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OP-ED: The legacy of Sheikh Kamal

  • Published at 12:02 am August 15th, 2020
Sheikh Kamal
Sheikh Kamal Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Archive

A brilliant athlete and a formidable leader, who also perished on that fateful day

At PAF Shaheen School (now BAF Shaheen College), Dhaka, in 1967, everybody took a glimpse of a tall, well-built student with a light moustache, unkempt hair, wearing thick, black-framed spectacles in khaki trousers and a blue school uniform shirt.

Every time I saw the senior student, he was practicing cricket, a game not played by many Bangalis in the 1960s.

He was none but Sheikh Kamal, the eldest son of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was in prison accused of treason by the military dictator General Ayub Khan for conspiring to bifurcate the eastern province of Pakistan into an independent state, Bangladesh. In fact, the dream came into reality in less than five years.

Kamal was an avid promoter of Bangla-speaking students to join regular sports, especially cricket. Shaheen School fared very well in inter-school competitions in basketball, football, cricket, and other sporting events for his active involvement.

The sports in Shaheen School were dominated by Urdu-speaking students, whose parents and guardians had migrated from India after the 1947 partition, or their parents were serving in the Pakistan Air Force, PIA, and civil bureaucracy.

Kamal used to visit junior classes to recruit students who had a flair for music, dance, and drama.

Many others -- liberation war historian Afsan Chowdhury, acclaimed photographer Dr Shahidul Alam (Drik), Mohammad Ismail (of Rahimafrooz), heritage archive specialist Waqar Khan, Captain Sheikh Naseer Ahmed who was briefly managing director of Bangladesh Biman, Flight Engineer Faizul Islam, Tarique Islam (bagged the gold medal in the All Pakistan School Science Fair) -- did not join any games and sport. 

Instead, they were more engaged in school addas during tiffin break, reading books, and watching English movies in Naz, Modhumita, and Balaka cinema halls.

He appeared for the SSC exam in 1967 and left the school. He continued his studies in Dhaka College and then joined Dhaka University, also organizing the East Pakistan Chhatra League.

The de facto student leader of the Bangla-speaking school students organized cultural programs in state-run Pakistan Television (now BTV) through his rightful connections.

PTV Dhaka Centre used to broadcast dance, music, and drama which was participated in by Shaheen School. Titumir’s “Basherkella” drama, directed by Sheikh Kamal, was also broadcast on BTV in 1967.

The school under his encouragement got the best singer and dance choreographers. Singer Munni Begum and Alamgir Haq, who shot into fame in Pakistan, were born in Bangladesh and studied in Shaheen School. Similarly, Afroze Jilany made her debut in the dance program in PTV and is now a choreographer in the United States.

Fortunately, Sheikh Kamal’s pro-active initiative had yielded a positive result. Nearly a dozen footballers and cricketers who studied in Shaheen School joined the national team. Amongst them was Kazi Salauddin, who is presently president of the Bangladesh Football Federation.

Most exciting were Tanveer Mazhar Islam Tanna (SSC 1967) and Jahangir Shah Badshah (SSC 1969) who played cricket in the national team after the independence of Bangladesh.

Days after the birth of Bangladesh, Sheikh Kamal with other friends and footballer Salauddin founded Abahani Krira Chakra in 1972.

Well, the sports enthusiast Kamal played football, cricket, basketball, and hockey. He also excelled in athletics. He was a brilliant organizer indeed. He was good “addabaz” and sang songs.

Before he was recruited in War Course to become a Mukti Bahini officer, he was a member of the Shadhin Bangla Football Team, which held football matches across India to raise funds for the 10 million refugees during the Liberation War in 1971.

At least 16 students joined the Mukti Bahini from the 1967 to 1972 batches. Sarkar Kamal Sayed, a Liberation War veteran, led Shaheen School in 1969 to grab the basketball championship in the Inter-School Sports Competition. He earned the Sword of Honour in the 2nd BMA (December 1975) in Bhatiari, Chittagong.

Ishtiaq Aziz Ulfat also joined the “Crack Platoon,” the guerrillas which made a shiver run through the spines of marauding Pakistan troops in Dhaka during the war. Similarly, Salim Akbar (1971 batch) received the gallantry award Bir Protik for his contribution.

Unfortunately, after 10 days of his 26th birthday and a month after his marriage with Sultana Kamal Khuki, they were brutally murdered by rogue military officers of the armoured corps when they assaulted the private residence of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on August 15. 

Bangabandhu’s family members were murdered in cold blood on a fateful morning.

May they rest in peace. 

Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @saleemsamad.

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