After renaming Baramura hills two years ago, the BJP-led government in Tripura Wednesday officially rechristened two more locations with Kokborok names while observing the 44th Kokborok Day. Kokborok is lingua franca of a majority of Tripura’s 19 tribal communities.
Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who earlier delivered speeches in the tribal dialect on Kokborok Day in 2020, on Wednesday spoke a part of his address in the tribal language and then moved on to Bengali to say, “… like we changed the name of Baramura to Hatai Kotor earlier, we are now announcing to rechristen the name of Gandacherra to Ganda Twisa, where the picturesque Dumbur lake is there. We are also renaming Atharomura range to Hachuk Berem in Kokborok language.”
Since the BJP-IPFT combine came to power in Tripura in 2018, the state government has been pushing for pro-tribal name changes and announcements. Four months after his government was sworn in, CM Deb renamed Agartala airport after the last reigning king of the state’s Manikya dynasty – Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya. Though Tripura monarchs ruled both tribal and non-tribal subjects, the royal dynasty was of tribal origins. Descendants of the Manikya dynasty still enjoy tremendous popularity among tribals of the state, so much so that a regional party floated by the current royal head swept the state’s tribal ADC polls last year within a few months of the party’s formation.
In November, 2018, the state government announced a two-day holiday on Garia Puja, a Tripuri harvest festival celebrated on the 7th day of April. In 2020, the state government renamed Baramura hill range in the state to Hatai Kotor, literally translating to big hill in Kokborok.
Kokborok is now being taught in nearly 300 schools including senior basic, Madhyamik and higher secondary schools, as against in 166 schools during the erstwhile Left era. Interestingly, Deb’s pro-Kokborok policy and renaming spree to empower local languages also comes with his party’s push for Hindi.
Whilst strongly advocating for popularity and empowerment of local languages and dialects, Deb wrongly claimed that Hindi is the national language of India. Hindi is one of the official languages of India.
“We have different mother languages in India. But our national language is Hindi. Experts have said Sanskrit is the root of scripts of different languages – be it smaller or larger languages, oral or written. Bengali, Hindi all have come from Sanskrit”, he said while speaking about scope of local languages in the New Education Policy.
He said indigenous languages have found official recognition in institutionalised education through the New Education Policy. Deb reasoned that the rechristened Kokborok names of Atharomura and Gandacherra would attract tourists, businessmen in future.
“Both Hachuk Berem and Hatai Kotor (Atharomura and Baramura) lie alongside the National Highway, which is the most frequently used roadway…. Dumbur lake is among the most popular tourist spots of the state and I hope the new name will reach people through tourists in future”, he said. Stating that his government is working on developing tribal culture and languages, CM Deb said eight books and two magazines were recently published in Kokborok in the state and that handbooks on Kokborok language were published for students till the tenth standard in schools.
In an oblique reference to the erstwhile Left Front governments, Deb said the ‘parivartan’ or change his government brought by politically replacing the mindset of projecting the self as ‘crippled’, has given rise to self-reliant mindset among people.
Deb also said other minority languages like Mog, Chakma, Mizo and other dialects are also spoken in the state and said his government is working to develop languages of different smaller sub-tribes as well.
On his plans to develop tribal languages, CM Deb said it’s time to develop different oral languages with written scripts. The CM also appealed people from Bengali and other communities to learn Kokborok to show proper respect to the tribal dialect.
One third people from Tripura’s 37 lakh population are from 18 tribal communities. Most of them live in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), which is spread across 7,132.56 square km and covers nearly 68% of the state’s geographical area. As per government estimates, 8,14,375 people from different tribal communities like Tripura, Reang, Jamatia, Noatia, Kalai, Rupini, Murasing and Uchoi speak Kokborok.