarma said Kokborok lovers, writers and cultural activists would vehemently oppose any imposition of Devanagari script on the tribal language. Both Bangla and Roman scripts are equally used for Kokborok and “imposing” Devnagari script will not be acceptable for the speakers of the language, he added.

The script debate around Kokborok is several decades old. Kokborok was first recognised as an official language of Tripura in 1979. Two commissions were set up, under former minister Shyama Charan Tripura and linguist Pabitra Sarkar. While the erstwhile Left Front government publicly preferred Bengali script, Roman Script for Kokborok Choba claims both commissions had found Roman was the most favoured script.

The language is now taught in 22 degree colleges and at the university level as well.

“The home minister said efforts would be made to introduce Hindi script for different oral languages of the country which do not have a script yet. The education department should clarify how it would be implemented,” Debbarma said.

He also said his organisation and Kokborok lovers were not against teaching Hindi in Class 1-10 but Kokborok and Bengali should not get lost in this process.

Tribal writer and cultural activist Chandrakanta Murasingh said, “The brotherhood and balance of Bengali and Kokborok languages might be upset. If Bengali and Kokborok cannot be learnt because of Hindi [imposition], it might be disturbing. If something is imposed by force, it will affect everyone. We are against the forceful imposition of anything.”

“Tripura has two official languages—Kokborok and Bengali—and students have to learn both in educational institutes. They are learning English also as many of them are studying in English-medium schools. If Hindi is made compulsory for the students, then they have to learn four languages or they have to sacrifice their mother tongue,” the confederation said, adding that CBSE and ICSE students in Northeast states were already learning Hindi as an optional subject.

Kokborok is tagged as a vulnerable language by Unesco. Its speakers are also found in Assam and Mizoram, Bangladesh and Myanmar, the organisation said.

As per the revised CBSE curriculum, Kokborok will be taught in Bengali script at the secondary stage.

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