Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On the Roman script

Date: 19-10-2007

Reply WS: As the Bodo’s did not have a script of their own; their language remained as a dialect. I assume at a certain point of time it had to either develop a new set of alphabet or use the alphabets of the prevailing language. They opted for the dominant language, which was at that time Assamese. From the point of pedagogy and economy, the script of the dominant language of the region was preferred. It helped the people to learn the regional language with some ease. It was economical because the language materials could be printed in the existing printing facilities.

It is said that Bodo’s had an ancient script called DEODHAI. It got lost.

The Bodo language has undergone rapid development since the government of Assam introduced Bodo as a major Indian language in higher Secondary schools in 1930. However, when it was included in the constitution, the government wanted the script to be Devanagari. As far as I understand, Bodo people did not like to use Assamese script, as during the Bodo movement period there was a need for them to assert self-identity and exclusiveness. Then, there were two major schools among the Bodo people, one supporting Devanagari and another one supporting Roman script. In late 90's Bodo Sahitya Sabha was almost on the verge of splitting into two parts because of the script issue. As far as I understand, the choice of scripts is also motivated by religious concerns. Christians and missionaries working among the Bodos strongly supported Roman script. At the time when Bodo was included in the 8th schedule, there was a very popular belief among the rightist policy makers in Delhi that all the tribal languages of the NE could be written with Devanagari script. In the BJP era some had proposals to use Devanagari for many languages of NE.

I don’t know the full background about the 1973 conflict. I understood that Bodo speakers of Assam preferred the Devanagari script for Bodo instead of the Assamese scripts, which they were using. At that time Bodo’s seem to view that the Devanagari script will facilitate learning the Hindi language better at a later stage in the school system. If you can refer any publication on this subject, which I can consult to obtain background information, I shall be much obliged.

Reply from NDFB: We are neither linguists nor experts in alphabet. We are revolutionaries just fighting to overthrow Indian rule. We don’t have much knowledge to talk on the language and script issue. So we would like to reproduce only some official records of the Boro Sahitya Sabha (BSS) - a literary organization for your information and healthy discussion.

Rev. S. Endle first put Boro language to writing through Roman Script in the year, 1884, it is known fact to all in the modern era. This Script was introduced first for teaching of Bodo children in the year, 1904 ( Cacari Reader, 1904 – published by Govt. of Assam ). It was used for teaching Bodo in Goalpara District in 1931. Till 1963 about 40 L. P. Schools used Roman Script. The teaching of Bodo in mixed Assamese and Bengali Script started functioning only from 1963.

Bodo writing in pure Bengali Script in about 1928 (Sibsa Arw Aroj , by Modaram Brahma ) was found.
Bodo Sahitya Sabha (BSS) – a literary organization got its birth on 16th November 1952 at Basugaon in the District of erstwhile Goalpara. Since then the Script question arose – (a) Roman Script thought and (b) Assamese –Bengali Script thought and via media decision was taken only to develop the language through writing and creating Bodo literature in those Scripts.

[In those days the Assamese script was also in transitional period, not fully developed]

Formal introduction of Bodo medium in the L. P. Schools was started on experimental basis in the Kokrajhar sub-division by holding an inauguration function on 18th January 1963 at kokrajhar Higher Secondary & Multipurpose School with the guest of honour - Debakanta Baruah Edn. Minister, and Rup Nath Brahma, Forest Minister, Assam subsiding the previous Assam Govt’s approval “Cacari Reader, 1904” written in Roman Script replacing it by “Mokhojennai” a Bodo Primer written in Assamese-Bengali Script by Rajendra Lal Narzary of Shillong.

The Script issue remained as pending with hot debate in every Annual Conference of BSS. At first, in 1965 while holding the 7th Annual Session of the BSS the Script issue reached at the zenith of debate and the resolution No. 1 was passed for adoption of a suitable Script for Bodo language.

The Bodo Script Sub Committee was appointed by the BSS in 1968 to go through the opinions received from the various organizations and individuals regarding the suitable script for Bodo language, and to examine them and submit a report suggesting a solution to this script question with eleven members. In the last meeting of the Script Sub Committee, held on the 12th January, 1969 at Rupahi in Nowgaong District, Prof. Thaneswar Boro, M. A. of B. Borouah College, Gauhati, who was an invitee attended made valuable suggestion in preparing the report and ultimately the report was typed and duplicated by him and brought it to light.

After a long discussion on the 9th February, 1969 at Gauhati on the matter and examination of the opinions received from various organizations and individuals the authorized Sub-Committee has, by majority, decided in favour of the Roman Script on the following consideration:
The Roman Script is very easy and quick to learn. It is evident from the fact that 2 (two) years period is necessary to learn Assamese, Bengali and similar Indian Scripts, whereas no such long times is required to learn the Roman Script.

It is also easy and quick to write. The roman script saves time and energy. Because there are only 26 (twenty six) letters in the Roman Script whereas there are more than 300 (three hundred) letters including Compound letters and other variations in Assamese, Bengali, or Devanagiri, Script. It is possible to write in Roman Script without lifting one’s hand whereas it is not possible in above-mentioned Scripts.

It is suitable for easy mechanical manipulation i.e. typing, printing, sending message etc.

It is generally noticed that Assamese and Bengali type machines are lying idle in the offices. Also we came across a reported news that type –writers in Indian Scripts particularly in Assamese script are in less demand. It is also true that India needs a common and Scientific Script for many languages there in. That is why recently, the Central Minister for Broadcasting and Information Shri K. K. Sha called for a new and attractive Script for Hindi and other regional languages in India.

The use of Roman Script is commercially economic because it requires less time and labour and also cost less.
The Roman Script is exclusively suitable as a medium for writing down scientific subject and technological matters.

It will maintain a uniformity of spelling and pronunciation amongst all the sections of the Bodo people of different places, States and Land using different dialects and States Languages. It will help to create a standard of the Bodo Language that is acceptable to all the sections of the Bodo people living in different places.
The Roman Script shall be a big factor in removing illiteracy and spreading education amongst the Bodo people, for they will learn easily and quickly.

The use of the Roman Script will serve as a link amongst all the Bodo speaking people living under the influences of the different languages, Scripts and States. Because the Roman Script is generally used in every State in India besides other local Scripts.

It is an International Script used almost in all the different countries of the world irrespective of caste, creed and colour. It is almost one and identical in shape and pronunciation all over the world, and as a result this has made the Roman Script the most suitable medium of international communication. The Bodo speaking people living, as they are in other countries outside India, such as Nepal, South Bhutan, East Pakistan and Western Burma will have a facility of maintaining a link with their brothers and sisters in those countries if the Roman Script were used. Further, the use of Roman Script will offer a scope to the Bodo Language for developing into an international language and literature.

However, there may be some difficulties in switching over from the present Assamese or Bengali Script to the Roman Script, for the State Government may not favour it. Further, there may be some difficulty in the case of the Bodo Students who are already learning Bodo through the medium of Assamese or Bengali Script. The Sub Committee is of the opinion that difficulty may be eliminated by the following ways:
There is no bar in the Indian Constitution that the Roman Script should not be used for the Bodo language or other languages. Rather there is provision under the Article No. 29 that every language has a right to preserve its own script. Further it is observed that the Article 343 has provided the use of the Roman Numerals for Hindi language.

The difficulty in the case of Bodo Students observed above will be only temporary and limited. Because the Bodo language has not yet been introduced in all the Bodo speaking areas of the State. These difficulties in the case of those who have already been promoted to M. E. School standard are negligible for the fact that they will be learning the Roman Script in the M.E. School, which is compulsory to all.

If the Roman Script be accepted the authority concerned may consider the following suggestions:
  1. That the students who are learning and have not may learn the Roman Script as additional yet completed the Primary School Course.
  2. That the new entrants in the Primary School will begin with the Roman Script.
  3. That the New entrants in the Middle School will learn their education with the Roman Script.

The Second sitting of the Bodo Script Sub Committee was held on 9th February, 69 at 1pm and resolved the following resolutions: This meeting discussed the various aspects of adopting a scientific and suitable script for Bodo language and takes into account the opinions from the majority of the linguists and organizations and finally decides in favour of Roman Script and recommended the Roman Script for Boro language.

Sri P. C. Brahma, M. A. be authorised to prepare a logical report based on the scientific and reasonable grounds in favour of adopting the Roman Script for the convenience and healthy growth and development of the Bodo language.

In preparing the said report he is also requested to take note all the essential points in support of the recommendation.

Further he is requested to circulate primary report of the recommendation to all members of the Script Sub-Committee enabling them to suggest necessary amendment.

BSS be requested to solve the other relevant matter arising out of the adoption of Roman Script for the Bodo language.

Since the matter was serious and delicate the BSS was of the opinion that it should not be decided at the heat of the moment.

“That the Roman Script has been in use in India for more than 200 years in educational institutions, offices, courts and various public lives. It is no longer a foreign script now” – the The Bodo Script Sub Committee observed in 1969.

“The Sub Committee observes with pleasure that the present move for the proposed change over from the Assamese-Bengali script to Roman has no religious or sectarian colour. It is joint movement by the non-Christians and Christians. As a matter of fact, adoption of the Roman can have no religious bearing. Muslim countries like Turkey and Indonesia have ungrudgingly adopted this script for their own language.”

The BSS submitted a memorandum to Honorable Chief Minister of Assam Mr. Mahendra Mahan Choudhury while he was camping at Gauhati circuit house at the end of the month of December’70 seeking approval of the Bodo primer in Roman Script then he threw up the memorandum in the air saying it, “Foreign Script.”

In the last part of the 1971, the Congress High Command dropped Mr. M. M. Choudhry from the state leadership and Mr. Sarat Ch. Sinha was crowned in his place as the Chief Minister of Assam by appointment. He won the general election held in the month of February/72 and formed government in Assam and Mr. Hiteswar Saikia was his lieutenant as the Home Minister in his cabinet.

Resolution No-7
After detail and threadbare discussion, this 14 Annual Conference of the BSS unanimously decides to implement Roman Script in Bodo Text Book voluntarily from the academic year of 1974.

Further, efforts be made for arranging Seminars etc. to provide advance knowledge of teaching in Roman Script for the teachers concerned and the Bodo Text Book Committee entrusted to get ready the required Text Books.

The BSS moved hard to the Govt. of Assam to have approved on the Text Book “Bithorai” in Roman Script but the Govt. of Assam did not pay any heed to the same and therefore the BSS adopted the decision of voluntary implementation of Roman Script from the year 1974, vide Resolution No 7 passed in the Salbari Session, Kamrup on 3rd April 1973 as stated above.

At last, having no approval on the Bodo Text Book “ Bithorai” in Roman Script from the end of the Sarat Sinha Govt. of Assam the BSS started on the 22nd April 1974 the voluntary implementation of Roman Script in the Bodo Medium L. P. Schools in Assam by introducing in KG-1.

The Govt of Assam could not tolerate the introduction of non-approved “Bithorai” primer and teaching Bodo children through it in the Bodo medium L. P. Schools by the Boro teachers at the request of the BSS.
As such, the Govt of Assam stopped the salaries of such Bodo teachers, which created a great problem in the BSS, and the Govt. of Assam hampered educational progress of the Bodo children.

Programs of democratic and peaceful agitation were chalked out phase wise by BSS and Central Action Committee viz, mass rally, class boycott, picketing, mass demonstration etc. end were made successful by Bodo public at the call of BSS and CAC and situation becomes tense.

Democratic processes were also adopted by holding discussion with Bodo legislators and the ministers as given below:
A meeting among MLAs and BSS workers was held on 20th September’74 at Assembly Hall, Dispur, Gauhati. The meeting resolved to submit a joint memorandum to the Chief Minister of Assam in connection with – (i) the demand of Roman Script (ii) the withdrawal of withholding of the salaries of the Bodo Medium primary schools teachers by the Govt. of Assam

Members present: -

  1. Minister Uttam Chandra Brahma
  2. Ramdas Basumatary, President, BSS
  3. Charan Narzary, MLA
  4. Ambarish Chandra Lahari, Ex-MLA
  5. Bahadur Basumatary, MLA
  6. Channa Kanta Boro, MLA
  7. Pitching Konwar , MLA
  8. Suren Das, MLA
  9. Thaneswar Boro, Treasurer,MLA
  10. Bihiram Boro, Vice President
  11. Moniram Mochahari, Member, BSS,
  12. Oroop Gwra Basumatary, Joint Secretary, BSS
  13. Baneswar Basumatary, General Secretary, BSS
  14. Aninda Bala Rabha, MLA


The Chief Minister of Assam, Dispur, Gauhati- 6
Dated Gauhati the 24th September/74

Respected Sir,
We the following Signatories, would like to draw your kind consideration to the following submissions:
The Bodo Sahitya Sabha has adopted resolution requesting the Govt. for accepting Roman Script in Bodo Medium Schools (a copy of the resolution is enclosed herewith): that in response to the decision of the Bodo Sahitya Sabha, the Bodo people have been launching a movement for recognition of Roman Script for Bodo Language.

In considering the gravity of the present situation arising of the movement, we would like to request the Government for considering the demand of the Bodo Sahitya Sabha.

That in support of Roman Script, in many Schools, Bodo Text Books written in Roman Script have been introduced voluntarily for which the payment of the Bodo Medium primary teachers, are being held up by the Government.

We therefore, request the Government for withdrawing the orders withholding payment of primary Bodo teachers, considering from the point of humanitarian ground.

The signatories of the Memorandum were:- Uttam Chandra Brahma, Minister for WBC of Assam, Ramdas Basumatary, President, BSS, Ramesh Mohan Kouli, President, All Assam Tribal Sangha, Charan Narzary, MLA, Ambarish Chandra Lahari, MLA, Ghana Kanta Boro, Ranendra Nath Basumatary, Ex-Minister, Bahadur Basumatary, MLA, Bihuram Boro, Vice President, BSS, Baneswar Basumataray, General Secretary, BSS, Ramdas Boro, Jagat Chandra Patgiri, Vice president of C.C of BSS.

Though the movement of the Roman script was failed and the Devanagiri was used the Boro have a deep injured hurt at their hearts since the failure of Roman Script movement of 1974-75 for Bodo Language and the heart is not yet relieved. The All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) under the leadership of Upendra Nath Brahma as a president adopted 92 charters of demands and submitted memorandum to the Governor of Assam in 1987 and the issue of the Roman Script was placed in the Charter Demands No. 45 which is produced below: - Demands No. 45: Introduction of Roman Script for Bodo Language.

When the AGP government of Prafulla Mahanta has taken a bold step in recognizing and introducing Mishing language in Roman Script, the Boro are also seeing a ray of light and hope in achieving their lost Roman Script.

The BSS, in this regard in its 32nd Conference held at Tangla, Darrang on and from 25th to 28th Febrauary, 1993, passed a resolution which speaks itself in the line and reproduced below:-
Resolution No. 4:- The question of using Roman Script again for Bodo language has been deeply discussed in today’s Delegate Session. In the opinion of the delegate house it is considered that the use of Devanagiri Script instead of Roman Script in the school as medium of education has become the cause of stagnation in the field of creation of literature.

Therefore, this delegate session resolves that an Expert Committee be formed to examine the previous records as well as to find out ways and means for using again that script.

It is also resolved in today’s delegate session that the Expert Committee to be formed by the Central Working Committee and that Expert Committee shall have to submit its report within a period of six months.

In the light of the Resolution No.- 4, adopted in the Tangla Conference of the BSS as stated above the Expert Committee has been formed by the CWC in the BSS in the name and style of Roman Script Implementation Expert Committee of Bodo Sahitya Sabha with the following members:

  1. Dr. Kameswar Brahma, MA, Ph. D, Chairman
  2. Kanakeswar Narzary, B.A (hon) B.T, Convener
  3. Mr. Khudiram Kochary, M.A.Vice-principal, Dekhiajuli College,
  4. Mr. Madhuram Boro, M.A. Lecturer Gauhati University, member
  5. Mr. Ramdas Boro, M.A. Principal, Mashalpur College, Member.

The President/General Secretary, Bodo Sahitya Sabha, H.Q. – Kokrajhar
Sub: Forwarding of the Report and Recommendations of the Roman Script Implementation Expert Committee, BSS.

I am herewith forwarding the Report and Recommendations of the Roman Script Implementation Expert Committee as unanimously accepted and approved in the 7th and last sitting of the same and held on and from 28th to 29th December, 1993 at Gauhati after making the field survey to collect the opinions on implementation of Implementation of Roman Script as medium of instruction in the Bodo Medium education in place of the present Devanagiri Script as per the decision adopted in the last Tangla Session of the BSS held on and from 25th to 28th February, 1993.

I think, the Bodo Sahitya Sabha, All Bodo Students’ Union and the Bodoland Autonomous Council authorities at this best opportune time shall implement the Roman Script for Bodo Medium education so as to improve its standard and enlarge the utility of the Bodo language in this North Eastern Region.

In this connection, the concurrence of the State Govt. of Assam may be attained through mutual discussions and negotiations as the Mishing people have already been granted Roman Script for their Mishing language.
As such, there cannot be any doubt in regards of implementation of roman Script for Bodo language and literature.

May Almighty God bless us for this noble mission? Thanks

Yours Sincerely
Kanakeswar Narzary, Convener, Roman Script Implementation Committee, BSS.
The Expert Committee after its 6th sitting arrived at the decision for making field survey to collect opinions from various dignified persons and the organizations of the North Eastern Region. Thus, this Expert Committee met personally various dignified persons and the organizations and communities and collected their opinions accordingly.

After completion of the field survey the Expert Committee met in its 7th and last sitting at Guahati on 28th to 29th December 1993 and examined the opinions.

The careful examination revealed that more than 98 per cent of the total opinions are in favor of the implementation of the roman Script as medium of instruction in Bodo medium schools in place of the present Devanagiri Script beginning from Class I in Bodo Medium Primary Schools preferably with effect from the academic session of 1994.

The BSS in its Central Delegate Meeting held at Gauhati on the 4th to 7th March, 1994 accepted the Report and Recommendations of the Roman Script Implementation Committee in to by 17/4 (17 in favor and 4 against) votes of the District committees of the BSS and a Sub Committee for production of the Text Books in Roman Script for Bodo Medium education has been set up by the BSS which is function in the line.

At the end, meanwhile, Mr. Ramdas Basumatary the then president of BSS, who deviated from the stand of implementation of Roman Script for Bodo Medium education during the course of the Roman Script movement in May, 1975 strategically has again declared for implementation of Roman Script for Bodo Medium education in the huge public gathering in the open session of the Annual Conference of the All Bodo Students’ Union held on 27th January, 1994 at Salbari in Barpeta district repenting his past wrong doing.

The Chief Minister of Assam refused approve the Bodo Text Books in Roman Script while a deputation party met him on the 30th August 1971 saying that (1) Roman is foreign script, (2) the English language be banished from India very soon and hence the importance of Roman script is decreasing, (3) the Bodo Sahitya Sabha is politically biased, (4) it does not represent all the Bodos.


So after going the above official records of the BSS thoroughly, the NDFB is of the opinioned that BSS was very serious and careful in adoption and implementation of Roman Script for Boro language. Both in 1968 and in 1993 the BSS selected and appointed the best sons of the Boro nation in Bodo Script Sub Committee as well as in Roman Script Implementation Expert Committee. Their decisions were unanimous. The NDFB also comes to know that out of the eleven members in Bodo Script Sub Committee, only four were Christians and in the Roman Script Implementation Expert Committee all the five members were non-Christians. So there is very little scope to believe that adoption of the Roman Script was motivated by the Christians Missionaries or had religious motivation.

So only the religious fundamentalist and communal person can consider the adoption of the Roman Script for the Boro language as the motivation of Christians missionaries or religiously motivated. Such a comment is really unfortunate and insulting to all the leaders and members of the BSS, Bodo Script Sub Committee, Roman Script Implementation Expert Committee and the entire Boro people. No wise man can make such comment but only who lives in fools’ paradise.

The NDFB is also of the opinioned that Leaders of the BSS were more farsighted than the Chief Ministers of Assam as of now the English is not banishing but occupying more and more important role in India and it has becoming a global language. NDFB is surprised and shocked to learn that Chief Minister Mohendra Mohan Choudhury even threw away the memorandum of the Boro people in the air. Was he the King of the middle age or a dictator of modern time? May be still the family members of those Chief Ministers are not going in the Assamese medium schools but only learning the English and Roman Script and enjoying the maximum in the State.

May be Wahid was also motivated by the Christian Missionaries to learn and write in English. We hope Wahid is not motivated by the Christian missionaries to send his children in English medium school and write in Roman Script. May be all the ministers, bureaucrats, top security officials, or any Indian who send their children to learn Roman or English script and English language are shamefully motivated by the Christian Missionaries or have religious motivation. Why India is still using the English and the Roman script in educational institutions, offices, courts and various public lives for more that 240 years now? Why the so-called supporters of Devanagiri Script are not sending their children to Boro Medium Schools but to English medium schools where their children have to write with Roman script? Do you think that Chief Minister Prafulla Mahanta was religiously motivated to grant the Roman Script for the Mishing language? Do you think that Mishings, where there is no Christian population are motivated by the Christian Missionaries to accept the Roman Script for their language? Why the Muslim countries like Indonesia and Turkey are ungrudgingly adopting the Roman Script? Why the supporters of the Devanagiri script are still permitting to use the Roman numerical in Bodo medium schools along with Devanagiri? What is the meaning of rejecting the Roman script in schools where every Boro student has to use in college and university? How many Boro people are using Devanagiri typewriters or computers software by now after using the Devanagiri Script? The Devanagiri script looks like only useful to Standard X for Boro students. After passing HSLC, the Boro students have to switch over their script from Devanagiri to Roman Script or Assamese script. Those who are weak in English, particularly the girls has to learn Assamese script again when they are 16 or 18 years of age and write in Assamese in the college that really stands as a block in their academic career. It is hardly useful in daily life of the Boro people. You can make a survey how many Boro educated people appeared their competitive examinations in Hindi and Devanagiri. One can go to the Boroland and find the mushrooming of private English medium schools and the Christian Missionary schools. Any reason? At the same time you can also find very pathetic condition of the Boro medium school with Devanagiri, where even teachers are not paid for months. Why poor majority population has to study in Assamese or Devanagiri script and in their own languages and the rich and elites study in Roman Script in English medium? Discrimination? Equality? Indian socialism?

We welcome the rightist policy makers of Delhi and the BJP who want the languages of the North Eastern Region to be used in Devanagiri. You better suggest them to implement from January 2008 for the unity and integrity of India. You can start implementing from Tamil Nadu or Kerala. It is good, though late, now you have started thinking that Devanagiri Script can bring unity and integrity of India. Attacking, insulting and arrogant style of writing is not helping you in right direction. You have to win the hearts and minds of the people to make them good Indians.

D.R Nabla
President of NDFB

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