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Assamese script: Separate ISO slot still undecided
AJIT PATOWARY
 GUWAHATI, May 14 - The fate of Assamese script remained undecided as far as its getting a separate slot in the ISO:10646 Standard is concerned. A seven-member committee will now review the draft proposal on providing a separate slot to Assamese script in the ISO, which was submitted by the State to the LITD20 committee of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Government of India.

The Indian Language Technologies and Products (LITD 20), a section of the BIS that represents the country in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), will submit its report within three months.

The draft proposal was presented to the LITD20 committee at its meeting held on May 10, 2019 in Hyderabad. Following discussion, LITD20 chairman Prof Rajeev Sangal announced that the committee would look into the proposal and submit a report within three months.

But, since another ISO meeting is slated around June 21, 2019 at Redmond in the USA, placing the revised proposal for a separate ISO encoding of Assamese script will not be possible there due to the above decision of the LITD20 committee. This has made the fate of Assamese script hang in the balance once again.

It needs mention here that the demand for providing a separate slot to Assamese script in the ISO has been raised by the people of Assam for quite a long time. On several occasions, delegations from the State met the BIS authorities and last year, a delegation was also sent to the London meeting of the ISO. But that meeting rejected the State’s demand for a separate encoding of Assamese script in ISO:10646 Standard.

It is alleged that one Michael Everson submitted an ad hoc proposal in that ISO meeting suggesting renaming of the existing Bengali script to Bengali-Assamese and adding annotations to identifiers of the characters, keeping the Bengali identifiers of the characters as before. This ad hoc proposal was accepted by the ISO.

This was followed by a petition signed by 500 Assamese people seeking restoration of Assamese script in ISO:10646 Standard and it was submitted to the Prime Minister of India on September 24, 2018. Its copy was also submitted to the Assam government.

Following this, a meeting was held in the State Secretariat here on April 11, 2019 on the Assamese script issue. It was told by the State government at the meeting that it had not accepted the ad hoc proposal mooted by Everson and the recommendations of the ISO.

The meeting constituted a 14-member committee to prepare a revised proposal seeking a separate slot for the Assamese script in ISO:10646 Standard with Dr Satyakam Phukan as its convenor. The committee was asked to submit a revised proposal on or before April 30, 2019.

This committee submitted its proposal to the State government within the specified deadline and then, it was asked by the government to place it before the BIS LITD20. Dr Phukan made a presentation before the BIS committee on May 10, 2019, after which the announcement of LITD20 chairman Prof Rajeev Sangal came.

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