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�Combined slot will distort use of Assamese language in computers�

By Ajit Patowary

GUWAHATI, June 25 - The latest decision of the London University meeting of the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) to rename the Bengali slot as Bengali/Assamese in the ISO: 10646 Standard to assuage the hurt feelings of the Assamese people, who have been fighting for a separate slot for their own script for the past about two decades, has not been able to pacify the restive minds here.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, city-based general surgeon Dr Satyakam Phukan is of the opinion that the Indian delegation at the ISO Working Group (WG) 2 meeting, held between June 18 and 22 at London University, could not prevail upon the ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC2/WG2 members. Hence, the delegation members had to return without getting a decision for according a separate slot for the Assamese script in the ISO: 10646 Standard.

Any solution other than a separate slot for the Assamese script in the ISO: 10646 Standard is not acceptable. Because, this will distort and cripple the use of Assamese language in computers. There is massive duplication of glyphs being allowed between Latin, Greek and Cyrillic scripts and also Bengali and Maithili scripts, which is also known as Tirhuta script, he said.

The argument put forward to reject the demand for a separate slot for the Assamese script that it would result in duplication of glyphs is not acceptable.

If the Assamese script is not encoded separately in ISO: 10646, it would not be possible to get this script encoded in ISO 15919, which is the transliteration standard for the Indic scripts, asserted Dr Phukan.

Dr Phukan has been fighting for the cause for quite a long time. Following his proposal, the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) had to adopt a decision in favour of a separate slot for the Assamese script in the ISO: 10646, in the 14th meeting of its Documentation and Information Sectional Committee, MSD 5, which was held on December 14, 2012.

Pastor Azizul Haque of the Guwahati Baptist Church, who has been associated with the movement to wrest a separate slot for the Assamese script in the ISO: 10646 Standard for the past about one decade, maintained that the act of combining the Bengali and the Assamese scripts in a single slot is fraught with the danger of leading to collation errors and problems in transliteration.

However, he maintained that the latest development has one positive aspect. The ISO has at least gone to accept the existence of the Assamese script. But clubbing it together with the Bengali script is rather going to create a lot of problems as stated above, he said.

Dr Dilip Kalita, a member of the BIS-constituted advisory committee for Assamese script, said that it is premature to make any comment on the ISO WG2 London meeting decision. Only after a detailed decision and weighing the pros and cons of the three decisions of the meeting, it would be justified to arrive at a conclusion.

He said that the London meeting of the ISO WG2 has adopted three decisions on the issue. These are � renaming the code chart as Bengali/Assamese adding the Assamese nomenclature along with the Bangla nomenclature, ascribing Assamese nomenclature to the Assamese characters like the Ra, Wa, land measurement symbols etc., and calling for a fresh BIS recommendation on the issue of allotting a separate slot for the Assamese script.

But Dr Kalita maintained that the Bengali script has limitations in addressing the issues related to Assamese language. A separate slot for the Assamese script is required to develop softwares based on it.

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