Begum, Mumtaz

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Begum, Mumtaz (1923-1967) Teacher, one of the language movement activists, was born in Howra of Shibpur, Kolkata on 20 May 1923. Her full name was Kalyani Ray Chowdhury, nick-name 'Minu'. She was married in 1944 to Abdul Mannaf, an official of Kolkata civil supply office and a student of law at Kolkata University. She adopted the name of Mumtaz Begum after her marriage with Mannan. Her father Mohimchandra Ray was a district judge and later a justice of Kolkata High Court. Her mother Makhanmoti Devi was a school-teacher. Her ancestors were the Zamindars of Raghunathpur, rajshahi. She was a niece (sister's daughter) of eminent litterateur Promathnath Bishi.

Although highly educated, her father was very conservative in attitude. He was not much interested about women's education. Mumtaz Begum passed the matriculation examination through her own initiative as a private examinee in 1938. However, immediately after passing this exam, her family informed her that she would not be allowed to pursue her studies. But she was resolute about higher education. She passed the BA examination from Bethun College in 1942 and later passed the BEd examination from Dhaka University in 1951. She completed the 'education workshop for teachers' course in 1958 and obtained MEd degree in 1963.

She started her career by joining the State Bank of India in 1942. After the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, she came to mymensingh and taught at Vidyamoyee College of the town for seven months. She joined as headmistress of Narayangabj Morgan High School in 1951. A huge public meeting was organised at the Rahmatullah Muslim Institute ground of Narayanganj after news came about the martyrdom of students when police opened fire on a language movement procession brought out in Dhaka on 21 February. On that day, the first procession of womenfolk including students was led by Mumtaz Begum. She set up contacts with the then political and labour leaders of Narayanganj. She held a number of meetings with the workers of Adamji Jute Mills and succeeded in convincing them about the significance of the movement. She was arrested on 29 February 1952 on false charges of misappropriation of funds from Morgan School, as the administration felt that the movement could be stopped if she was arrested. The news of rallies and processions brought out in protest against her arrest in Narayanganj was published in The Statesman newspaper of India on 3 March 1952.

Mumtaz Begum was released in May 1953. She joined the Anandamoyee Girls' High School as headmistress in 1954. Later she also served as the headmistress of Ahmad Bawani Girls High School for a short period. She established a kindergarten named 'Xhixhu Niketan' by adopting educational extension as her lone objective in life. She remained engaged in the teaching profession until her death on 30 June 1967. [Shamima Akhter]