Sheikh Russel: A light extinguished by demons

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Published on October 19, 2022
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Sufi Faruq Ibne Abubakar:

Named after one of the greatest thinkers of all time (Bertrand Russell), young Russel had an endearing personality that still inspires awe in his sisters, even after around five decades. Accompanying his father – Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – at global events, Russel is seen, in archived videos, shaking hands with foreign diplomats in a way typical of seasoned leaders. Even today, his teachers recall him as a student able to grasp the content of the syllabus at an astonishing speed.

He could have followed in the footsteps of his father, shaping himself as a leader of the voiceless. A world of possibilities was ripped apart by a group of disgruntled army officers who wanted to snatch the state powers by wiping out the last of Bangabandhu's legacies – his 10-year-old son Russel.

Born in the turbulent years of Bangladesh's struggle for freedom, Russel's brief life witnessed two of the most unforgettable chapters of our history – one of them being freedom ushered in by the larger-than-life voice of Bangabandhu in 1971, and the other being the return of the defeated force's zombies through the assassination of Bangabandhu and his family in 1975.

In the first of many military coups in Pakistan's history, military dictator Ayub Khan overthrew Iskander Mirza and clamped down on politics in 1958. Many seasoned politicians flinched and kept themselves aloof from all political activities. Fearless Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did not sign any bond to forgo politics and was incarcerated several times. He finally left prison in 1963 and revived the Awami League through a council on January 25, 1964 at his Dhanmondi residence. It was this historic move by Bangabandhu, defying the Pakistani junta, that helped Bangladesh attain independence within just over six years.

Thus, the revamp of Awami League is immensely important in Bangladesh's history. And at that historic juncture, Bangabandhu and Bangamata's youngest son Sheikh Russel was born. The child saw the light of this world on October 18, 1964, at a time when Bangabandhu was crisscrossing the country – reinvigorating his party and its activists. Bangabandhu named his son after the preeminent philosopher Bertrand Russell. Sheikh Russel grew up along the critical pathway of history, in which Bangabandhu was playing the main catalyst in freeing Bangalees from the thousand-year-old shackles.

The whole nation was charged and resolute after Bangabandhu declared his 6-point demand on March 23, 1966. While Bangalees were slowly coming out of their stupor, Russel was learning to walk in Dhanmondi's house no. 677, on Road 32. Russel grew up at a time of immense historic importance when Bangalees, under the stewardship of Bangabandhu, had started to dream of independence. Russel would chant the slogans of the mass movement in 1969. After Bangabandhu hoisted the flag of independent Bangladesh on March 23, 1971, Russel would carry the flag on his bicycle around the neighbourhood.

Like Russel, all the other Bangalee children at that time were stirred by the intense passion of their elders for independence. Russel thus represents the sentiment of the children during those turbulent times. All Bangalee children of the 1970s thus grew up in a milieu of patriotism. They envisioned a prosperous country in their imagination.

March 25, 1971: Pakistani Army unleashed the worst genocide in history as night descended on this land. Bangabandhu declared independence in the wee hours on March 26. A bullet fired by the marauding Pakistani Army landed near the feet of sleeping Russel. Bangabandhu moved him away from the room, thus saving his life for that moment.

But Russel could not escape the wrath of the defeated forces in an independent Bangladesh. The killers on August 15, 1975, did not spare him after killing Bangabandhu and his family members. The demons continued their killing spree in later years and executed hundreds of people in a gruesome way to extinguish the spirit of the Liberation War. They tried to wipe out an entire generation who fought for our independence.

They, however, could not stop the nation as it marched forward – rising from the ashes, under the able leadership of Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina. She is on a mission to ensure a Bangladesh free from all the cruelty of the devils who were defeated in the Liberation War, for the children of this land.

Writer: ICT consultant, entrepreneur and member of the Science & Technology Subcommittee, Bangladesh Awami League.

Courtesy: The Daily Star