Sivasish Thakur

GUWAHATI, March 1: At a time when there has been a sustained campaign for having the Assamese script included in Unicode as an independent code, the shocking failure of the Government of India in recognizing the independent existence of the Assamese script has put a dampener in the endeavour towards international recognition of the Assamese script.

According to those campaigning for the recognition, the Government of India stand on the issue has been deplorable to say the least. In December 1991, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) had published a report titled ‘Indian Standard: Indian Script Code for Information Interchange – ISCII’ where the existence of the Assamese script to write the Assamese language is clearly mentioned. This amounts to standardization of the Assamese script by BIS.

“The Northern scripts are Devanagari, Punjabi, Gujarati, Oriya, Bengali and Punjabi, while the Southern scripts are Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil,” the BIS report states.

Shockingly, even after this, there has been no recognition of the Assamese script by the Department of Official Language, Government of India. This raises the question how a script once standardized by BIS can be negated by other authorities.

Ashok Sarma, who has done extensive research on the antiquity and development of the Assamese script, said there can be no logic whatsoever behind the reluctance of the authorities in recognizing Assamese as a different and independent script.

“The Assamese script has a 2,400-year-old glorious history of development without being influenced by any other script. In fact, the Assamese script is far older than the Bengali script, corroborated by a wealth of historical, archaeological, anthropological and geographical evidences. When the printing era came, even then the type-set was taken from the Assamese script. Therefore, there is not an iota of doubt that the Assamese language is written with the Assamese script,” he said.

Even as the conscious sections of the State are pushing for an independent Unicode recognition for the Assamese script with a separate slot, the text of the Unicode Standard states that the Bengali script is used to write Assamese in Assam and a number of other minority languages in four states of India.

“This raises several questions including the blatant discrimination accorded to the Assamese script,” said Sarma, who is also a member of the panel formed by the State government for expediting the process of Unicode recognition of the Assamese script.

“If we analyse the historical, geographical, anthropological and genetic findings and resources, then the truth is that the Assamese script is far older than the Bangla script and in fact, is the mother of most of the Indic scripts,” he added.

Pointing out that the Assamese people like any other communities of the country have been conferred with the fundamental right to practise and preserve their culture, Sarma said establishment of this undeniable facet of the Assamese script was critical to securing this fundamental right.

“On what basis has the identity of the Assamese script been distorted by the departments and agencies of the Government of India? Is it not the violation of our fundamental right? Does it mean that Assam is not considered to be a state of India in the eyes of the Central government,” Sarma questioned.

He also lambasted the State government’s lackadaisical role on the important issue, saying that it was forfeiting its responsibility to safeguard the constitutional right of the Assamese people.

Therefore, Sarma said, the State government must take immediate steps to reestablish the identity of the Assamese script in the Indian scenario. At the same time, the Government of India should also restore the earlier and rightful status of the Assamese script as was recognized by BIS.