If Sheikh Kamal had lived until now he would have been in his seventies, an age which was quite desirable as per the LEB (Life expectancy at birth) in Bangladesh. But that did not happen. His fate was decided by on that fateful August night in 1975. It is so tragic that he died only at the age of 26 just a month after his marriage but it is more than a tragedy and so entirely unexpected that he has been much maligned by the killers and their henchmen. A torrent of abuse was raised against him and publicized after the seizure of power by the anti-liberation forces after the August tragedy. Maybe, perhaps, he was the heir apparent to his great father’s politics. Yes, he is Kamal, Sheikh Kamal, Bangabandhu’s eldest son and the second of the five children. A tragic hero in the history of Bangladesh!
Born on 5 August 1949, in Tungipara under the district of Gopalganj, Kamal’s childhood was spent on the banks of Madhumati and Raghiya playing with the village-boys. That he later became a great champion of sport and its patronage has perhaps, become implanted in his mind in the village life in Tungipara.
What he greatly missed in Tungipara was fatherly affection. As a matter of fact, he could hardly see his father after his birth. Bangabandhu had to remain in jail almost round the year for his rebellion against the Pakistan establishment. Once on his release from imprisonment he came to Tungipara to meet his family. All his children were jumping for joy at getting their father in their midst. The small boy Kamal, however, could not understand the reason for the joy, nor could he recognize the man who was the source of their joy. However, he found it astonishing that his elder sister Hasina was calling him Abba. He leaned over and shyly whispered in her ear, “Hashu Aapa, Hashu Aapa, please let me call your father Abba”. This is what Sheikh Kamal was—a shy and intelligent boy!
From his early life Kamal was very interested in sports. While attending Shaheen School in Dhaka he used to take part in all kinds of sports of which cricket attracted him most. He used to play cricket in first division for Azad Boys Club and Basketball in first division for Spurs Club. He was a robust fast bowler. With high speed and a perfect sense of line and length, he could easily beat the opposition batsman. He was one of the best rising pace bowlers in undivided Pakistan. But due to being a Bangali and the son of Mujib, he gained no recognition for his talent for cricket.
Not only in the field of cricket, Kamal had more strings to his bow. He showed considerable talent for and interest in other cultural and aesthetic activities like music, acting, debate, extempore speech. A student of Dhaka College and of Dhaka University Social Science Department, Kamal tried to represent Bangladesh and Bengali culture overseas. He was also a student of Chhyanot and himself a good actor he established Dhaka Theatre. A resident of Salimullah Muslim Hall, he was the captain of the Hall’s Basketball team and held the championship of his team for the whole of his stay at the hall. During the tumultuous days of the 1969 mass movement, while the Pakistan junta imposed a ban on Rabindranath’s songs in Bangladesh, Sheikh Kamal along with millions of Bengali defied the ban and kept practicing Rabindrasangit (Songs of Rabindranath). On and after the 25 March 1971 when the marauding occupation army went on the rampage in and around the country and Mujib was arrested and kept in the prison of Pakistan, Sheikh Kamal jumped into the freedom fight with hundreds of thousands of freedom fighters with the vow of saving the dignity of motherland. He took training from India and worked as the Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to Commander-in-Chief of Bangladesh Armed Forces, General Ataul Gani Osmani during the War of Liberation. He received wartime commission in Bangladesh Army and played an important role in the freedom fight both as a fighter and an organizer.
In the tempestuous hours of the war, Kamal was not oblivious of his passion for sports. He always raised his hope for the independence of Bangladesh and for the improvement of Bangladesh sports. He expressed his desire to the manager of Swadhin Bangla Football Team, Tanvir Mazhar Tanna that he would bring about radical changes in the sport scene of the country if her independence is gained. And Kamal kept his word. Upon return to newly independent Bangladesh, he established Abahani Social Welfare Organization and in 1972 purchased Iqbal Sporting Football Team and Ispahani Sporting Cricket and Hockey team under the organization. And finally in combination with all these, emerged Abahani Krira Chakra. Sheikh Kamal was the founder-president of this leading sporting club in the country. The history of Abahani Krira Chakra is the history of sports in independent Bangladesh. Kamal dreamed of taking the standards of Bangladesh football, cricket and hockey to international heights and of making Bangladesh a sports super power. He used to collect promising players from every nook and cranny of the country and also hired coaches like Bill Heart from abroad.
Because of his characteristic courage and innocence, Sheikh Kamal fell an easy prey to smear campaign and enemy propaganda. The allegation of bank-robbery brought against him has proved a monstrous lie. As Maj. Gen. (Rtd.) Moinul Hussain Chowdhury in his book Silent Witness by a General cogently refutes the blame for bank-robbery by making a candid statement about what actually happened on that night. He puts it that on the night before the Victory Day of 1973 it was widely rumored that Siraj Sikder( the founder of the outlawed Purba Banglar Sarbahara Party) along with his party-men might launch attacks at different places in Dhaka city ( PBSP had already carried out several attacks against police stations, money lenders and landlords). In this situation, police in white uniform kept patrolling the streets. Sheikh Kamal too along with his friends came to Dhanmondi by a microbus in search of the Sarbahara party-men. The patrol-police in search of Siraj Sikder spotted the microbus and being panicked opened fire without giving any signal. Sheikh Kamal and his friends received bullets. Thus the bank-robbery myth has been debunked by General Moin, who has categorically accused the anti-liberation and anti- Awami League people of publicizing this event differently and deliberately. They conduct a publicity campaign saying that Kamal was shot by the police while going for bank robbery and spread false information at home and abroad. There was not a shred of evidence in the propaganda, says the writer.
The charge of kidnaping Major Dalim’s wife is another story concocted against Sheikh Kamal. In reality, it resulted, as circumstantial evidences prove, from a misunderstanding between the sons of the then Red cross President Gazi Golam Mostafa and Major Dalim’s wife Nimmi. It was Bangabandhu who, rather, managed to patch up their differences in the presence of many military and non-military persons. Dalim’s wife was so grateful to Bangabandhu that she spat in her husband’s face after she had learnt that he was involved in the heinous killing of Bangabandhu.
Sheikh Kamal is an unsung hero in the history of Bangladesh who was a victim of an ugly smear campaign. As a matter of fact, there has been a long line of conspiracy to carry out a vicious slander on the good name of Bangabandhu and his family. It began with his assassination on the inauspicious August night in 1975. In its wake, the country had fallen under the sway of despotic military rule accompanied by the corrupt politicians and opportunist bureaucrats, pseudo-democrats and religious fundamentalists. They have one thing in common i.e. Mujib family bashing. They tried to indemnify the killers of August 15, and rewarded them with lucrative portfolios. They took sustained efforts to erase the image of Bangabandhu and his family from the hearts and minds of the people by distorting history. They tried to obliterate the memories of Bangabandhu and his worthy children from the pages of history, inscriptions of monuments, and from whatever held recollections of Mujib family. The anti-liberation forces’ Sheikh Kamal bashing is the result of this cold and calculating conspiracy.
However, the days of conspiracy are numbered. The truth of Sheikh Kamal case is being unfolded. The remarkable achievements earned over a very short span of life would be an abiding source of inspiration for generations to come.
Dr. Rashid Askari is a writer, columnist, fictionist, translator, media personality and vice chancellor of Islamic University, Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org