In Memory of Sheikh Russel on the Occasion of His Birthday

Dr. M. Shahinoor Rahman
Deshratna Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and daughter of Bangabandhu, has concluded her book Aamader Chotto Russel Sona, a book about her beloved youngest brother Shahid Sheikh Russel, with a sad and poignant question. This question is a genuine astonishment of every one of the post-liberation war generations that believe in the spirit and ideals of Bangabandhu as well as in the spirit of the Liberation War of Bangladesh.

On August 15th, 1975, a vicious gunshot fired by the perpetrator of the crime took the life of little Russel. After forcing Russel to see the gruesome deaths of his mother, father, two brothers, and the wives of his brothers and uncle, they finally horrifically executed him. Was that delicate breast of his frozen over with agony and grief at the time? How did he react when he saw the lifeless bodies of individuals around whom he had spent his childhood smiling, laughing, playing, and being adored? What unimaginable torment he had to go through! Why did the murderers take away my Russel after torturing him to such an extreme degree? Why, why, why?

Will I ever find out the reason behind this “why”?
The name of “little Russel,” as it was known back then, will forever be etched in Bangladesh’s beating heart as though it were inscribed with blood. What sort of misdeed did the child Russel commit? He was just entering their teenage years and had eyes like stars. That he was one of Bangabandhu’s children was the only relevant factor in this case. The intriguing killers did not have the slightest bit of patriotic zeal, nor did they have any gratitude for the undeniable hero of Bengal, Bangabandhu and the Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Bangabandhu only endured the torments of prison life, forsaking personal joy, progress, and gratification for the sake of the ultimate liberation of the helpless, oppressed people of Bengal. The vicious killers lacked love, affection, or goodwill in their hearts.

These idiots had only one directive ingrained in their minds and hearts: no member of the Bangabandhu family was to be spared in executing the plan. On that tragic night, greed and the impulse to kill so completely blinded them that they did not hesitate to callously take the life of Sheikh Russel and the other members of the Bangabandhu family. The disgusting, wicked, bloodthirsty killers did not realize how much of a setback they gave this nation when they committed their atrocities. As a result of the actions of our Honourable Prime Minister Jononetree Sheikh Hasina, we have some clues as to what Sheikh Russel could have been as an adult if he had lived to see today. She has undoubtedly proven the worthy legacy of the ideal, and the spirit of Bangabandhu will live on via the works of his offspring. She has done so in an unquestionably successful way. Therefore, it is undeniable that even if Sheikh Russel were still living, he would have inherited at least one thing from his Father. That item would have been a love for people and the lesson to devote his life to ensuring their happiness and prosperity. This assertion is supported by several pieces of evidence, one of which is the example provided by his ‘Hasu Apa.’ Other evidence includes: According to reports, Bangabandhu disclosed to Russel’s teacher Geetali Dasgupta that Russel inquired why he had not attained the status of Gotama Buddha.

At midnight, at Bangabandhu’s home at Road No. 32, Dhanmondi, on October 18, 1964, he adorned the lap of the Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa without his father being present. As Mrs. Fatima Jinnah’s presidential opponent against the then-dictator of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, he resided in Chattogram throughout his campaign. When the family’s guardian was not there, the Honourable Prime Minister Jononetree Sheikh Hasina described the birth of Russel as follows:

The minutes leading up to Russel’s delivery were filled with a lot of nervous anticipation. There were five of us at home: Rehana, Kamal, Jamal, and myself, Uncle Khoka. My mother was with our youngest aunt, who also happens to be their immediate, more youthful sister. In addition, a physician and a nurse were there. It appeared that time had stopped. Both Jamal and Rehana had a pattern of dozing off for a while before eventually regaining consciousness. We were awake, but our eyelids were starting to become drowsy as we waited to receive the notification that a new guest had arrived. My second-oldest aunt stepped outside and told my sister and me that we each had a sibling. There was no limit to the joy that we felt. When should I next see him? Aunt has promised to give me a call. The phone rang after some time had passed. Russel was placed on my lap by the oldest aunt. The head was covered in thick black hair with cheek plumpness. Russel was a considerable infant when he was first born.

This newborn, who resembled a child from heaven, was given the name Bertrand Russel, after the world’s most prominent mathematician, philosopher, and humanist at the time, Bertrand Russel. Bangabandhu was a keen reader and follower of Bertrand Russel, and occasionally he would read aloud and interpret Bertrand Russel’s writings to Bangamata. Bangabandhu was also a fan of Bertrand Russel. Both parents’ desire for a cultured future for their baby is made abundantly plain by the fact that they have given him the name Sheikh Russel.

Sheikh Russel could only maintain a close relationship with Bangabandhu for a brief period due to Bangabandhu’s unwavering devotion to the welfare of his nation and people. Since Bangabandhu spent most of his time away from his residence, Russel could not interact with him. Russel frequently referred to his mother in the third person as his father. However, it became clear how deeply Russel cherished his relationship with his father when Bangamata brought her children with her on visits to Bangabandhu in jail.
Bangabandhu wrote about this in his Prison Diaries, “… Russel won’t break into a smile in the jail office till he sees me. … Everyone said that till I came into view, he had been looking at the window, saying ‘This is my father’s house.’ This is what he believes is his father’s home! I always have to resort to a trick with him when it is time for me to leave.

A further indication of this profound love is that Russel became aware of his father’s actions very young. Like Bangabandhu, Russel had developed a deep sympathy for humans and animals since childhood, which is a sign of the profound affection between the two. He had such a soft spot in his heart for animals, especially pigeons, that he would personally provide food for them. He also acquired the ability to treat people of all socioeconomic backgrounds with equal consideration. He used to address the steward Abdul Miah as “brother,” and he was very interested in what Abdul Miah had to say. Once more, when he was still relatively minor, he formed the routine of eating his meals while perched atop the lap of the housekeeper, who was also known as Ambia’s mother. Since Russel got a little bit older, he did not forget that routine, and he enjoyed eating rice alongside the other individuals working in the kitchen. Put another way, he did not acquire the skills necessary to humiliate working-class members.

Russel was enthralled whenever someone recounted a tale of liberation fighters or the Liberation War. When his older brothers returned from the war for liberation, he would listen to the stories of the battles they had fought in with intense interest and complete concentration. It is possible that in his fantasies, he enjoyed imagining that he was a member of the armed forces, charged with the duty of protecting the nation from outsiders. When he was younger, people frequently asked him what he wanted to do when Russel grew up, and Russel often responded that he wanted to be an officer in the military.

If Russel had survived that fateful night, there is no doubt that he would have gone on to become a well-known army officer, as he had dreamed of doing when he was younger. Alternatively, he may have gone on to become a world-renowned scientist and philosopher, such as Bertrand Russel, or a world leader, such as Bangabandhu, who is dedicated to the welfare of the people. Countless opportunities were waiting for this innocent flower of paradise.

But alas! Then, the horrible killers with the blood-thirsty stopped him for good with their lethal bullets. According to the cruel story told by the rogue killer, the victim was doomed to die since he was the only person who could carry Sheikh Mujib’s blood. He sobbed and swore to go to his mother, but he was not spared; instead, the murderer promised him in vain that he would take him to his mother. Even after he witnessed the slain body of his mother and became aware of the vicious nature of his assailants, he still did not believe that he would be murdered. Through his sobs, he pleaded with them to take him back to his “Hasu Apa.” However, he was unsuccessful in thawing the cold-blooded killer’s heart.

The brutality with which a boy as innocent as a heavenly flower was murdered before his opportunities could develop to their full potential is unprecedented in the annals of humankind’s collective memory. Because of this, one should not forget their anguish; it is limitless, and the remembrance of it is a never-ending source of suffering. On the day that would have been Shahid Sheikh Russel’s birthday, I bow my head in prayer to the Almighty, asking that He watch over him and ensure that he is happy and healthy in the hereafter. Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu.

Author is a columnist, writer, researcher, Professor of English and Former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh

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