A tribute to Munier Choudhury

Shamsher Chowdhury

Shaheed Munier Choudhury and Bangladesh are inseparable. He was kidnapped by the infamous collaborators of the Pakistani occupation forces known as Razakars (Al-Badr), less than 48 hours before our independence. No one really knows what happened to him, but he is believed to have been brutally killed along with scores of intellectuals kidnapped and murdered at about the same time. A brilliant life was cut short at 46 only. Years after independence the legacy of Munier Choudhury continues to live.

Munier Choudhury was a brilliant scholar, a champion of Bangla and Bengali nationalism. He was the founding father of modern Bengali drama in Bangladesh. Throughout his life he fought against all forms of narrow thinking and religious extremism.

Munier Choudhury's quest for knowledge was not only insatiable but it came to him most naturally. He once told his elder brother National Prof. Kabir Choudhury “ I do not study to get a first class, but I see no reason as to why I should not get a first class if I study hard."

Munier Choudhury's academic pursuits were both intense and diversified. He did his Master's in English in 1947. Later he appeared for both MA part 1 and 2 of Bengali while still in jail as a security prisoner and obtained first class first in both the examinations, a feat that none could achieve in the country before or after him. He also wrote his immortal drama “ (Kabor) immortalizing the 1952 Language Movement, while he was still in jail in 1954. Munier Choudhury had a passion for the study of languages. He went to Harvard University in USA from where he obtained Master's in Linguistics in 1958.

He has often described by his colleagues and students alike, as a wizard of a teacher. He was a unique and an eloquent speaker both within the confines of his classroom and outside. Often students from departments other than his Bengali Department thronged his classroom and listened to his deliberations spellbound. To his colleagues, he was more of Munier Bhai than Munier Sir. To this day many of his students who are well placed within the country and overseas remember Shaheed Munier Choudhury with extreme reverence.

Munier Choudhury was a die-hard nationalist and indeed a champion of Bengali nationalism. His participation in the Language Movement and subsequent confinement in Jail for long two years (1952-1954) bear testimony to the fact. He relentlessly worked towards development of Bangla through various research works. One of his unique contributions towards the development of the language was redesigning and modernizing the keyboard of the Bengali typewriter in collaboration with the Remington of the then East Germany sometime during the mid 60s. As a result, a considerable improvement was made over the keyboard of the typewriters of the company. Although over the years further developments have taken place since then, but Munier Choudhury was the pioneer in this regard. To this day Remington typewriters with Bengali keyboards carry his name “Munier Optima”.

Munier Choudhury was unquestionably the father of modern day Bengali drama in Bangladesh. His immortal drama “ Kabor” was included as a textbook of the curricula of the Bachelor of Arts. He wrote a number of other dramas like Raktakta Prantar (1962). Drama and Munier Choudhury lived side by side. He was an accomplished stage actor too and acted in his own play Roktakto Prantar sometime in 1962. One of his short plays “Ektala-Dotala' has the rare distinction of being the first ever Bengali drama telecast on TV as early as 1965.

Munier Choudhury during the short span of his professional career and academic pursuits received many prestigious awards and laurels. It is indeed sad that the life of such an extraordinary man was cut short by the infamous collaborators of the Pak Occupation forces when he was only 46.

Munier Choudhury was a visionary who symbolized the very voice of protest against all kinds of social injustices and exploitations particularly in the name of religion. He was relentless in his crusade against the extremist Mullahs and the extremists in general who ultimately masterminded his kidnapping and killing in 1971.

Today the country is passing through one of the most difficult periods of its existence. We needed a Munier Choudhury to be amongst us at this critical hour more than ever before. Evil forces are once again up and about conspiring to carry on with their heinous acts threatening the very foundations of our independence.