Book arson ‘a Taleban-style’ act,” by Subir Bhaumik of BBC News:

Officials of a prestigious library in India’s north-eastern state of Manipur say nearly 145,000 books have been destroyed in an arson attack.
Protesters demanding the introduction of Manipur’s ancient Mayek script set fire to the Central Library in Manipur’s capital Imphal on Wednesday.
Officials say many of Manipur’s most ancient texts were among the books destroyed by the fire.
The arsonists want the Mayek script to replace Bengali script in the state…

Earlier this month, Manipur’s vernacular newspaper editors agreed to print their broadsheets in both Bengali and Mayek scripts under pressure from Meelal and groups supporting them.
But the state government insists that it will only introduce Mayek gradually, because its sudden introduction could cause problems for a generation of Manipuris who are not familiar with the ancient script.
Analysts say that has upset Meelal and groups like the KCP. They say the library was burnt because almost all Manipuri books preserved in it were written in Bengali script.

I got this appalling story from qB at frizzyLogic, who points out that “when the Mayek script was replaced by the Bengali script in the 18th century it was accompanied by a mass-burning of books in the Mayek script. Or so says this site devoted to the Meitei Mayek script.” Tit for tat: the great motivator of human history.


  1. Ouch. This story really hurts.

  2. Michael Farris says:

    The mind boggles at the waste and pointlessness (regardless of anything you can think of the relative merits of the scripts involved).
    When I was studying Aymara, we used to talk about the “alphabet wars” for that language and I did a paper at an applied anthropology conference on the competing orthographies (by that time mostly minor differences like whether to write aspirates with h or ” [as in t" or th]) but this just takes it to a whole new, horrible level.

  3. I’m talking about writing systems and orthography development in my intro linguistics class in 10 mins. I was going to say something about the politics of orthography development and use (Serbian vs Croatian, the four competing Cornish orthographies, etc) but I guess I have a new example.

  4. G.F.Eleveld says:

    This is a true damnatio memoriae, but it provides a strange insight: the destroyers twice did not give a damn about their own language and litterature. Is it now feasible to assume that they were in fact analphabetics and recognized only the shape of the letters, and no more?

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