Today is the 93rd birth anniversary of educationist, playwright, literary critic and political dissident Munier Chowdhury. Different socio-cultural organisations have chalked out elaborate programmes to observe the day in a befitting manner. Marking the occasion, Theatre, a leading theatre troupe, will confer Munier Chowdhury Memorial Award and Mohammad Zakaria Memorial Award on November 29 at a programme at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
Munier Chowdhury was born on November 27, 1925 in Manikganj. His father, Khan Bahadur Abdul Halim Chowdhury, was a district magistrate.
Munier completed his honours (1946) and MA (1947) in English from Dhaka University. He completed a second MA degree in Bangla in 1954 and obtained an MA in Linguistics from Harvard University in 1958. He taught for some time at BL College, Khulna and at the then Jagannath College (now Jagannath University). He later joined Dhaka University and taught in both the English and Bangla departments.
He had a leaning for left politics. He was arrested for protesting against the killing of students by police on February 21, 1952. He was detained till 1954. He topped his MA exam while he was in jail. He wrote his acclaimed one-act play, Kabar (1953), based on the language movement, while in detention. The play was staged inside the jail, with prisoners playing different parts.
Munier Chowdhury stood up against all forms of cultural tyranny and protested against the Pakistan government’s directive to ban Tagore songs on Radio and TV in 1967. Munier declared his solidarity with the non-cooperation movement called by the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in March 1971.
Munier Chowdhury was a progressive writer and started by writing short stories, though his main interest was in writing plays, especially one-act plays. As in his short stories, his one-act plays are about the disparities in society. Twelve of his one-act plays have been compiled in Kabar (1966), Dandakaranya (1966) and Palashi Barrack O Anyanya (1969). Besides, he penned plays like Raktakta Prantar (1959) and Chithi (1966) among others.
Munier Chowdhury was awarded the Bangla Academy Prize (1962) and the Daud Prize (1965) for his plays. He was kidnapped and killed by the Pakistani occupation forces on December 14, 1971.