A state government hoarding written in Assamese has been found smeared with black ink in the Bengali-majority Barak valley area of Assam triggering criticism from some parties.
The incident, which took place at Silchar in Cachar district on Sunday, was allegedly carried out by members of two organisations demanding the use of Bengali in place of Assamese in the Barak valley region.
Visuals showed the alleged activists climbing a ladder and defacing the hoarding in front of Silchar Railway station. They also wrote ‘ Bangla Likhun’ (write in Bengali) and the names of the two organisations below it.
An official in Silchar said no complaint has been registered with the police regarding the incident, though the law enforcers are looking into the matter.
The Assam Official Language Act, 1960, adopted Assamese as the official language of the state, though it included provisions for use of Bengali for all administrative and official purposes in the Bengali-majority Barak Valley of the state, comprising Cachar, Karimganj, and Hailakandi districts.
The use of the Bengali language for official purposes was authorised following a mass movement by the Bengali-speaking population, especially in Barak valley, which had also led to the death of 11 protestors at Silchar Railway Station on May 16, 1961.
The smearing of the government hoarding has led to condemnation from regional organisations of the state, with the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) criticising the move to denounce the official language of the state.
Barak Democratic Yuba Front (BDYF) and All Bengali Students Youth Organisation (ABSYO) had allegedly carried out the protest programme near the hoarding.
Kalparnob Gupta, the convener of BDYF, maintained that the advertisement was against the government notification that allowed the use of Bengali as the official language in Barak Valley.
“Some circles with vested interests are trying to impose Assamese here. The chief minister was celebrating Durga Puja in Barak Valley and at the same time, his government is indulging in such acts,” he said.
All Bengali Students Youth Organisation Cachar district president Raju Deb said the government should refrain from indulging in any activity that could disrupt harmony, and concentrate on developmental projects.
Reacting to the incident, All Assam Students Union general secretary Sankar Jyoti Boruah on Monday said it is unfortunate that the Assamese language has been insulted in Assam itself.
“If the Assamese language is disrespected in Assam itself on the pretext of the Language Act, what will be the future of our language?” he questioned, in a written statement, shared through his social media account.
“Even after such incidents, the government wants to settle the Hindu Bangladeshis (Bengali speakers) through the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in our state. When that happens, will our language be safe anymore?” Boruah asked.
He also demanded strict action against the organisations that had indulged in the act of defacing the hoarding at Silchar.
Palash Changmai, general secretary of AJYCP, alleged that a section of Bengali-speaking people was framing a design to make Bengali at par with the Assamese language in Assam.
“Assamese speakers are confined to Assam and if the language is not protected here, our language will be in danger,” he said.
Changmai also ciritcised the political leadership for failing to take any action against those who had smeared the hoarding with black ink.