AFM Bahauddin Nasim, then founder president of Awami Swechchhasebok League, is still enduring the pain caused by splinter injuries in different parts of his body 19 years back in a gruesome grenade attack carried out on 21 August in 2004.
Recalling how the tragic event unfolded, he said the ghastly attack was carried out on an Awami League (AL) rally against terrorism, militancy and corruption taking place during the BNP-Jamaat coalition regime in 2004.
A makeshift stage was made using a truck for the programme. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s daughter Sheikh Hasina came onstage at 5pm and started her speech at 5:02pm. She continued for 20 minutes at a stretch.
She ended her speech by chanting ‘Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu’ slogans. Within seconds, the first grenade was hurled from the south. Targeting Sheikh Hasina, a total of 13 infamous Arges grenades were hurled one after another from the south.
“I received critical injuries in the attack and stayed senseless for three days. I received treatment at home and abroad. I am still enduring the pain,” said Bahauddin Nasim, now joint general secretary of AL.
Shaheda Khanom Dipty, then general secretary of Dhaka North City Mohila Awami League, got critically injured in the attack. Her condition was so bad that initially, she was declared dead at a local hospital here after the attack.
“I was senseless for the next seven days. Later I was sent to India and Singapore by Awami League President Sheikh Hasina for better treatment. I received treatment at Peerless Hospital and Bellevue Hospitals in India. I had to go through skin grafting to look somewhat normal, covering the wounds caused by the numerous splinters. I was bedridden for the next six months,” Dipty, now president of Dhaka North City Mohila Awami League, said.
“I cannot express the sufferings I am still going through. Still now, sometimes I feel unbearable pain, itches and headache. Many of my party workers went through the same pain because of the barbaric attack,” she added.
Dipty, however, did not forget to express her gratitude towards Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for taking care of her and other injured people and arranging treatment for them.
Ashraful Alam Khokan, a journalist and retired government employee, too is still suffering from the physical and mental trauma caused by splinter injuries on different parts of his body inflicted on that day.
Revisiting the horrifying event, he said at that time, he was a journalist for (private-run television) Channel I.
“I was covering the anti-terrorism rally of the then-opposition party Awami League in front of its Bangabandhu Avenue central office. A makeshift stage was set using a truck there,” he said.
Khokan said he was standing at the bottom of the makeshift stage holding a microphone in his hand before the then-opposition leader in parliament and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina.
“When the first grenade exploded, she was yet to finish her speech. I got injured when the first one was hurled, which missed the main target, Sheikh Hasina,” said Khokan, who later served as deputy press secretary of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Some people rushed him to nearby government-run Dhaka Medical College Hospital, where numerous critically injured people in the attack were taken, but doctors were reluctant to provide treatment there, he said, referring to his colleagues and others who saved him by taking him to the hospital.
“Some hospital staff kept me at a pile of corpses, assuming me as dead. Later, my office colleagues found me there alive and took me to a private-run Holy Family Hospital. After recovering from my injuries, I came to know that the hospital at first didn’t want to provide me treatment and kept me lying at the emergency department without providing treatment,” he said.
Then, the hospital authorities told his attendants that they had an order from the ‘upper level’ of the government not to allow any injured of the attack to get admission there, he said, adding the Channel I high-ups later managed to admit him to that facility.
After receiving treatment there, he subsequently went to Bangkok for better treatment, he added.
Since then, he still has to receive treatment for injuries and “it might continue until my death”, he added.
Enamul Haque Shameem, who was a member of the AL central committee at the time of the attack, received serious injuries in different parts of his body, and he still bears the pain caused by the injuries from 20-22 splinters of grenade.
Recalling how the event unfolded, he said grenades were hurled one after another targeting the stage. Then the party leaders and activists formed a human shield to protect the then-opposition leader and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
He said Sheikh Hasina miraculously survived the heinous grenade attack that day. As Sheikh Hasina survived the grenade attack, dozens of bullets were shot at her car while she was hurriedly being taken away to a safer place from the scene.
The bullets could not penetrate the bulletproof vehicle carrying Bangabandhu’s daughter. Immediately after the attack, Sheikh Hasina was cordoned off in a car and taken to her then-residence, Sudha Sadan, in Dhanmondi.
Shamim, former AL organizing secretary and incumbent deputy minister for water resources, demanded arrests of all fugitive convicts, including Tarique Rahman, to execute the court verdict.
SM Kamal Hossain, then a leader of the AL sub-committee, said, “After getting heavily injured, I was lying on the street. I was taken to DMCH initially. As doctors didn’t provide treatment at the order of the then authorities, I was later taken to a Dhanmondi clinic, where I underwent an operation. Later, the AL president sent him to India for better treatment.”
“Many people became crippled, and many embraced death in the heinous attack. I demand the judgment against all the convicts to be executed,” Hossain, now organizing secretary of AL, said.
A total of 24 people, including Ivy Rahman, the then Women Affairs Secretary of Awami League and wife of late President Zillur Rahman, were killed and over 500 others injured in the attack, and many of them became crippled for life.