Friday, July 6, 2012
separate slot to Assamese in Unicode Consortium,
Guwahati, July 6: The Centre is in a fix on giving a separate slot to the Assamese writing system in Unicode Consortium, after contrasting opinions were sent by two departments of the Assam government on the issue.
RTI documents available with The Telegraph have revealed that following a direction from the Centre (in August 2011) to submit its opinion on allotting a separate slot for Assamese writing system, two departments of the Assam government sent two contrasting opinions within a week. On February 18, a letter from the state's information technology department to the Centre favoured a separate slot. The letter, signed by Rajiv Bora, principal secretary, IT department, said, "The Assamese script is an independent script having its own history of evolution. Historical evidence suggests it might have been derived from the ancient Kamrupi script and a separate range shall enable to arrange the characters of the Assamese script in collation order, which is not possible with the current Bengali code chart."
Again on February 23, the state cultural affairs department sent another letter suggesting renaming of the existing slot as "Assamese and Bengali" instead of a separate slot for Assamese writing system.
"We would also like to point out it would have been more appropriate to rename this script in the alphabetical order as 'Assamese and Bengali' instead of 'Bengali and Assamese'," said the letter signed by Shantanu Thakur, secretary of cultural affairs department.
The Centre's directive to the state government had come following a letter from US-based Unicode Consortium, asking the Indian government for its opinion on the issue of a separate slot for Assamese.
The consortium's letter to the Centre came after pastor Azizul Hoque and Satyakam Phukan from Assam pointed out that nomenclature of the Assamese writing system as a sub-class of Bengali in Unicode was "erroneous". They also said the system should be given a separate slot or rename the script either as Kamrupi or AMBM (Assamese-Maithili-Bengali-Manipuri). On June 13, under the chairmanship of Rajendra Kumar, deputy secretary to the government of India, a meeting was held with representatives of Assam and West Bengal governments on the issue. There were no representatives from Manipur and Bihar governments, who were also asked to send their representatives, given the similarity of script used in the two states.
A member from the team, which represented Assam in the meeting, said the team members themselves had two different opinions on the issue. "Some of us favoured a separate slot for the Assamese writing system while some others favoured renaming the existing slot as Bengali and Assamese," he said.
Given such a scenario, the Assam government will have to send a fresh proposal to the Centre on the issue, which will be forwarded to the Unicode Consortium for appropriate action. Sources said the Assam government now seems to favour renaming of the existing slot as "Bengali and Assamese", with some corrections in the existing chart code and if necessary, with the provision for a separate slot after a few years. According to a source, it was the assumption that the process of allotting a separate slot to the Assamese writing system would take two to three years, which prompted some involved in the process to go for renaming rather than seek a separate slot.