Abdullah Harun Jewel

The 10-year-old Sheikh Russell, the youngest son of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was killed in one of the most barbaric carnages in human history by a group of disgruntled army personnel.

Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana luckily survived the massacre as they were abroad at that time. Russell was born on Oct 18, 1964, at the historic Bangabandhu Bhaban at Dhanmondi. At the time of his death, he was a student at the University Laboratory School.

Russell’s birth enlightened Bangabandhu’s family. He was named after the great philosopher Bertrand Russell by Bangamata Begum Fazilatunnessa Mujib. The day Russell was born, Bangabandhu was busy with an election campaign in Chittagong. Bangabandhu had been imprisoned in this jail again and again.

One after another, cases were filed against him. Sheikh Hasina used to take Russell in prison to see Bangabandhu. Nothing would induce little Russell to leave father behind in jail. He would insist on taking his father back home. Bangabandhu would try to convince him. After coming home he would keep asking Begum Mujib about Bangabandhu. The absence of Bangabandhu made Russell to call Begum Mujib ‘dad’.

Russell’s aim in life was to become an army officer. But his role model was Bangabandhu. He used to move around Bangabandhu. He tried to follow and imitate the dress code and attitude of Bangabandhu. Russell enjoyed father’s affection after independence. Russell’s closeness with Bangabandhu was a vital dimension of his life. Russell’s Characteristics by strength, reason, emotion, expression touched everyone’s heart.

It’s worth mentioning that neither the father of the nation nor any of his family members begged for their lives on the fateful night of August 15 in 1975. Even 10-year old Sheikh Russell did not beg for his life when the killers demonstrated their aberrant cruelty to torn up the body with bullets.

Russell requested the killers to take him to his mother. Russell kept asking to be taken to his Hasu apa (sister Sheikh Hasina), but did not beg. One of the soldiers, in a moment replete with unmitigated cruelty, brought him upstairs, across the body of his father on the stairs and to the spot where his mother lay dead. At once, the soldier pumped a round into the little boy’s head.

The defeated forces plotted the conspiracy of killing Bangabandhu along with families to take revenge for the defeat in the Liberation War. The tears of Bangladeshis froze in shock and horror. After 75, it was forbidden even to utter the name of Sheikh Russell. Discarding all the sacrifices of the people, the evil forces tried to create a country without a history.

It is a matter of deepest shame that the killers were indemnified by Ziaur Rahman who went on to found the BNP. The self-confessed killers were rehabilitated through awarding jobs at foreign missions. Even the post-75 governments paved ways for the killers to run politics and rehabilitated them socially. Our right to seek justice was denied. The defeated forces of the Liberation War made abortive attempts to ruin the tradition, culture and advancement of the nation.

On the contrary of autocratic rule, the tragic death of Bangabandhu and Sheikh Russell ingrained in millions and millions of hearts. The grief of the barbarous occurrence transformed into the conscience of our countrymen igniting the crucial spark of courage in the democratic movements. Bangabandhu and Sheikh Russell became the symbol of inspiration in breaking the shackles of subjugation directed towards getting freedom, democracy and rights.

After assuming office in 1996, Sheikh Hasina scrapped the black law, the indemnity ordinance, 21 years after the assassination of Bangabandhu.

The conspirators wanted to create an adverse situation in which the trial would be stopped. That’s why the verdict was executed after Sheikh Hasina assumed office for the second time through 2008 elections. Sheikh Hasina showed the courage in the face of imminent death threats to evoke a higher response in the heart of the people. Sheikh Russell remained as a source of inspiration in the struggle of bringing humanity and democracy back.

We are much concerned about building close and constructive relations between the two major political parties of Bangladesh. But no one can deny the links between the killers of Bangabandhu and BNP. BNP had endorsed the heinous actions. What was Russell’s crime? How can such carnival of slaughter be embellished!

BNP never expressed concern or sympathy towards Russell. BNP should have at least implicitly apologized for the atrocities or for patronizing the murderers. As a result, we have always experienced the political confrontations at it’s worst level than to compromise.

Without a dignified regret, BNP cannot take a moral stance on any humanitarian ground with its own past. So we can demand an apology from BNP which would help to get rid of political embarrassment in a civilized manner.

Sheikh Russell is of those whose influence shines more and more with the passage of time. Russell lives in the hearts of millions and he will live for immortal ages as a source of inspiration.

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