GUWAHATI, Sept 2 - The problems faced by the Assamese script in securing a separate code chart in the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) seems far from over. The Assamese script needs a separate identity in the ISO to be an independent entity in the digital world, as it is presently treated as a part of the Bengali script.
The fact that the hurdles for the Assamese script are yet to be over has come to light from a Unicode internet forum discussion held among David Faulks, James Kass and Unicode Consortium�s Michael Everson. This discussion was held immediately after the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) accepted on August 23, 2017 the argument of the Assam government�s representatives on the independent character of the Assamese script and thus giving a green signal to the BIS to take up the issue with the ISO.
Unicode Consortium, an American company registered in California, maintains a standard of the global scripts. The Unicode standard is synchronised with the ISO 10646 Standard, which deals with details of the encoding of the individual scripts. To enter this ISO Standard, a script must first get itself registered with the ISO 15924 Standard. The registry of ISO 15924 Standard is outsourced to the Unicode Consortium of which Michael Everson is the registrar.
On August 23 this year, Faulks said in the discussion mentioned above: �It appears that the Indian government will submit an �Assamese� proposal.
�Since everything I know about Assamese Script indicates that it is basically the same as Bengali and the Unicode Assamese controversy is derived entirely from a sub-nationalistic fit over character and script names, I expect that this proposal will not be accepted.
�However, �popular nationalism� will probably be used to attack Unicode then.�
James Kass wrote the following day: �Any proposal for separate Assamese code should be judged on its merits, and it�s a �non-starter�... �Popular nationalism� might be best served by returning to separate code pages... For me, that�s also a �non-starter�.�
Everson wrote the same day: �They have never been able to show the difference to anyone in SC2... because there is no difference.�
Assamese script has a history of evolution right from the 4th century AD. It has its own set of characters and symbols for its written form. It was included during the initial days of digital encoding, in Indian Standard Code for Information Interchange (ISCII), 1991, but it later disappeared from subsequent standards like ISO and Unicode, said Prof Sikhar Sarma, who played a major role in placing the demand of the Assam government on the issue before the BIS.
Only through a determined thrust from the governments in the State as well as the Centre, the ISO could be persuaded to accept the fact that the Assamese script has a separate identity, he added.
Dr Satyakam Phukan, who has been pursuing the matter since 2008, said that he had lodged a complaint with the ISO against Everson and some others alleging that he (Everson) was inimical towards the Assamese people and the script. The ISO had warned Everson not to indulge in such activities. With Everson being the registrar of the ISO 15924 Standard�s Registry, it may be difficult for the Assamese script to get a separate code chart in the ISO, warned Dr Phukan.