Sheikh Jamal was a member of a noble family which was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for the independence of Bangladesh and played the most pivotal role in the country’s political history. Jamal, the second son of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Bangamata Fazilatunnesa Mujib, was born on April 28, 1954 in Tungipara, Gopalganj.
Although his father was a leader of a political party, his family belonged to the middle-class category and he grew up in an ordinary environment. After completing SSC from Residential School and College in Dhaka, Jamal got himself enrolled in Dhaka College. During the War of Liberation in 1971, he was put under house arrest along with his other family members.
Sheikh Jamal’s elder brother Sheikh Kamal had escaped from home to participate in the Liberation War. One day Jamal too followed the footstep of his elder brother to liberate the country. He was barely in his teens, and yet he had shown the audacity to sneak out of the barricade erected around his Dhanmondi residence by the Pakistani army.
After escaping from house arrest, Jamal started a long arduous voyage to India and reached there on August 5, 1971. From Dhanmondi to Agartala, it was a perilous journey. But he had taken that risk for the sake of the freedom of the nation. From Agartala, he went to Kalshi in Uttar Pradesh via Kolkata. There he had gone through 21 days of rigorous special military training along with 80 selected youngsters of Mujib Bahini. Then he joined Sector 9 of Mukti Bahini. After the war, he returned to the independent Bangladesh on December 18, 1971. On the same day in the afternoon, he attended the first public meeting in Paltan, Dhaka, which was organised by Bir Uttom Kader Siddique in honour of the Freedom Fighters.
On January 29, 1974, Yugoslavian President Marshall Tito came to Dhaka on a state visit. He offered Sheikh Jamal a military training course at the Yugoslav Military Academy. In the spring of 1974, Dhaka College student Jamal joined the Military Academy of Yugoslavia as a cadet. But due to the completely different environment, adverse weather and language difficulties, it was difficult for Sheikh Jamal to adapt to the training conditions there.
Therefore, Marshal Tito advised him to undergo training at Sandhurst in Britain. Bangabandhu wanted to develop Sheikh Jamal as an army officer. Brigadier General Md. Bayezid Sarwar (retd.) writes, “Sheikh Jamal arrived in London in the autumn of 1974 to undergo military training at Sandhurst. However, as a prerequisite for Sandhurst, he was required to undergo the necessary pre-training from Beaconsfield, the British Army School of Languages. Sandhurst is one of the best military academies in the world. So far only three youngsters from Bangladesh came here to receive training.”
It is worth mentioning that under a special programme taken by Bangabandhu two cadets of the Bangladesh Army Shafi Md. Mehbub and Lutfe Kamal received commissions from Sandhurst.
The rigorous graduate course of the Short Service Commission at Sandhurst lasted about six months – from 3rd January to 27th June 1975. Out of 400 cadets, the number of foreign cadets was 30 in that particular batch.
In late May 1975, cadets from Sandhurst travelled to the British Army on the Rhine in West Germany to participate in the final tactical exercise called Exercise Dynamic Victory, which presents trainees with a real war-like situation. Dressed in combat uniform, rifle in hand, haversack on his back, Jamal was looking like a true warrior.
Adventurous and gruelling exercises took place sometimes in hilly areas, sometimes in forests and sometimes in open deserts. At times he had to spend the whole day sitting in the trenches. The attack of the Gorkha battalion was conducted in the early morning, with enemy aircraft in the sky and artillery shells falling in near distances. During the combined live-fire exercise, the trainees were expected to defeat the enemy and move forward. The trainees were also required to rappel down a few hundred feet from the helicopter into the pine forest area.
After returning home from Sandhurst Academy, Sheikh Jamal was posted to the Second East Bengal Regiment of Dhaka Cantonment as a second lieutenant. There his military life had begun as a ‘company officer’ under Bir Protik Captain Nazrul. Jamal’s tenure in the second East Bengal lasted about one and a half months.
Brigadier General Md. Bayezid Sarwar (Retd.) writes, “By dint of extraordinary professional skills and sincerity, it did not take long for Jamal to make a positive impression about him among the officers and soldiers. Within weeks, he got very close to the officers and soldiers. He impressed the soldiers with his performance in the training ground, in the tactical class and in the field obstacle crossing. He had also trained the battalion boxing team members. He used to play basketball with the members of the unit in the playground in the afternoon.”
But suddenly, young Kamal, who was filled with youthful exuberance, was killed on August 15, 1975 along with most of his family members by a few misguided army personnel.
Today is his birthday. Let’s remember and pay gratitude to this worthy son of the soil who risked his life to liberate the country and wanted to build himself as a skilled army officer to serve the country.
M Nazrul Islam
28 April, 2023
The writer is based in Vienna as President of the All European Awami League