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Bengali textbooks in the line of fire

A militant group in Imphal directs all primary schools to stop using textbooks written in the Bengali script, reports Sobhapati Samom.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2007 00:37 IST
Sobhapati Samom

A militant group on Thursday directed all primary schools to stop using textbooks written in the Bengali script.

The proscribed outfit Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup ( KYKL) announced a ban on Bengali script textbooks for classes I to IV, as part of its ‘Operation New Kangleipak’ campaign, in all the districts located in the Imphal valley (‘Kangleipak’ is Manipur’s original name). Though the Manipuri language has its roots in Thai, Myanmarese and other South East Asian tongues, it was until recently always written using the Bengali (or Assamese) script. Even now, most publications here continue to use this script. However, a strong movement to revive the ancient Meetei Mayek script the language was once written in, has been gaining ground in recent years.

The movement, spearheaded by the Meetei Erol Eyek Loinshillon Apunba Lupa (MEELAL), a united forum of many organizations, took the valley by storm. Among its most spectacular actions was the burning down on the state library building in Imphal in April 2005, destroying over one lakh books. After negotiations the government last year finally agreed to introduce the Meetei Mayek script in classes I and II immediately, and progressively in higher classes as well.

The KYKL however, maintains that the government’s attitude to implementing the agreement has been lackadaisical. In a statement, the ONK’s special task force commander, ‘Major’ Wangba Khumancha said the state government, being a puppet of New Delhi, could not be expected to seriously support the development of indigenous languages. It noted that in classes I and II children were presently being taught both the Meetei Mayek and Bengali scripts, which created confusion.

It warned that if schools failed to introduce the indigenous script in classes I to IV from the coming academic session, teachers and education officials would face severe punishment. An official in the Board of Secondary Education however, insisted that the government had stuck to its agreement with the MEELAL, and Meetei Mayek would be introduced in schools upto Class IV in any case.