Tribal students hit streets with blockades in Tripura over Kokborok Roman script row

Enewstime News Images

Agartala, Feb 12, 2024, ENEWSTIME Desk

Indigenous student bodies, the Twipra Students’ Federation of Tripura (TSF) and the Tipra Indigenous Students Federation (TISF) organized blockade of roadways and railways in the State on Monday in support of allowing the indigenous students to write answers their Kokborok examinations in Roman script. The agitation affected the vehicular movement and train services in the State today.

The debate over the issue has been going on for the past several months. The Tripura Board of Secondary Education (TBSE) initially announced that students were free to use either Bengali or Roman script. However, later the TBSE changed its stance and said only one script – that Bengali script should be used. This irked the indigenous students who were demanding Roman script.

To register their protest, a section of the indigenous students resorted to blockades.      

The blockade severely disrupted train services and vehicular movement, particularly in the outskirts of Agartala and ADC areas. However, the capital city was less affected as a large contingent of security forces, including Tripura police, swiftly lifted the protests and detained the agitators.

TISF leaders, who had blocked the national highway at Mungiakami, spoke to reporters about their long-standing demand for the use of Roman script for the Kokborok language, a movement that began as far back as 1967. They argued that forcing tribal students, who have been learning the language in Roman script since childhood, to write their crucial Board examination in Bengali script would be a gross injustice. They asserted their right to decide the script for their language.

Jiten Debbarma, a leader of the Youth Tipra Federation (YTF), emphasized that this was not a political issue but a matter concerning the future of students from indigenous communities.

Meanwhile, TSF activists staged a protest in front of the residence of Tripura’s Chief Minister, Dr. Manik Saha, on Monday morning. The agitators accused the government and the TBSE of playing with the lives of tribal students and acting partially. They vowed to continue their movement until the TBSE issued a notification allowing students to write the examination in Roman script.

Despite their refusal to lift the blockade and unauthorized assembly, all the agitators were eventually detained by security personnel.

Reports indicate that the agitating tribal student bodies blocked roadways in approximately 33 locations across eight districts, and train services were also halted in many areas. Major roadways, including Assam-Agartala, Khowai-Agartala, Kailasahar-Khowai, and Udaipur-Agartala, were blocked by the agitators.