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Unicode standard for Assamese in the offing

By KALYAN BAROOAH
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NEW DELHI, Aug 23 - In what has been described as a historic occasion for Assam, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has formally accepted the proposal of a separate Assamese code chart submitted by the Assam government.

Dr Sikhar Sarma, who was part of the delegation that attended the meeting with BIS, told this newspaper that today�s meeting debated on the issue and accepted the Government of Assam proposal, which will be submitted to the International Standard Organization for consideration and acceptance as international standard.

Today�s meeting was also attended by the Commissioner, Department of Culture and Managing Director, Amtron Preetom Saikia, Director ABILAC Dr Dilip Kalita and general secretary of Asam Sahitya Sabha Dr Paramananda Rajbongshi.

This has paved the way for sanction of Unicode standards for Assamese script. Till now, Assamese script does not have its separate identity in the digital world and shares the Bengali codes,� Dr Sarma said.

Though BIS does not provide the Unicode, it is a member of the ISO that provides Unicode.

The Assam government had submitted to the BIS that Assamese is a historically evolved script with its own set of characters and symbols representing written texts. But the non-inclusion of this in Unicode and ISO standards has triggered problems in using the language in computers.

During the initial days of digital standards for the Indian languages in the first Indian Script Code for Information Interchange (ISCII) released by the BIS in December 1991, a clear mention was made of the Assamese script. The ISCII document released by the BIS clearly mentioned that the northern scripts are Devanagari, Punjabi, Gujarati, Oriya, Bengali and Assamese, while the southern scripts are Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil, an official said.

�However, in all subsequent standards like ISO and Unicode, Assamese script has not been included,� said an official, who is on the panel constituted by the Assam government to push its case for a separate slot on the Unicode, but who did not wish to be identified.

Literary bodies, academicians and researchers in Assam had objected to the Unicode Consortium move and written to the Union government.

The Assam government was then asked to submit a detailed proposal that would subsequently be referred to the US body. While literary bodies such as Asam Sahitya Sabha had maintained that the Assamese language was being neglected, it was believed that it could be due to lack of knowledge of the US body about uniqueness of the script.

�The Assamese alphabets were not separately encoded by Unicode. Following their policy of unification, the Assamese script was merged into Bengali. The uniqueness of the Assamese script was perhaps unknown to the mainly American experts of Unicode, sources said. The Assam government�s proposal to BIS went deeper into the origin of the script to push for a separate slot for Assamese... The Assamese script is one of the important scripts of Eastern India,� the government proposal to the BIS said.

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Unicode standard for Assamese in the offing

NEW DELHI, Aug 23 - In what has been described as a historic occasion for Assam, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has formally accepted the proposal of a separate Assamese code chart submitted by the Assam government.

Dr Sikhar Sarma, who was part of the delegation that attended the meeting with BIS, told this newspaper that today�s meeting debated on the issue and accepted the Government of Assam proposal, which will be submitted to the International Standard Organization for consideration and acceptance as international standard.

Today�s meeting was also attended by the Commissioner, Department of Culture and Managing Director, Amtron Preetom Saikia, Director ABILAC Dr Dilip Kalita and general secretary of Asam Sahitya Sabha Dr Paramananda Rajbongshi.

This has paved the way for sanction of Unicode standards for Assamese script. Till now, Assamese script does not have its separate identity in the digital world and shares the Bengali codes,� Dr Sarma said.

Though BIS does not provide the Unicode, it is a member of the ISO that provides Unicode.

The Assam government had submitted to the BIS that Assamese is a historically evolved script with its own set of characters and symbols representing written texts. But the non-inclusion of this in Unicode and ISO standards has triggered problems in using the language in computers.

During the initial days of digital standards for the Indian languages in the first Indian Script Code for Information Interchange (ISCII) released by the BIS in December 1991, a clear mention was made of the Assamese script. The ISCII document released by the BIS clearly mentioned that the northern scripts are Devanagari, Punjabi, Gujarati, Oriya, Bengali and Assamese, while the southern scripts are Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil, an official said.

�However, in all subsequent standards like ISO and Unicode, Assamese script has not been included,� said an official, who is on the panel constituted by the Assam government to push its case for a separate slot on the Unicode, but who did not wish to be identified.

Literary bodies, academicians and researchers in Assam had objected to the Unicode Consortium move and written to the Union government.

The Assam government was then asked to submit a detailed proposal that would subsequently be referred to the US body. While literary bodies such as Asam Sahitya Sabha had maintained that the Assamese language was being neglected, it was believed that it could be due to lack of knowledge of the US body about uniqueness of the script.

�The Assamese alphabets were not separately encoded by Unicode. Following their policy of unification, the Assamese script was merged into Bengali. The uniqueness of the Assamese script was perhaps unknown to the mainly American experts of Unicode, sources said. The Assam government�s proposal to BIS went deeper into the origin of the script to push for a separate slot for Assamese... The Assamese script is one of the important scripts of Eastern India,� the government proposal to the BIS said.

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