ASSAMESE AND THE UNICODE
This piece of writing seeks to clear up the whole issue of the position of the Assamesepeople, their language and its system of writing in the world, more particularly in the Unicode Standard, keeping in mind all the parties involved in the issue including the Unicode Consortium. All the facts, historical, social, political and technical which are necessary and essential to be discussed are being discussed openly, even if it may seem unpleasant to some and unnecessary or irrelevant and boring to some other, nothing in the dark, nothing to hide.
The Unicode Consortium, a non-Governmental body with headquarters in the U.S.A, have standardised a Universal Character Set (UCS), i.e. a standard that defines, in one place, all the characters needed for writing the majority of living languages in use on computers. It aims to be, and to a large extent already is, a superset of all other character sets that have been encoded. Unicode (as the UCS is commonly referred to) can access over a million characters of which about 100,000 have already been defined. These include characters for all the world’s main languages along with a selection of symbols for various purposes.
Assamese is one of the language recognized and listed in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India. In the list the language is on the top. In all currency notes the denomination of the currency valued is written first in Assamese, the name being alphabetically on the top of the sorting order. But the same has not happened in case of the Assamese script . Assamese script is not recognized as a separate writingsystem but Assamese language is considered to be written using the Bengali script. This is what is happening in the ISCII or the Indian Standard Code for InformationInterchange. The same thing has been reflected in the Unicode’s Universal Character Set, the UCS.
Since most of the Assamese and Bengali alphabets are similar in their canonical forms, it is possible to write in Assamese language using Unicode Bengaliencodings and ISCII (Indian Standard Code) encodings using the Bengali script, where the two Assamese alphabets dissimilar in form with the current set of alphabets used in writing Bengali viz.ৰ(ra) and ৱ(wa) are included and another alphabet “khyaক্ষ” not included. The included two are being shown there as Bengali alphabets. But it is possible simply to write Assamese using the Bengali script but not possible to do two other important functions in the Assamese language using these encodings.
First, sorting software/programscannot sort in Assamese language because the alphabetical order of the characters/alphabets as is normally present in the normal list of Assamese alphabets is disrupted and positions misplaced in the Unicode chart of the Bengali language. This is something called in computer parlance as collation error.
duplication of characters between three major European writing systems namely, Latin, Cyrillic and Greek and has allowed duplicate and triplicate characters for these scripts. What is there in case of the Assamese scripts is also the presence duplicity with the Bengali script. This duplicity is there in the Assamese script because it was designed since the ancient times to write two languages Assamese and Sanskrit which are of quite differing phonology, using the same set of alphabets which change their identity and functionality as per the language of the scripts.
Historically this script now named Bengali in the ISCII and the Unicode, does notbelong to the Bengali language and this erroneous nomenclature of the script as Bengali has generated considerable displeasure in the Assamese community. The historical issue of this erroneous nomenclature of this writing system as Bengali has already been conveyed to the Unicode by the memoranda of mine and Pastor Azizul Haque. The matter is referred to the Government of India by the Unicode supposedly seeing political implications and is still pending with them. The Government of India has also responded, I have received written communication from the Department of Information Technology. The Government of India is seeking opinion of the respective state Governments of the states of Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Manipur. The contents following this will try to describe and discuss in details the problem and possible solution of the seemingly vexed issue.
md5sum of the file Asm-Uni.pdf = 7169e2fbec22f1be296985c2c32be92f
FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE ISSUE OF ASSAMESE AND UNICODE
For developments related to the ISO i.e. International Organisation for Standardization, BIS i.e Bureau of Indian Standards of the Government of India and ALA-LC please go to this page
For the presentation given by Dr Satyakam Phukan as an invitee to speak on the issue of non-representation of Assamese Script in International Standards, at the Fifth Meeting of LITD 20 of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) the representive body of the Government of India in International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO) on 5th of February 2014, at BIS office, New Delhi, India, click one of these links :::>
Sometime after sending this pdf document Asm-Uni.pdf to the Unicode Consortium, Mr Rajen Barua of Houston, Texas, United States of America sent his communication on the issue of Assamese and Unicode to the Unicode Consortium. His position on the issue reflected by his plea to the Unicode Consortium was found in this link, as on 29th of October 2012.
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THAT LINK (if it is still working)
On the 9TH OF JANUARY 2012, Pastor Aziz-ul Haque and Dr Satyakam Phukan sent a memorandum to the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Assam, Mr Tarun Gogoi, on the subject matter “Non-representation/Erroneous nomenclature of the Assamese script/writing system in the Unicode Character Set (U.C.S) of the Unicode Consortium.” with the appeal to take up the matter and take steps to ensure and obtain a separate slot/range/place for the Assamese script/writing system in the Universal Character Set (UCS) of the Unicode Consortium.
On the 18TH OF FEBRUARY 2012 the Department of Information Technology, Government of Assam sent an official communication to the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India for requesting the Unicode Consortium to allot a separate slot/range/block for the Assamese script.
DOCUMENT INCLUDED INSIDE RTI REPLY DOCUMENT BELOW.
On the 23RD OF FEBRUARY 2012, the Secretary, Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Assam, sent a divergent view on the subject matter to the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, asking for the renaming of the script as “Assamese and Bengali” in place of “Bengali and Assamese” citing the logic of alphabetical order.
DOCUMENT INCLUDED INSIDE RTI REPLY DOCUMENT BELOW.
On the 24TH OF MAY 2012, Pastor Aziz-ul Haque and Dr Satyakam Phukan filed two identical Applications under The Right to Information Act, 2005 with the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.
On the 13TH OF JUNE 2012, a meeting was organised by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, in New Delhi on the issue of the Assamese and Unicode.
On the 22ND OF JUNE 2012, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India sent the replies to the identical Applications under The Right to Information Act, 2005 of Pastor Aziz-ul Haque and Dr Satyakam Phukan.
On the 26TH OF OCTOBER 2012, Dr Jyotiprakash Tamuli, Head, Department of Linguistics, Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam, India sent a communication to the Technical Committee of the Unicode Consortium on the subject matter “Two Technical problems Concerning Assamese”. The document concerns two letters of the Assamese alphabet namely “ৰ”(ro)and“ক্ষ”(khya). In the communication the Assamese letter “khya” is represented as “ksa”.
On the 2ND OF AUGUST 2014, A delegation comprising Pastor Aziz-ul Haque, Dr Satyakam Phukan, Durlav Gogoi, Tapan Kumar Sarma and Binoy Kumar Sarma met the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Assam Mr Tarun Gogoi in his official residence in Kaina Dhara hill in Khanapara, Guwahati and submitted a Memorandum regarding the issue of Misrepresentation/non-representation of Assamese script in the international standards and also on the issue of Historically Dispersed Assamese People.
On the 15TH OF SEPTEMBER 2014, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Assam issued a press statement regarding
“Broad based committee to be set up for inclusion of Assamese script in UNICODE”
JANUARY 2016, Government of Assam prepares the “Proposal for inclusion of Assamese Script in ISO 10646” for submission to Bureau of Indian Standards.
FEBRUARY 2017, Pankaj Jyoti Hazarika representing an organisation called “Prahar” based in Nagaon, Assam, presented before the Human Rights Council of the United Nations Organisation, 34th session held at Geneva, Switzerland various issue concerning the Assamese people. The issue of the obliteration of the Assamese script in the various International Standards was raised and highlighted there. The actions of the organisation “Prahar” represented by Mr Pankaj Jyoti Hazarika finds mention in the release No HRC17/059E of United Nations Human Rights Council for information media. No response is recorded there from the Government of the Union of India, on the issue.
The video of his presentation can viewed and downloaded below.
Deliberation on Assamese Script at the United Nations
The complete written statement can be accessed from the link below.
Release No HRC17/059E of United Nations Human Rights Council for information media.
The mention of the plea of “Prahar” is there in page 7 of the pdf converted document of the webpage, a bookmark is there in the document to go there easily.
Screenshot of the plea of “Prahar” in page 7
23rd of AUGUST 2017, In a meeting held in BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) office New Delhi, the BIS formally accepts the Proposal of the Government of Assam for initiating the process for having a separate Encoding for the Assamese script in the ISO Standards.
Between 18th and 22nd of June 2018, Meeting of the ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2 and ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 was held in London, United Kingdom. A proposal for encoding of the Assamese script in ISO : 10646 Standard was submitted to ISO by the Government of Assam. The Assam Government’s proposal was forwarded by BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) to ISO. But there was no recommendations from the side of BIS in support of the Government of Assam’s proposal registered as Document No n4947 with the WG2. The reason behind this stance of the Government of India represented by the BIS in ISO is vehement opposition to the idea of a separate encoding of the Assamese script in ISO : 10646, by officials of the TDIL organisation a part of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Government of India. A four member team consisting of Prof Sikhar Sarma, Mr MK Yadava, Mr Paramananda Rajbangsi and Dr Dhrubajyoti Borah was deputed by the Government of Assam to that meeting. In addition to that Prof Sikhar Sarma was deputed as an expert by the BIS. The ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2 and ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 did not accept the proposal of Government of Assam for a separate range in ISO : 10646 for the Assamese script, but accepted an ad-hoc proposal by Mr Michael Everson for renaming of the existing Bengali script in ISO : 10646 by adding extra annotations for Assamese script and changing the title and add extra un-encoded glyphs of the Assamese script. Worth mentioning that it is Michael Everson in connivance with some officials of the Government of India namely Mr Om Vikas , Ms Swaranlata and others who are responsible for unjustly and illegally deleting the Assamese script from ISO : 10646 and representing the Assamese letters “Ra ৰ” and “Waba ৱ” as Bengali letters.
NO REASON WAS GIVEN BY THE ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2 and ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 FOR REJECTION OF THE ASSAM GOVERNMENTS PROPOSAL HENCE IT WAS A SUMMARY REJECTION.
The issue of inclusion of the Assamese Script in ISO : 15919 Standard, which is the Transliteration Standard of the Indic script into Roman script was not discussed there, in spite of the fact that the issue of the Assamese script came into the domain of the ISO and the BIS because of the necessity of encoding the Assamese script in ISO : 15919 Standard, for which encoding the script in ISO : 10646 Standard is a prerequisite.
Copy of the Assamese Government’s Proposal Document No n4947 is available from this link.
Copy of ad-hoc proposal of Mr Michael Everson Document No n4999 is available from this link.
Copy of the recommendations of the ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2 and ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 Document No n4954 is available from this link.
DR SATYAKAM PHUKAN