This article will discuss two attempts at the romanisation of Indian languages in the twentieth century, one in pre-independence India and the second in Pakistan before the Bangladesh war of 1971. By way of background, an overview of the status of writing in the subcontinent will be presented in the second section, followed by a discussion of various earlier attempts in India to change writing systems, relating mainly to the situation in Bengal, which has one language and one script used by two large religious groups – Muslims and Hindus (in modern-day Bangladesh and West Bengal, respectively). The fourth section will look at the language/script policy of the Indian National Congress in pre-independence days, and attempts to introduce romanisation, especially the work of the Bengali linguist S. K. Chatterji. The penultimate section deals with attempts to change the writing system in East Pakistan, i.e. East Bengal, to (a) the Perso-Arabic script, and (b) the roman script.
In all cases, the attempt to romanise any of the Indian scripts failed at the national – official – level, although Indian languages do have a conventional transliteration. Reasons for the failure will be presented, in the final section, in terms of İlker Aytürk's model (see this issue), which proposes factors that may allow – or may not lead to – the implementation of romanisation.