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Tripura University VC's Push for Devnagari Reignites Debate on Script for Kokborok Language

Many tribal groups and political parties, including the TIPRA Motha and NDA ally IPFT, have demanded Constitutional recognition of Kokborok with Roman script for the language.

Image Courtesy: EastMoJo

Delhi: Tripura University Vice-Chancellor Ganga Prasad Prasian’s push for Devnagari as an appropriate script for languages without a script has again sparked the debate over the script of the Kokborok language, which is spoken by indigenous people in the state.

The EastMojo reported that Tripura University VC Prasian pitched for Devanagari script to be used for languages not having a written script. Prasian made the statement during the two-day “Purvottar Gyanotsav” event in Tripura University.

Kokborok is old and most widely spoken among the indigenous languages in Tripura. However, it has not been included in the 8th schedule of the Constitution of India that comprises the nation’s official languages. 

Many tribal groups and political parties, including the TIPRA Motha and Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (NDA ally), have been demanding official recognition of Kokborok with Roman script for the language. 

While refusing to comment on the issue, the VC told EastMojp that he would still advise to adopt Indian scripts for languages without one instead of using the Roman script.

Concerned over the VC’s remarks, the Kokborok Sahitya Sabha (KBSS), a body of Kokborok writers and poets, strongly condemned his views. “We are wonderstruck with the statement made by Prof. Prasain, how a person occupying an important position in the stature of a Vice-Chancellor could make such irresponsible remarks. It was beyond our expectation and we vehemently oppose and strongly condemn it,” the KBSS said in a statement, according to the EastMojo report.

The KBSS also said that the VC’s “sweeping and irresponsible remark” was unexpected and not desirable. It said that Prof Prasain should focus on his job instead of interfering in issues that are in a state of impasse.

Noting that Prof Prasain hails from Manipur and is well-versed in the history, politics, culture and economic conditions of the people of North East India, the KBSS said, “There are numerous languages in North East India and many of those languages have not been transcribed due to lack of script. However, such unwritten languages have a rich folk or oral tradition. Those languages which are unwritten or not able to settle on script issues, the people belonging to that particular community are struggling to resolve their own problems. Any interference or statements made by an outsider whoever it may be will create more problems than resolve.” 

The organisation further said that the communities whose languages have not been transcribed or written can themselves decide on their script. 

The TWIPRA Students Federation (TSF) also held a protest in front of the state assembly on the issue of Roman script for Kokborok. 

TSF President Bishwa Kumar Debbarma told the media that the language of the state’s indigenous people had been neglected for the last 40 years. “We want a solution. Today is the first day of the state assembly, which is why we have gathered here. We want this matter to be raised and thoroughly discussed in the assembly,” he said, as per the news report.

If the protest does not yield the result they want, the TSF will create a bigger movement with the same demands, the student leader warned.

Last year, CPI(M)’s Tripura secretary Jitendra Chaudhury accused Union Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia of humiliating Tripura’s indigenous people by not including Kokborok among languages for announcements at the Agartala airport. Following this, Pradyot Manikya Debbarma, TIPRA Motha chief, wrote to Scindia urging him to look into introducing Kokborok. However, Scindia responded by asserting that Bengali, Hindi and English were already used for airport announcements, which led a to a war of words between the political oppositions.

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