Sheikh Kamal through the eyes of Bangabandhu

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Published on August 7, 2020
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The 71st birth anniversary of Sheikh Kamal, the eldest son of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was observed on Wednesday. He was born on August 5, 1949.

Bangabandhu, in his books Unfinished Memoirs and Karagarer Rojnamcha (Prison Diary), recounted some memories of his children including Sheikh Kamal. The Unfinished Memoirs contains 13 pages about Sheikh Kamal, while he is mentioned in 65 pages of Karagarer Rojnamcha. Although the books do not describe the events of Sheikh Kamal's birth, Bangabandhu has narrated memorable events regarding Kamal starting from a very young age. The Father of the Nation also highlighted the pain of not being able to remain with his children.

Sheikh Kamal first appears on page 146 of Unfinished Memoirs. Here, Bangabandhu depicts the events which occurred a few days after Sheikh Kamal’s birth. He was in West Pakistan for over a month and was returning home.

Referring to the incident when he came to Bangladesh from Pakistan via Delhi-Kolkata while there was an arrest warrant issued for him, Bangabandhu wrote: “The intelligence department is ready to arrest me. I am also ready, but I want to meet my parents, siblings, and children before I am caught.”......“My mind has gone home. My eldest son Kamal was born a few months ago and I could not even take a good look at him. I started to feel that I had become the father of children.”

Infant Sheikh Kamal meets Bangabandhu

On his return from Pakistan, Bangabandhu was coming back to Dhaka after spending seven-eight days at his village home and another seven days at his sister's house in Madaripur, where he was accompanied by his wife and children. Although he usually went to Dhaka via Barisal on launches, Bangabandhu was coming via Madaripur for strategic reasons as there was an arrest warrant for him. He wrote: “We left at night. Hasu (Sheikh Hasina) would cry if I arrived during the day, and Kamal doesn't understand anything yet.”

The Father of the Nation was once brought to Gopalganj on the date of a case. He went to the ghat under Gopalganj police station and saw their boat—his father, wife, and children went there to visit him. He wrote: “I met them today after a year. Hasina grabbed me and did not want to let go. Kamal was looking at me. He does not recognize me or understand who I am.”

“Abba”

On page 165 of the book, Bangabandhu's description comes up in the context of meeting his wife and children on the day of his arrival in Gopalganj from Khulna jail. Bangabandhu wrote: “Kamal approaches me now. Imitating Hasu, he has also started calling me ‘abba’ (father).”

Emran Hossain Shaikh:

Bangabandhu reached Tungipara five days after his release from Faridpur jail. He was physically weak due to fasting in prison. After he went home, Hasina hugged him but Kamal did not approach him. “Kamal did not come to me but he kept looking at me,” he wrote.

Meeting Kamal after being released from jail and returning home was very emotional for Bangabandhu. The autobiography does not mention after how long he was released from prison but he wrote: “27-28 eight months later, in my old place, in my old room…” So it can be assumed that he was in jail for those 27-28 months.

However, Tofail Ahmed, a member of the Awami League's advisory council and a close associate of Bangabandhu, said in a statement in Parliament that he was imprisoned for 787 consecutive days from January 1, 1950, to February 26, 1952. This was his 6th imprisonment and the longest he had stayed in prison till that time. Sheikh Kamal was 2 years 6 months and 20 days old at that point.

After his release from jail, Bangabandhu was at his home in Tungipara village for about a month and a half. He recounted an emotional incident with Sheikh Kamal on page 209 of his autobiography: “One morning Renu and I were sitting on the bed and talking, while Hasu and Kamal were playing. Hasu, from time to time, comes to me and calls me by saying “abba”, “abba”. Kamal only looks. At one point, Kamal said to Hasina, “Hasu apa (sister), Hasu apa, can I also call your father abba?” Renu and I both listened. I got up from the bed slowly and took him in my arms and said, “I am your abba too.” Kamal usually did not want to come to me. I realized he couldn't stand it anymore. Even your son can forget you if he doesn’t see you for a long time!”

After spending a month and a half at home, Bangabandhu went to Dhaka via Barisal in the second week of April. He wrote: “Hasina and Kamal did not want to leave me. My feelings for them have increased. The two siblings were in tears as I left.”

Towards the end of the unfinished autobiography, there is a reference to a family meeting, including Kamal, on a launch after Bangabandhu was released as his father was ill. At that time, Bangabandhu's wife and children lived in Dhaka, and Bangabandhu was in Dhaka Central Jail.

Bangabandhu's wife received a telegram informing that his father was very ill. Upon receiving the news, she left for the village with their children and took the telegram with her. She also made a request to the government for her husband’s release and he was released at 9pm. Meanwhile, Bangabandhu's wife Renu, along with the children, left Badamtali Ghat on a ship as she was not sure of his release and her father-in-law was very ill. Only after his release did Bangabandhu find out about their journey. He came to know that the ship would reach Narayanganj at 11 o'clock. He went to Narayanganj and caught the ship.

“I reached Narayanganj wharf 15 minutes before the ship left. Renu was surprised to see me. She woke the children up from their sleep. Hasina and Kamal hugged me and did not let go for some time; they did not even go to sleep. It seemed that there was no sleep in their eyes today,” he wrote.

Sheikh Kamal is mentioned on page 159 of the prison diary. On July 12, 1966, Bangabandhu’s wife and child went to meet him in the jail. They talked about Kamal's studies during this meeting. Bangbandhu wrote: “Renu said Kamal will sit for the matriculation exam next year and is studying very hard. I told them to study attentively before taking my leave.”

The following year, Bangabandhu wrote: “My eldest son will take the matric examination from April 6 (1967). I didn't receive any news about the test yet.” He later wrote again: “Kamal came and said he did well. I was anxious to receive this news.”

Courtesy: Dhaka Tribune