The Twipra Students Federation (TSF), an influential student organization, has stirred up a significant movement in Tripura by demanding the introduction of the Roman script for the tribal Kokborok language and the passage of the 125th Constitutional Amendment Bill. The demand seeks to further empower the tribal autonomous bodies in the northeastern states. The TSF’s efforts, along with the Tipra Motha Party, have garnered attention as they hold a 12-hour shutdown in Tripura. This article delves into the background, significance, and implications of the demands raised by the TSF and their impact on the linguistic and political landscape of the region.
The Demand for Linguistic Reform
At the forefront of the TSF’s agitation is the demand for introducing the Roman script for the Kokborok language. This tribal language is significant as it constitutes a major communication mode for around 70 percent of the tribal population in Tripura. While Kokborok was recognized as the second official language by the Left Front government in 1979, the demand for the Roman script has gained momentum due to concerns over linguistic identity and education.
The Roman script demand was further amplified when reports emerged of students in various schools, particularly those affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), being compelled to write answers in Bengali script for Kokborok subjects during CBSE board examinations. This ignited a debate on the script to be used for Kokborok and underscored the complexities of language in education.
The Political and Constitutional Dimension
In addition to the linguistic demand, the TSF is pushing for the passage of the 125th Constitutional Amendment Bill. This bill, introduced in the Rajya Sabha by the government in 2019, seeks to strengthen the 6th Schedule of the Constitution. The amendment would provide more empowerment to the ten tribal autonomous bodies in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura.
The significance of this bill lies in its potential to redefine the political landscape of the northeastern states, particularly for tribal communities. The autonomous bodies hold authority over specific tribal areas and their administration, and the proposed amendment aims to enhance their powers. This aligns with the broader movement for tribal autonomy and self-governance in the region.
Debates and Divides: The Script Question
The linguistic question, particularly regarding the script for Kokborok, has been a contentious issue for over five decades. While some proponents advocate for the use of the Bengali script, a majority of tribal intellectuals and academicians advocate for the Roman script. The debate hinges on issues of identity, cultural preservation, and linguistic ease.
The Roman script is believed to align better with the phonetic structure of Kokborok and can aid in its broader dissemination, especially in a digital age. However, the Bengali script carries historical and regional significance, given its use in other languages of the region. The choice of script also has implications for education, media, and official communication.
The TSF’s Struggle for Change
The TSF, along with the Tipra Motha Party, has embarked on a series of agitations to highlight their demands and concerns. Despite their efforts, they express dissatisfaction with the state government’s response. The 12-hour shutdown called by the TSF is an assertion of their demands and a demonstration of their resolve.
The broader implications of these demands extend beyond linguistic reform. They touch upon issues of cultural identity, political representation, and the delicate balance between tradition and modernity. The TSF’s actions exemplify the active role that student organizations can play in advocating for societal change and influencing political discourse.
The Twipra Students Federation’s call for linguistic reform and constitutional amendments represents a significant juncture in Tripura’s socio-political landscape. The demand for introducing the Roman script for Kokborok and the passage of the 125th Constitutional Amendment Bill underscore the region’s complexities of language, identity, and political representation. As the TSF’s agitation gains momentum and garners attention, it brings to light the multifaceted nature of demands for change and the intricate interplay between language, culture, and governance. Ultimately, the outcome of these demands could have far-reaching implications not only for Tripura but also for the broader discourse on linguistic rights and tribal autonomy in India’s northeastern region.