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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Munier Choudhury /মুনীর চৌধুরী

Munier Choudhury /মুনীর চৌধুরী

Born 25 November 1925
Died 14 December 1971 (aged 46)
Education MA (linguistics)
Alma mater Aligarh Muslim University
Dhaka University
Harvard University
Notable awards Bangla Academy Award (1962)
Spouse Lily Choudhury
Children Ahmed Munier
Ashfaq Munier
Asif Munier
Relatives Ferdousi Mazumder (sister)
Kabir Chowdhury (brother)

Munier Choudhury (Bengali: মুনীর চৌধুরী; 27 November 1925 – 14 December 1971), born in 1925 at Manikganj, Dhaka, hailed from Noakhali, was a Bangladeshi educationist, playwright, literary critic and political dissident.


Choudhury graduated from Dhaka Collegiate School in 1941. He attended Aligarh Muslim University and later studied English literature for his Bachelors degree (with honours, 1946) and Masters (1947) at the Dhaka University. In 1954, he completed a second Masters degree, summa cum laude, in Bengali. He was passionately devoted to Bangla language and culture, and courted imprisonment in 1952 for his participation in the Bangla language movement, where he had, along with some others, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as his prisonmate. While in jail he assiduously studied Bangla language and literature, appeared at the MA examination in Bangla from inside the jail and came out first in the first class. In 1958, he obtained another Masters in Linguistics from Harvard University.

Career in education

Munier Choudhury started his career in teaching at Brojolal College in Khulna and worked there between 1947 and 1950. Later he worked for some time at the Jagannath College in Dhaka in 1950. After that, he joined the Dhaka University in 1950 and taught both in English and Bengali language departments between 1950 and 1971. He became Reader in 1962 and Professor in 1970 and the Dean of the faculty of arts in 1971. Educated in the universities of Aligarh, Dhaka and Harvard, he first carved a name as a fine teacher of English literature. On his release from imprisonment, he started teaching Bangla at the University of Dhaka, later becoming the Chairman of the Department and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, which posts he held till his death in 1971. Students flocked to his class, many from other departments, as he lectured in his inimitable fashion on Meer Mosharraf Hossain, Bankimchandra and Rabindranath, among others. To this day he is fondly remembered as an extraordinary teacher who was able to kindle in his students a genuine love for great literatures.

Political movements

Munier Choudhury actively participated in the Language Movement of 1952, and was imprisoned by the Pakistan government. He wrote his famous symbolic drama, Kabar (The Grave) in Bengali during his imprisonment. 'Kabar' is a translation of Irwin Shaw's 'Bury the Dead' written in English. He also fought against any type of cultural repression during the late 1950s and 1960s. In 1967, he protested the Pakistan government's ban on Tagore songs on radio and television. In the late 1960s there was a movement in Pakistan to replace the Bengali language alphabet with the Arabic alphabet. As a linguist and writer, Munier Choudhury protested this move to undermine the native language of East Pakistan. He actively participated in the non-co-operation movement during the early part of 1971 and renounced his award Sitara-e-Imtiaz (awarded by Pakistan Govt in 1966).

Important works

  • Kabar (The grave), 1952 – a one act play about the Language Movement
  • Raktakta Prantar (The bloody meadow), 1959 – play about the Third Battle of Panipat
  • Mir-Manas, 1965 – literary critique of Mir Mosharraf Hossain's literature
  • Munier Optima, 1965 – a Bengali keyboard layout design
  • Ektala-Dotala (First ever Bengali drama telecast on TV), 1965
  • Dandakaranya, 1966
  • Chithi (The letter), 1966
  • Palashi Barrack O Anyanya, 1969
  • Tulanamulak Samalochana (Comparative critique), 1969
  • Bangla Gadyariti (Bengali literary style), 1970


Bangla Academy Prize, 1962
Daud Prize, 1965
Sitara-e-Imtiaz, 1966, awarded by Govt. of Pakistan


Main article: 1971 killing of Bengali intellectuals
After the Pakistani army crackdown in 1971 in the Dhaka University area from which Munier Chowdhury luckily escaped like many, he moved to his parents' house, near Hatirpool. He became a totally dejected and broken man. Many of his student-like well-wishers requested him to come to the liberated areas. But unfortunately Munier Choudhury couldn't mentally adjust to the idea of fleeing from his beloved motherland. He preferred to stay back and surrendered to his 'fate'.
On 14 December 1971 Munier Choudhury, along with a large number of Bengali intellectuals, educators, doctors and engineers, were kidnapped from their houses and later tortured and executed by the Pakistan Army and its Bengali collaborators Al-Badr, Al-Shams, only 2 days before the end of the Bangladesh War. His dead body could not be identified.
A witness who survived the killing had narrated how he recognised Munier as he screamed while his fingers were chopped off. "Have mercy" that is all Munier had said. As this was being done the butcher said, "write your famous essays on Rabindranath Tagore." This happened in the infamous Physical Training College in Mohammadpur. That was the last that anyone saw of him.
Munier's body was never found.
On 3 November 2013, Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, a Muslim leader based in London, and Ashrafuz Zaman Khan, based in the US, were sentenced in absentia after the court found that they were involved in the abduction and murders of 18 people – nine Dhaka University teachers including Munier Choudhury, six journalists and three physicians – in December 1971.

Personal life

Munier Choudhury is survived by his wife Lily Choudhury and sons Ahmed Munier and Asif Munier. His second son Ashfaq Munier, a cinematographer, was killed tragically in a road accident in 2011. Ahmed Munier is retired and previously worked for UN missions in Africa. Asif Munier is a human rights activist and works in the development sector. Asif Munier was a founder member of Projonmo Ekattor, a human rights group in Bangladesh, which initiated the building of the Rayer Bazar Smriti Shoudho (Rayer Bazar Memorial) in Dhaka. This memorial was built on the barren land on which the Pakistani army dumped the bodies of the intellectuals after murdering them. Projonmo Ekattor also campaigns for the trial of war criminals of 1971. Asif Munier also runs his own theatre group, Bongorongo, through which Munier Choudhury's plays are regularly enacted.

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