Untold story of language fighter Momtaz Begum

Dhaka, Wednesday   08 April 2020


Untold story of language fighter Momtaz Begum

 Salah Uddin Chowdhury daily-bangladesh.com

 Published: 10:06 PM, 20 February 2020   Updated: 11:12 PM, 20 February 2020

Language fighter Momtaz Begum

Language fighter Momtaz Begum

February 21 is a day of inspiration and unforgettable memory for the Bengali nation. Not just in Bangladesh, the day is celebrating as International Mother Language Day. However, this glorious achievement of the Bengali nation has not come easily, much has been achieved in exchange for a sacrifice. There are still many unknowns behind this with an untold story. Such is the history of a language fighter, Momtaz Begum. 

Her husband had divorced Momtaz Begum for the crime of joining in the Language Movement. But for the love, she converted to Muslims from the Hindu religion and came to Bangladesh from Kolkata. 

The ancestor of Momtaz Begum was the zamindar of Raghundanpur in Rajshahi. Mother Makhan Mati Debi, a schoolteacher, and sister of one of the pioneers of Bangla literature Pramthanath Bashir. 

Kalyani Roy Chowdhury, who grew up close to uncle Pramthanath Bashir, fell in love with Abdul Mannaf, a law department student of Kolkata University. By breaking the shackle of conservation, Kalyani Roy Chowdhury married Abdul Mannaf and converted herself to Muslims from the Hindu religion. After convert, Kalyani Roy became Momtaz Begum and came to Dhaka from Kolkata by leaving her wealthy family, caste, all pasts behind.

The year 1946, riots are going on all over India. They moved from Howrah to Goalanda, from there to Narayanganj. The husband and wife stayed there. The two built a happy family and a baby girl was born named Khuku. Momtaz Begum served as the principal of Morgan Girls’ School and became quite popular there.

Then the year 1952 came, when the students and teachers of the country are fighting for the language. The movement spreads in Narayanganj, like Dhaka. 

The news came from Dhaka that the students would go to the procession by breaking Article 144 on February 21. A meeting was going on in front of the Rahmatullah Muslim Institute. During the meeting, they learned that many students were shot dead by police in Dhaka.

Momtaz Begum, principal of Morgan Girls’ School, took the streets with 300 female students ignoring the red eye of the authorities in protest of the police brutal shootings on the students. A huge protest meeting was held at the Chashara grounds. She attended the meeting with a huge procession of 300 female students, teachers and women of Morgan School.. 

Among those who were involved in the language movement, Momtaz Begum and her students’ role came to highlight to the whole country. In order to suppress the fire of Narayanganj, the Muslim League and their comrades started making various measures. They understand that if the Narayanganj movement is to stop, Momtaz Begum will have to stop.

On February 27, the administration was directed to arrest Momtaz Begum. A false case was filed against her, saying she had seized school funds. Later, on February 29, she was arrested when her daughter was only four-years-old. She was dismissed for various false accusations. 

Teachers and students at Morgan High School boycotted the school. They appeared before the court with a procession. Thousands of people then surrounded the Narayanganj Police Station. Roads are closed. The people got outraged when her bail petition was rejected. 

On the way to Dhaka-Narayanganj, students cut 160 big trees and made barricades. The brutal atrocities of the police started at one point. Police did not spare the women and female students. They later took Momtaz to the Dhaka jail on a strict watch.

The government then apologized to Momtaz and offered her release through a bond. She rejected it in hatred. She even denied the request of a bond of husband Abdul Mannaf, who was a food inspector in Dhaka. 

At one point, husband Abdul Mannaf threatened to divorce Momtaz Begum. But the brave Momtaz rejected that threat in hatred. Who gave up her house, her family, her dream for the man, Mumtaz Begum sacrificed everything to save her self-esteem, for the love of language. Later, Husband Abdul Mannaf divorced Momtaz Begum. She was released in 1953 after her 1.5 years of imprisonment 

After that, she started teaching at Anandamoyee Girl’s High School and Ahmed Bawany Academy in Dhaka. She began to suffer from financial crisis and disease. 

At one time, her place was at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH). She died there on March 30, 1967. Her daughter was then in West Pakistan, her husband’s family. She was buried at Azimpur Cemetery. No one knew which grave belonged to her. Momtaz Begum was lost without any sign.

After 60 years, the Government of Bangladesh awarded her in 2012 in recognition of the Language Movement. Besides, the road in front of Morgan High School in Narayanganj was named after him as ‘Bhashasainik Momtaz Begum Road’.