Homage To Our Martyred Intellectuals |
Shaheed Munier Chowdhury
Remembering my brother
THROUGHOUT the entire occupation period, the break of the war and right until the day he was kidnapped by the Razakars shortly before noon of 14 December 1971, my brother Shaheed Munier Chowdhury was living with us at our ancestral home on Central Road, then a landmark in Dhaka. During the time he was with us I had the rare privilege of knowing him intimately. All those nine months, I found him to be in a constant state of fear of the unknown. His mind remained occupied with the senseless killings and oppression going on all around. He would often ask me if I could tell him as to when this pack of hyenas would leave our sacred soil? Long hours into the night I would very often see him pacing up and down the long running first floor veranda of our house with his hands folded on his back. Occasionally he would recline on the easy chair right outside the door and intently listen to news broadcasts of BBC and Voice of America.
Sometime between 11 and 1130 in the morning of 14 December my brother and I were on the outer balcony of our house watching the Indian MIGs bombarding some targets on Elephant Road with rockets flying right over our heads. As the rockets were being fired with deafening sound, my brother all too suddenly put his hands on my shoulders and said in a loud voice, ... Look Shamsher, if after all this, we are unable to gain our independence, I think it is better that we all die”. With things becoming all too quiet suddenly, we came inside and were on our way down to have a bath and be on the dining table where our mother was waiting for us for lunch. Mother asked us to hurry up since this was the lull time in bombing raids and God alone knew when the raids would resume again. I would like to skip a few other incidents that took place in between and come right to the incident of the Razakars' arrival and the final scenario of kidnapping.
At about 1145 or so a group of three to four Razakars robed in black with their faces covered arrived at the front yard of our house and were talking to my brother with me by his side and urging him to accompany them to the Dhanmandi police station for a brief questioning by, what they called “the authorities”. After some altercation and refusal by my brother to accompany them, all too suddenly they pointed guns at his back and commanded him to move. As he was being pushed into a waiting microbus, he turned to me and said, “ What do you think Shamsher, I better go?” I was totally dazed by the turn of events and the suddenness of it all and did not know what to say, but finally ended up saying “yes”. Thereafter I returned inside and was faced with this dilemma as to how to break the news both to my mother and my sister-in-law? My sister-in-law Lily Chowdhury was calling me from upstairs to go to her and explain as to what had happened and here my mother was waiting with food laid out on the table!
For years I had remained dazed thinking of that fateful day. Day after day my sister-in-law would ask me to repeat the incident and I would oblige and then would bow out in silence bearing the burden of a kind of guilt with which I continue to live even to this day. My mother grieved for long 29 years until she too passed away in the year 2000. It has been 34 long years to the day, to this day I keep asking myself as to what really happened to him? Did they torture him before they bayoneted him to death or simply shot him down? With his acute state of lumbago I only hope that they did not torture him and that he died less painfully.
Munier Chowdhury was a multifaceted genius. At 45 when his life was cut short by the collaborators of the vicious occupation forces he was already adorning the seat of the Head of the Department of Bengali and Sanskrit. He had the rare distinction of being scholarly in both Bengali and English. A Harvard scholar, he was adored and admired by his students and fellow teachers alike. He was a teacher per excellence. His class- room lectures were so eloquent and inspiring that students of other disciplines like history, geography and even medical science attended his lectures.
My brother was also an eloquent public speaker the likes of whom is yet to be seen. With a husky voice and a slightly bent back caused by a condition of lumbago he would hold his audience spell bound for hours. He was exceptionally articulate and a magician with coinage and use of words.
Munier Chowdhury was truly a big man in the truest sense of the term. Despite his fame far and wide he was one of the humblest of men I have ever known. He led a life of absolute simplicity. It was a common sight during those days: Munier Chwodhury coming to the university riding a bicycle dressed in Kurta and a pajama made out of coarse handloom cloth known as khaddar. He was like a father figure to his students. Many of them would come to him with their private problems and seek guidance. He had often helped students to buy textbooks or pay their tuition fees.
Munier Chowdhury was a visionary, the kind of which symbolised the very voice of protest against all forms of social injustices and exploitations particularly those in the name of religion. He was relentless in his fight against the extremist mullahs and fundamentalists who ultimately masterminded the killing of the intellectuals including him and many others during our war of liberation.
My brother Munier Chowdhury is no longer with us. I feel no real pain. May be he is lucky not to be alive or else he would weep to see that all that he stood for is completely shattered. The demons have returned and once again conspiring to carry on with their heinous acts threatening the very foundations of our independence.
I believe the only tribute to my late illustrious brother would be for us to stand up and defeat these dark forces who are nothing but enemies of the human race. They are devils incarnated.
Rest in peace my brother wherever you are!