Kokborok language script controversy | File photo

Tension ran high as the Tripura Students Federation (TSF) called an indefinite national highway and railway blockade from February 12 opposing the decision to allow only Bengali script for writing Kokborok language papers in the secondary and higher secondary board examinations.

The Kokborok language is spoken by around 10 lakh tribal people in the state.

The opposition CPI-M has backed the demand of TIPRA Motha’s student wing TSF that both Bengali and Roman scripts be allowed for writing Kokborok language answer papers, as is the case with another minority language Mizo.

The higher secondary and secondary examinations in Kokborok are scheduled for March 4 and 7, respectively, when about 10,000 students would write the papers.

While urging the TSF to call off the blockade programme, the CPI-M proposed to hold a peaceful and democratic movement with all sections to compel the government to roll back the decision.

Tripura chief minister Manik Saha discussed the matter with senior tribal BJP leaders, but the meeting was inconclusive. However, BJP spokesperson Subrata Chakraborty on February 11 said that it was a policy matter of the government where the party doesn’t have any role.

“We are hopeful the government will come out with a solution because agitation and blockade ahead of the exams will jeopardize the students’ interest,” he said.

The BJP leader added that Kokborok does not have a script, and students generally write the paper for the language in the Bengali script. Kokborok-speaking people use Bengali script for communication, and it has been a tradition.

The demand for Roman script for Kokborok, especially writing in board exams, might have created problems in holding the exams and evaluating the answer scripts as well, he said.

The problem cropped up with the statement of the president of Tripura Board of Secondary Education (TBSE), Dhananjay Gan Chowdhury, that only Bengali script for Kokborok language would be allowed for the exams.

He is also alleged to have said if any answer script of the language is found in Roman, there would be legal complications.

His comments led to strong reactions among the tribals and TSF leaders demanded Gan Chowdhury’s removal from the post of TBSE president and that Roman script be allowed for writing the exams in Kokborok.

They alleged that such a statement from any academic authority is considered “sedition and highly motivated against a community”.

However, Gan Chowdhury said: “I am guided by rules and nothing beyond.”

Meanwhile, the CPI-M, in a statement on February 11, said the former Left Front government had been allowing both Bengali and Roman scripts for writing the exams for the last one and a half decades. The statement said that the UGC has allowed graduate and post-graduate level exams in Kokborok in Roman script.

“This is nothing but a divisive agenda of the RSS,” alleged CPI-M state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury.

Responding to the controversy, the chief minister claimed: “Some elements were trying to create a ‘riot-like situation’ but I advise them to avoid such attempts as their faces are exposed. Don’t try to fish in turbid water by creating unrest in the state.”

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