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ASSAMESE AND UNICODE

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, with Governments of countries as members 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.(ra) and (wa) are included and another alphabet “khyaক্ষnot 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.


CLICK HERE TO PROCEED TO THE ARTICLE ::: file = Asm-Uni.pdf

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 :::>

 

1. Assamese script and ISO Standards

2. Assamese script and ISO Standards

 

 

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)

CLICK HERE FOR PDF CONVERTED DOCUMENT OF THAT WEBPAGE

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.

CLICK HERE FOR THE MEMORANDUM OF PASTOR AZIZ-UL HAQUE AND DR SATYAKAM PHUKAN ADDRESSED TO HON’BLE CHIEF MINISTER OF ASSAM, MR TARUN GOGOI

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.

CLICK HERE FOR THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF 13TH JUNE 2012

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.

CLICK HERE FOR THE RTI REPLY DOCUMENT

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)andক্ষ”(khya). In the communication the Assamese letter “khya” is represented as “ksa”.

CLICK HERE FOR DR JYOTI PRAKASH TAMULI’S DOCUMENT

 

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. 

CLICK HERE TO SEE THAT MEMORANDUM TO THE HON’BLE CHIEF MINISTER

 

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”

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE CONTENT OF THE PRESS RELEASE OF THE HON’BLE CHIEF MINISTER OF ASSAM

 

JANUARY 2016, Government of Assam prepares the “Proposal for inclusion of Assamese Script in ISO 10646” for submission to Bureau of Indian Standards.

The document can be accessed here.

 

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.

Links below

 

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.

Written statement submitted by the Prahar

 

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.

 Download link to the pdf converted document

 

Screenshot of the plea of  “Prahar” in page 7

 

 

Link to the Release No HRC17/059E of United Nations Human Rights Council

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DR SATYAKAM PHUKAN

23 responses »

  1. - Bobby D. Baruah

    The state government should not waste time and forcefully and explicitly declare and demand that the Assamese script be put in the Universal Character Set system with immediate effect for all the academic rationales as put forth in forums and by you here and ensure the rightful slot for Assamese without delay. Support of the Assam Sahitya Sabha would greatly help. Time is of essence. Non committal attitude and procrastination would send the wrong signals to the consortium and other stakeholders. Great work done Satyakam!

    Reply
  2. Very Good ! I’m proud of u my frnd !! Now we shld help the govt. of assam to convingsngly write to the GOI.

    Reply
  3. Very good effort Dr Phukan.

    Reply
  4. গুৰুত্বপূৰ্ণ আৰু সময়োপযোগী লেখা ।

    Reply
  5. Nicely written! The part about the collation error is worth mention. The last paragraph mentions the communications to Unicode by you and Mr. Azizul Haque, is it that after the effort, the recent changes in Unicode chart to ‘Bangla and Assamese Script’ happened? And, lastly, how the respective governments are taking up the issue? And, how we should motivate them if they are not taking any notice?

    Reply
    • Three of us are working in this issue individually. Myself, Pastor Azizul Haque and Ashok Sarma. Myself and Pastor Haque work as a team. The first information to the Unicode was reportedly sent by Ashok Sarma via the Error Reporting portal of the Unicode, as per his version, we have seen no documentary proof as of yet of his claim. Next I sent the Memorandum by e-mail followed by Pastor Haque. Except for the language both our memoranda wanted the same things. The Unicode responded to our representations and referred the matter to the Government of India. The Government of India has written to the state governments of Assam, Bihar, Manipur and West Bengal. We have received communication from both the Unicode and the Government of India.

      Please download the pdf Asm-Uni.pdf and VIEW IT ONLINE
      everything will be clear, once you go to all the links given therein. This report in the pdf file is my final effort in solving the issue of Assamese writing system in Unicode by the provision of a separate slot/block/range for the Assamese writing system. It was despatched to the Unicode Technical Committee on the 17th of November 2011.

      Dr Satyakam Phukan

      Reply
  6. bhaskar jyoti goswami

    ya, this is s’thing abt these bengalis n others Iv alws hated.they r so dishnest that they jst call other ppl’s things their own. if assamese n bengali scripts r similar (as they r, xcept 4 few letters) why say that a particular assamese letter is like the bengali 1 or another one is unlike the bengali 1? why not say the other way round? when we hav concluding syntactic proof the begali lang must b a later devlopment to our asomiya, we should rly fight 4 this n nvr giv up. as ambikagiri once said ” ei bangalhate deshkhaan khalak oi” ha ha ha

    Reply
  7. Certainly true. Assamese Scripts has its own history and developments. Phukan Kokaideo is doing a marvelous research work on his own for our identity. Where are those assamese who were in numerous Sabha and Samittee ?

    Reply
  8. Charlie Ruland from Cologne/Köln/Kölle, Germany

    1. The name of a writing system is NOT the same as the name of a language. For example the LATIN SCRIPT is used world-wide these days for LANGUAGES OTHER THAN LATIN: Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, German…

    2. The traditional ENGLISH name—taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, as is REQUIRED by Unicode—of your script is definitely Bengali. This is of course DERIVED from—though not at all identical with—the Bengali language, just because this language is the sixth biggest language worldwide (181 million speakers) whereas Assamese ranks 54th (16.8 million).

    3. Applications are free to choose any names that seem appropriate. Thus labels like “Assamese” or “অসমীয়া”—and NOT “Bengali”—will show up for the benefit of Assamese users, who may IGNORE UNICODE altogether—and I’m sure most of them do.

    4. Unicode’s present (version 6.1) solution seems to work pretty well for Assamese.

    5. The Latin, Cyrillic and Greek alphabets are three markedly different scripts altogether. Therefore characters that happen to have similar or even the SAME SHAPES in certain styles of writing—e.g. the styles chosen for Unicode’s code charts—are NOT IDENTICAL and may look quite different in other styles. There are NO Latin-Cyrillic-Greek duplicate characters in Unicode.

    6. COLLATION should NEVER take place through Unicode’s ordering of characters. Otherwise even the bacic Latin alphabet would lead to bad results, as for instance “A” and “a” are not neighbours in Unicode, not to speak of ligatures (e.g. “æ”), special (“ß”) or accented letters (“ä”). And when you think about it that most languages using the Latin alphabet have their own rules for collation (and some even have several collation standards) there is no point for Unicode in trying to sort characters according to collation. And apart from that, collation is far mor complex than most people think.

    7a. What you want to achieve is what Unicode calls DISUNIFICATION. In case you are interested in Unicode history: Coptic was disunified from Greek. Because NAMES MAY NOT CHANGE in Unicode the latter is still called GREEK AND COPTIC, although Coptic should no longer be written with characters from this block.

    7b. HAN UNIFICATION is an example where DISUNIFICATION WAS DENIED by Unicode despite heavy protests, especially from Japan. On this topic also read the articles Han Unification in Unicode, Why Unicode Won’t Work on the Internet: Linguistic, Political, and Technical Limitations, Why Unicode Will Work On The Internet and The secret life of Unicode.

    8. You frequently use ALPHABET as though its meaning was letter or character. This is a misconception that is bound to lead to serious misunderstandings, as the term alphabet should NEVER refer to a single character, but only to a COMPLETE SET.

    Reply
    • That is true name of the script is not same as that of a language. The script named as Bengali in Unicode Code Set do not historically belong to the Bengali. Please read the article. Bengali got the characters from the script from the Assamese script when Assam was called Kamrup and used by modifying the identity of the characters because Assamese identification will not work in Bengali. Bengali may be considered a Sanskrit origin language but Assamese is not, it is more Indo-European even than the Sanskrit. Calling Assamese characters Bengali is like calling Latin characters English.

      There are more English speakers than Italian or Romanian the two nationalities considered inheritors of Roman heritage. Would it be appropriate to call Latin script English because of more numbers. A script rightfully belongs to those who are the true and rightful inheritors.

      All representations should be correct what really belongs to Assamese should be shown as Assamese and what really is Bengali should be called Bengali.

      Unicode’s present (version 6.1) does not solve the problem for the Assamese. The mis-representation and also collation error persists.

      There are lot of commonalities of Latin, Cyrillic and Greek alphabets, which is taken advantage of by those who indulge in phising. In case of Assamese and Bengali such commonality is more percentage wise, but the total number of such characters are less.

      I am be wrong in presentation of the issue of collation error of Assamese but it persists, experts will know the reason why.

      I thank you for giving me the idea of disunification, if it is the solution it is well and good.

      I will definitely try to remove the confusion relating to the use of the words alphabet, letter or character. Thanks for pointing out the fallacy.

      UNICODE OR OTHER AGENCIES SHOULD SEE PROPERLY THAT NO NATIONALITY OR LINGUISTIC GROUP ARE WRONGED BY MIS-REPRESENTATIONS OR DEPRIVATION OF THEIR RIGHTFUL PLACE, HOWEVER SMALL IN NUMBERS THEY MAY BE.

      Reply
  9. অশেষ ধন্যবাদ, আপোনাৰ লিখনীৰ পৰা বহু নতুন কথা জানিব পাৰিলো I UNICODE ত অসমীয়া ভাষা সুপ্ৰতিস্ঠিত হওক I

    Reply
  10. Arup Kumar Das 06.09.2012

    Dear Phukandeo
    Please don’t give up. Govt. of India should be pressurised to present the case of rightful place of Assamese script to Unicode without out delay. There is likelyhood of the matter being thwarted by buraucrates of the other linguistic group who are ubiquitous in the central govt. secreteriates.

    Reply
    • I would like to clear the misconceptions of Mr Arup Kumar Das. We are not facing the greatest of the difficulties in dealing with bureaucrats of other linguistic groups. Whatever they may have in their minds we do not know but in their actions and responses, till now all non-Assamese bureaucrats we had to deal with in course of working in the issue of Assamese script encoding in the Unicode Standard have behaved responsibly in the most dutiful way including those of the India Government’s DEITy, we cannot however say of the future. In the 13th July 2012 meeting in DEITy New Delhi on the issue of Assamese Script in Unicode Standard, the stand taken on behalf the Assamese script by Mr Mahendra Kumar Yadava, the Managing Director of AMTRON, an ethnic Hindustani person is highly commendable and deserves the thanks and gratitude of the entire Assamese community. The public response and reaction of the entire Bengali intelligentsia and the West Bengal government till now, have to be called very mature. I have personally communicated to the Chief Secretary of the West Bengal government this pdf file Asm-Uni.pdf. All the problems we are facing till now are because of the immature, jealous and irresponsible elements of the Assamese community in all segments be it of the press, bureaucracy or the intelligentsia, be them in Assam or America or Europe or elsewhere. All the genuine news reporting on this issue have come up in Telegraph newspaper, which is part of the Kolkata press. The press of Assam has behaved in the most NOTORIOUS MANNER, please see the last page of Asomiya Pratidin vernacular news paper,4th September 2012 issue, it will bring to you the harsh, sad and shamefull reality. It is not that Government of India can shirk responsibility for the injustice to the Assamese but first we must ensure that all matters put up before them from our side are put up in the proper way, giving them no lacunae to work against our interests.

      Dr Satyakam Phukan

      Reply
  11. Legacy of hand written manuscripts,lithographic notes and copper plates etc. of ancient Kamrupa first in Sanskrit and then in Assamese right from third/fourth Century AD as was prevalent in Ancient Kamrupa land may be forcefully taken up to establish the identity of Assamese script. There are no such material proofs till late medieval period for the so called bengali language which developed as varient of Assamese language and established as a separate language using the ancient Kamrupi (Assamese) script. Geographical and environmental factors, natural calamities, external aggression from across the boarder and low birth rate kept the number of assamese speaking population limited over the centuries and therefore the number in any way is not the justification for losing the writeful place of an ancient langauage and its script.

    Reply
  12. I remember reading in a Assamese news paper (Janashadaran) in June 2012 that Assamese has been accepted as a language in Unicode. Is it true?

    Reply
    • Misreported news presented to readers. Unicode Consortium encodes script not language. Unicode encoding defined in ISO 10646-1 Standard, as of now has not yet recognised the Assamese script. Particular mention needs to be mentioned of one individual Mr Michael Everson, who is adamant to the point of absurdity, in refusing to accept Assamese as a distinct script. His comments relating to the Assamese Script as made in the Unicode Forum in the mailing list amounts to a gross injustice meted out to the Assamese people as a whole. This person unfortunately is also the Registrar of the ISO 15924 Registry of the ISO, which is entrusted to the Unicode Consortium by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). ISO 15924 deals with Codes for the representation of names of scripts which are encoded in ISO 10646. He is also involved in a similar injustice done to the Hungarian Rovas script and in the past he was involved in a similar injustice done to the Khmer script of Cambodia , which was undone only after the Cambodian government, led by its Minister, Sorasak intervened, please see this link https://drsatyakamphukan.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/unicode_khmer_case.pdf .
      Mr Michael Everson, reportedly a Buddhist holding dual citizenship of USA and Ireland, is closely associated with many Indian experts and scholars, he is/was actively involved in encoding of many Indian scripts and the Rupee Font named Rupakara developed by him was the first of its kind to be recognised by the Unicode Standard, it is provided for free download by an Indian website named "Foradian" .

      Dr Satyakam Phukan

      Reply
      • Mr. Michael Everson has refused to accept either the results of the Hungarian computerized paleography or the requests of majority of the Rovas users for several years. He persistently forces his concept, which is scientifically not backed. His erroneous proposal (http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n4268.pdf) he with his Austrian colleague Mr. André Szabolcs Szelp used an erroneous script name (Old Hungarian) for the Rovas script, they use partly erroneous character names, moreover typographically primitive glyphs and incomplete character set. The opinion and standard proposal of the Hungarian researchers can be read here: http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n4367.pdf. The Hungarian researchers and Rovas user representatives clarified their opinion in several contributions, including this: http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n4371.pdf. Unfortunately, the contributions of the Hungarian experts were swept out in favor of the concept of Everson and Szelp.

        Dr. Gábor Hosszú

  13. Gautam Kakati

    Dear Sir,
    Thank you for such an informative article about the origin of our beautiful language. I have been to Himachal Pradesh many times and was always intrigued by the Kamakhya temple in Kamru,Kinnaur.
    After reading your article , I am more determined to visit Kamru later this year and do my own bit of research.
    I would be grateful if you can provide me your email id .

    Regards,
    Gautam Kakati,
    Surat,Gujarat
    09909920623

    Reply
  14. Dr. Phukan, you can never win this battle this way. Because they considered beforehand Assamese language to be written in “Bangla” scripts, and Assamese people are happily using them everywhere!
    The only Solution: Each and every Assamese people have to totally STOP writing ANYTHING in UNICODE in “Bangla” script and keep protesting. (For the last ten years, I’ve not a single word in Assamese in UNICODE.)… But then, it will not happen, we Assamese people don’t possess that amount of unity and determination. Mr. Everson is right, you’re wasting your time and energy!
    Result: Relax, the worst is yet to come. I can visualize the whole of Assamese language getting assimilated to Bangla in next 50-100 years. The Assamese people deserve it.

    Reply
  15. Thank you so much Dr. Satyakam Phukan sir for exploring this crucial issue in the proper way and also thanx for publishing my deliberation through your website.

    Reply

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