Joseph Pulinthanath sdb
Kokborok language, like its speakers, seems to be critically poised at some crossroads of history. Strewn about the length of breadth of this hallowed land of erstwhile kings and kingdoms are numerous signs of resurgence and decadence.
Caught in the middle, between two worlds one dead, the other powerless to be born, is a tongue, crisis-ridden yet buoyant: Kokborok, the mother-tongue of the 'borok' people of Tripura in Northeast India.
Vicissitudes of history have relegated the language and its speakers to the fringes of society, although it is still used by over 800000 speakers. Today's efforts at rejuvenation of the tribe and its language are characterized by muddled policies and half-hearted attempts.
The revival of Kokborok
Recent efforts at revitalizing Kokborok have been phenomenal. In fact, the sheer pace with which Kokborok reinvented itself in the past 20 years is amazing.
There was a time not long ago, when Kokborok was spoken in hushed tones in Agartala. This was because enmeshed in socio-political factors Kokborok got absurdly equated with lack of education, status and breeding.
But that was all a long time ago! The scenario has substantially changed today. The sotto voce asides of yesteryears have now been replaced by confident assertions. Today one frequently gets to hear Kokborok in public places and occasions even in the towns of Tripura. The increased level of confidence and ease with one's tongue is reflected in all public spheres of life. There are numerous Kokborok festivals, Kokborok songs, films, theatre, workshops, websites, seminars and Kokborok-related activities in the state. There is even a state-sponsored 'Kokborok Day' celebrated annually in the state. It is, of course, another matter that with Kokborok itself seldom featuring in it, the annual event is quickly beginning to feel like a memorial function 'about' Kokborok.