More than 260 individuals were apprehended in Tripura during a 12-hour statewide strike led by the Twipra Students’ Federation (TSF) on Monday. The strike aimed to advocate for the adoption of the Roman script for Kokborok, the indigenous lingua franca of the state, along with other demands. The demonstration commenced at Agartala’s North Gate, where a sizable crowd congregated. They ignited vehicle tires, obstructed roads, and chanted slogans. Protests unfolded in various locations including Abhoynagar Bridge, Buddha Mandir area, Hatai Kotor (Baramura hill range), Champaknagar, Hezamara, Bishramganj, and Manu, among others.
The movement garnered support from the Roman Script for Kokborok Choba (RSKC), a coalition of 56 tribal cultural and social organizations. The RSKC had previously threatened to initiate an “aggressive movement” if their demands went unanswered. An agitator at Hatai Kotor expressed frustration over the lack of a positive response from the government regarding a memorandum submitted two months earlier, which prompted the strike.
Assistant Inspector General (Law and Order) Jyotishman Das Chowdhury reported that 262 individuals were detained across 24 locations where protesters had blocked roads. Although six locations had since lifted their blockades, there were no reports of injuries related to the strike, except for an incident at Hatai Kotor. The injured protester was transported to a hospital in a police vehicle. Policewomen were deployed to manage female protesters.
Birajit Sinha, a senior Congress leader and MLA, conferred with TSF representatives, and the National Students Union of India, part of the Congress party, extended moral support to the day-long strike. Criticizing the government’s response to the strike, state NSUI president Samrat Roy took to social media, asserting that the tribal movement would persist despite attempts to suppress it.
As protests persisted in various locations, substantial police forces and Tripura State Rifles personnel were deployed to maintain order. The debate concerning the script for Kokborok in Tripura has a history spanning several decades. Kokborok was designated an official state language in 1979 and is spoken by many of the state’s 19 tribal communities. Approximately 30% of Tripura’s 3.7 million inhabitants belong to tribal communities.
Two commissions were established under former legislator Shyama Charan Tripura and linguist Pabitra Sarkar. While the previous Left Front government favored the Bengali script, the Roman Script for Kokborok Choba asserted that both commissions had endorsed the Roman script as the preferred choice for the majority of tribal people.
Kokborok is currently taught in 22 degree colleges and at Tripura Central University. The chief of RSKC, Bikash Rai Debbarma, noted that both Bangla and Roman scripts were in use for Kokborok in the state, and imposing the Hindi script might disrupt the language balance.
The controversy resurfaced in 2021 when Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s remarks stirred debate. Chandrakanta Murasingh, a tribal literary figure, stated that tribal cultural activists were not against Hindi, but imposing Hindi might upset the linguistic equilibrium.