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Tripura Kokborok row: Students anxious. But what is the origin of this row? All you need to know

First Published: 12th February, 2024 18:29 IST

While, different groups are still sticking to their demand, the TBSE has made it clear that students will have to write the Kokborok language paper in Bengali script.

Scaling heights of development and welfare of all might be the basic agendas for the Manik Saha government in Tripura, but at this juncture the state is grappling with an uncertainity, that has now taken shape of a vehement protest.

Uncertainty looms large over students who will be appearing in the Tripura Board of Secondary Education (TBSE) examinations this academic session in the wake of the row surrounding the demand for allowing students to write the Kokborok examination paper in Roman script.

The TBSE Class 10 examination begins from 2nd March till 23rd March, while the TBSE Class 12 examination begins 1st March till 30th March.

While, different groups are still sticking to their demand, the TBSE has made it clear that students will have to write the Kokborok language paper in Bengali script.

Unhappy with the government as well as the Tripura Board of Secondary Education, over the handling of the issue pertaining to use of Roman script for Kokborok language paper in Board Examinations, the Tipra Indigenous Student Federation (TISF), a student wing of the Opposition TIPRA Motha, has called for an indefinite blockade of roads and rail routes.

The protests have even prompted the Tripura University to cancel all the PG/UG/Diploma Examinations under it until further notice. Things does not end here, as others too had to face distress from reaching one place to the other owing to the blockade.

But the TISF without considering much decided to go ahead with its decision made on February 9 of blocking the connectivity to the state. Backed by the Twipra Students Federation (TSF), the TISF had clearly stated that until the government allows for Kokborok papers to be written in Roman script, the agitation shall continue.

𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐬𝐭?

In January, TBSE President Dr. Dhananjoy Gonchoudhury, had reportedly asked all the examination center in-charges to allow only Bengali script for writing Kokborok paper in Class 10 and 12 board examinations scheduled to begin from March 1 and 2. The TBSE president had attributed this to insufficient qualified evaluators to check answer copies written in Roman script.

And since then, the TBSE President’s action irked the frontal organizations especially the tribal students organisations, who want that students be given the choice to write the Kokborok language paper in Roman script.

On February 3, Tripura Leader of Opposition Animesh Debbarma had warned of potential widespread protests and disruptions in Tripura over comments made by the President of the Tripura Board of Secondary Education Dhanonjoy Ganchowdhury.

On February 9, the TISF chose to go ahead with its decision of blocking the roads and the rail network in the state accusing the TBSE president of doing nothing satisfactory.

Batting for an ultimate solution the TBSE leadership had clearly stated that they would seek only the intervention of Chief Minister Manik Saha for resolving the matter.

𝐓𝐁𝐒𝐄 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭’𝐬 𝐅𝐥𝐢𝐩 𝐅𝐥𝐨𝐩:

In due course, as protests escalated, the TBSE President yielded to the mounting pressure and declared that students appearing for Board Examinations would be allowed to write the Kokborok subject paper in Roman script or the Bengali script.

The TBSE President had informed about this on February 5.

But in a shocking turnaround, TBSE president Dr. Dhananjoy Gonchoudhury on February 8 reversed his decision. He said that it would be mandatory to answer Kokborak subjects solely in Bengali script.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐢𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐁𝐒𝐄 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐮𝐝𝐝𝐞𝐧 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐝𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧?

Explaining the sudden change, Dr. Gonchowdhury cited pressure and threats of violence, stating that he had been threatened with the burning of several examination centers if both script options were not allowed.

Initially yielding in to these pressures and threats, he allowed the choices of Bengali or Roman script to be used in the Kokborok examination on February 5. However, he stated that his higher authorities, including the state education department, have since intervened, instructing him to revert to the previous practice of using only Bengali script for Kokborak exams.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐎𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐬𝐚𝐢𝐝?

Tripura Leader of Opposition Animesh Debbarma after his warning of a potential protest, had dared the TBSE President to give in writing that Roman script will not be allowed to be written during Kokborok examinations.

The Congress and the Opposition too followed suite.

MLA and CPIM State Secretary Jitendra Choudhury decried the government’s decision and said that it is a fallout of the narrow political interests of the BJP.

While remaining critical about the government’s role, Tripura Congress president Ashish Kumar Saha said that the government needs to speak to everyone and make a decision. Saha said that time was high to resolve the issue.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐂𝐌 𝐌𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐤 𝐒𝐚𝐡𝐚 𝐬𝐚𝐢𝐝?

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha on February 5 said his government will write to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) urging it to allow students to write Kokborok papers in Roman script.

He gave the assurance while replying to Leader of Opposition Animesh Debbarma’s demand for the government’s stand on the introduction of Roman script for Kokborok, the major tribal language in the state, during Zero Hour in the assembly.

Regarding the TISF blockade, the Tripura Chief Minister in reply to a query by a journalist today informed that his government is in talks (with agitating groups) to find a solution to the deadlock.

However, the Tripura Chief Minister maintained that such protests cannot benefit anyone and that only the common people have to bear the brunt.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐂𝐁𝐒𝐄’𝐬 𝐫𝐨𝐥𝐞?

According to the TBSE President, the Tripura Government has sent a letter to the CBSE seeking approval for use of multiple scripts for the Kokborok exam. However, according to Dr. Dhananjoy Gonchoudhury the government is yet to receive a response from the CBSE.

Chowdhury, said that the decision (allowing students to write Kokborok paper only in Bengali) of the TBSE would change if the Tripura Government informs about CBSE giving a consent to allow students write their answer sheet in Roman script.

𝗞𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗞𝗼𝗸𝗯𝗼𝗿𝗼𝗸?

Kokborok, which is the lingua franca of most of Tripura’s 19 tribal communities, is an oral language like most indigenous languages of the region. The debate around the script of the Kokborok language is several decades old. Kokborok was first recognised as an official state language of Tripura in 1979.

According to the CBSE, Kokborok language is the main native language of the Tripuri people of the Indian State of Tripura and neighbouring areas of Bangladesh. Its name come from Kok meaning ‘language’ and borok meaning ‘people’ or ‘human’ . Kokborok is one of the ancient languages of North East India. It was formerly known as Tipra Kok.

Kokborok was declared as an Official Language of the State of Tripura , India by State Government in the year 1979. Consequently, the language has been taught from Primary Stage to Ph. D stage.

Kokborok, the mother tongue of many tribes in Tripura, lacks its own script.

Currently taught in Bengali script, this poses difficulties for around 5,000 students from English medium schools during CBSE examinations.

To address the script selection matter, the government has formed a three-member committee led by former MLA Atul Debbarma. The committee will investigate the feasibility and implications of introducing the Roman script for Kokborok.

The tribals, constitute one third of Tripura’s little over four million population.

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