“We dispute that Bengali is the language of Barak Valley of Assam”

This press release would have been lost amidst PR press releases of airport potboilers, instagram influencers, vitality enhancers and other serious commercial matters. It was by accident we read this memorandum by SOCIETY FOR PROTECTION OF SYLHETI (CACHARI) LANGUAGE. In the contentious identarian landscape of Assam, languages and dialects are dialectical nightmare beyond the Axomiya/Bengali binary. 

The Chairman,
High-level Committee for implementation of clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

Sub:    Memorandum for Protection of Sylheti (Cachari) Language under Clause 6 of Assam Accord.

Respected Sir,

First of all we welcome the formation of the committee under your chairmanship.

We understand that along with other measures, the esteemed committee has the mandate to suggest measures to be taken to protect the Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam.

We wish to put on record and bring to your notice that we speak and represent the indigenous language of the Barak Valley region that is Sylheti (Cachari). We dispute that Bengali is the language of Barak Valley.

As such we beg to submit following facts and appeal for your kind consideration and necessary action for protection of our indigenous Sylheti (Cachari) language.

  1. We have the privilege to start with quote of the ‘The Assam Gazette September 6, 1950 Page No 1464 “ Indigenous Person of Assam means a person belonging to the state of Assam and speaking the Assamese language or any tribal dialect of Assam or in the language of the region.”

  1. Language is the means by which the individual expresses his personality. Alphabet is the means by which the language is written. Script is the means by which the Alphabet is written. Language is much more than a means of communication. It is essence of every civilisation, the reflection of its history, its culture, its traditions and its evolution.
  2. We wish to reiterate and assert the fact that Cachari/Sylheti is a distinct ethnic and linguistic group and not just a sub-group/ dialect within the larger Bengali language as widely perceived. It has its own alphabet written in its own script known as Syloti Nagari.

Syloti Alphabet

Syloti Nagari is characterised by its simplistic glyph, with fewer letters than Bengali. In addition, Sylheti Nagari didn’t have any ligatures.The total number of letters is 32; there are 5 vowels and 28 consonants.

Syloti Numeral chart 

A sample manuscript 

  1. This historical script fell out of usage in the mid to late 20th century, but it is experiencing a revival today. There are people even now who recite Puthi written in Syloti Nagari with great interest and reverence. Continuous efforts are being made for popularisation and recognition of the language by London based Historian Dr. Mohammad Mominul Haque under the banner of “নাগরি লিপিতে ছিলেটি ভাষা প্রচার সমিতি’’. Mention should be made of the pioneering works by Jems Lloyd William & Shu Lloyd William under the banner “Sylheti Translation and Research”, London.
  2. The Sylheti language is native to the Greater Surma Valley and Barak Valley region and Hojai district of Assam in India.We are a population of 40 lakhs in 3 Barak Valley districts and different parts of Assam. Worldwide there are 150 lakhs people who speak the Sylheti language.
  3. The cultural and social dominance of Bangla and its script, have compelled the near extinction of Sylheti (Cachari) Language. This can be termed as a “cultural amnesia”. The lack of awareness of the history of Barak & Surma valley, its language and its script amongst the people in Barak Valley is also responsible for this “cultural amnesia”.
  4. Without the knowledge of the language’s history and the seclusion from all sides – both tangible and intangible – the Sylhetis (Cachari) of Barak Valley are pushed to reconfigure their collective identity.
  5. The script Syloti Nagari, has its first known recorded instance in Gulam Huson’s puthi, ‘Talib Huson’, written in 1549. The first recorded Sylheti author is Sanjay Kasiram Das referred who translated the greatest Sanskrit Epic the Mahabharata. Following Das, the early 15th century writer Bhabananda, said to be of Habiganj produced the Haribansa. Sylheti literature reached its peak with the publication of four works by Sadek Ali born in 1801 as Gaur Kisor Sen. Foremost among them is Halatunnabi a life of Prophet Mohammad (SWS), Hasar Michil considers the day of judgement and after life and Raddekuphur offer a comparison of Hinduism with Islam and an autobiography and a sketch of society. Podmopuran was also written in Syloti Nagari. Sitalangsha (origin inhabitant of Tarinipur of Katigorah Constituency) has written more than 1000 songs in Sylheti language.

    Front page of Front page of a Nagari book titled Halat-un-Nabi, written in the mid-19th century by Sadeq Ali

9. Out of the eight thousand languages ​​on earth, three thousand have their own alphabet. Sylheti (Cachari) language is proud to have its own alphabets written in its own script Syloti Nagri. Among the numerous languages ​​in the “Language Museum” in Frans, two languages ​​are named as Bangla the other one is Sylheti.

10. Land documents were used to be signed in Nagari lipi before and after independence.

Land document signed in Syloti Nagri

11. In 2005, the UNICODE CONSORTIUM has accorded unicode status to the language vide (ISO-15924 SYLO-316). Unicode is an international encoding standard for use with different languages and scripts, by which each letter, digit, or symbol is assigned a unique numeric value that applies across different platforms and programs.

12. There is an android keyboard on google play store. Syloti Nagri Keyboard is the first android keyboard on Nagri letter. Developed by Sabbir Ahmed and Md Nurul Islam.

13. In 2014, Holy Bible titled as ‘Pabitra Engil Sharif’ and in 2015 , Jesus the Messiah: His life and teaching Book 1, St Matthews Account and Bible have been published in Sylheti language by Ahle Kitab Society based on the illustrated Bible originally published under the arrangement with Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville.

Holy Bible titled as ‘Pabitra Engil Sharif’
Jesus the Messiah: His life and teaching
  1. Abid Raja Mazumder of Cacahr district has compiled and printed 30000 syloti words spoken in Barak Valley area in the form of a book. Sylheti Grammar   was developed by Dr. Steven B Plettner. Dr. Mominul Hoque has developed a Sylheti dictionary.
Dictionary by Abid Raja Mazumder of Cachar
  1. The following persons received PhD in Sylheti language and literature:

Musabbir Ali Bhuiyan (of Badarpur), from Guwahati University;

David Kane (of Durham, England) from SOAS;

Ghulam Quadir, from Dhaka university;

Mohammed Sadique (of Sunamganj, Bangladesh), from Assam University;

  1. One can find translation of the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in Syloti as below

Sylheti in Syloti Nagari script

Sylheti in Bengali script

ধারা ১: হকল মানুষ স্বাধীনভাবে হমান ইজ্জত আর হক লইয়া পয়দা ‘অয়। তারার বিবেক আর আকল আছে। এর লাগি হকলর উচিত একজনে আরকজনর লগে বিরাদরির মন লইয়া আচরণ করা।

  1. We would like to specially refer here “Khilonjia: A souvenir published by Indigenous Forum Assam in 2018 where in a chapter titled “Kachari Musolman hokolor Iti Britha page 35-44 has authentically described the status of Muslim in Barak valley.

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With the above submissions and attached documents, we humbly request you to consider the protection of Sylheti (Cachari) language as an indigenous and independent language to be protected under Section 6 of Assam Accord.

We are at call distance for your audience to discuss further and submit additional documents in support of our demand.

(Munim Pervez Barbhuiya)

General Secretary.

(Atiqur Rahman Barbhuiya)




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    February 10, 2022

    Excellent work! Keep it up…

  2. March 1, 2022

    Yes sylheti is not a dialect of Bangla,but older than Bangla.Bengali is a modern language,sylheti has both ancient and medieval manuscript.The so called intelligibility of Bengali with sylheti has already disproven by thaut,simaud and dopieriela.Real sylheti language is totally different than Bengali,and even accepted by grierson.

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