Sheikh Russell Day is being observed in the country today in a befitting manner coinciding with the 60th birthday of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s youngest son Shaheed Sheikh Russell.
Russell, also the youngest brother of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was born on October 18 in 1964 at the historic Bangabandhu Bhaban at Dhanmondi road number 32 in the capital.
But he was brutally assassinated along with most of his family members, including his father Bangabandhu, on August 15, 1975 when he was a student of class four at University Laboratory School.
The Cabinet Division in 2021 declared October 18, the birthday of Sheikh Russell, as ‘Sheikh Russell Day’ under the category “Ka”.
To mark the day, government bodies, ruling Awami League and its associate bodies and different socio-cultural organizations will observe various programmes at national and international levels.
The day will also be observed at Bangladesh missions abroad while different TV channels will air special programmes highlighting the significance of the day today.
Sheikh Russell was named after Bangabandhu’s favorite writer, renowned philosopher and Noble laureate Bertrand Russell, by Bangabandhu himself and Mother Sheikh Fazilatun Nesa Mujib, according to government website https://sheikhrussel.gov.bd/index-en.html.
Very active and playful from a very early age, Russell was light of the family. However, life didn’t remain playful. He had to face the harsh cruelty of life from the age of one and half, when he had to visit Dhaka Central Jail and Dhaka Cantonment just to meet his beloved father. From cruelty, life soon became merciless. In 1971, he himself became an inmate of Dhaka Central Jail, just at the age of seven.
Youngest of the family, his world revolved around his father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, mother Sheikh Fazilatun Nesa Mujib, sisters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana and brothers Sheikh Kamal and Sheikh Jamal.
Russell was assassinated along with his family members in a domestic and foreign conspiracy on the night of 15 August, 1975. He was then only a student of grade 4 of University Laboratory School.
Sheikh Hasina in her book titled ‘Amader Choto Russell Shona’ wrote: “Tensions loomed before Russell’s birth. Kamal, Jamal, Rehana, Khoka uncle and I, were at home. Ma was with Boro Fupu and Mejo Fupu (paternal aunts). A doctor and a nurse came along with. Time seemed to had stopped. Jamal and Rehana kept on falling asleep only to wake up again. We stayed awake the entire night to welcome the youngest member of the family. Mejo Fupu came out with news. We had a baby brother. Our joys knew no bounds. We couldn’t wait to see our baby brother. Mejo Fupu said she would call. Soon our wait came to an end. Boro Fupu placed him in my lap. A head full of thick black hair, fluffy fluffy cheeks, Russell was quite the healthy child.”
Russell would never want to leave his father during his prison visits. He used to be very upset when he had to leave. Bangabandhu wrote about Russell in his Karagarer Rojnamcha (prison diaries), on 15 June 1966 “18-month-old Russell wouldn’t smile after coming to the jail office, till he sees me.
Just like in the past, I saw him shouting “Abba! Abba!” from far away. A truck full of goods was entering through the jail gate. So, I stood at the window and caressed him. A truck full of goods was entering through the jail gate. So I stood at the window and caressed him. As soon as I entered the room, Russell grabbed me by my neck and smiled. They said he would stare at the window till I had arrived, saying “Abbar bari”. He thought this was his father’s home. I have to trick him when it’s time to go.”
Among other topics, Bangabandhu wrote about Russell in his Karagarer Rojnamcha (prison diaries) on April 14-15, 1967 “When I arrived at the prison gate, I was surprised to see that little Russell was not standing outside”. When I entered the room and took him in my lap, he held me by my neck and called me “Abba! Abba!” a few times; and then went to his mother’s lap and started calling his mother “Abba! Abba!”. I asked “What is the matter?” His mother said, “At home, he keeps on crying saying “Abba! Abba!”. So, I told him to call me Abba”. Russell again started calling his mother “Abba! Abba!”. No matter how much I answered his call, he would bury his face in his mother’s shoulder saying, “You’re my Abba!”. It seems that he is upset with me. He no longer wants to take me with him when he leaves.”
In 1971, Russell and his family, including his mother and two sisters, were imprisoned in a house on Dhanmondi, road No. 18. His father Bangabandhu was imprisoned in a jail in Pakistan and his two elder brothers Sheikh Kamal and Sheikh Jamal had gone to fight in the Liberation War. He was released on December 16, 1971, along with his mother, sisters and other family members. Russell came out of the house saying ‘Joy Bangla’. Victory celebrations were going on out there.
On the dark night of 15 August 1975, Sheikh Russell along with his family members was assassinated as a result of domestic and foreign conspiracy. He was then only a student of grade 4 of University Laboratory School.