With heavy heart and due respect, the nation today is set to pay rich tribute to the martyrs of the August 21 grisly carnage. The survivors of the heinous attack that left at least 24 dead and over 400 injured are still haunted by their bloody memories. On this day in 2004, the history’s most barbaric and gruesome grenade attack was launched on an Awami League rally at Bangabandhu Avenue in capital Dhaka as per a blueprint to kill Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina during the rule of BNP-Jamaat alliance government.
It is widely considered that August 21 grenade attack was a part of conspiracy that started 20 years earlier through the killing of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu on August 15, 1975 – to reverse the country’s Independence. According to probe report, a vested group of Islamist militants launched the gruesome attack on the rally in broad day light as per the directives of BNP senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman and former state minister for home affairs Lutfozzaman Babar.
Beside, some stalwarts of BNP-Jamaat had conspired to annihilate their political rivals, including their prime target AL President Sheikh Hasina. The then opposition leader and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other front-ranking leaders of AL escaped death by a hair’s breadth; but 24 leaders and workers of AL and its associate bodies including the then Mahila AL president Ivy Rahman were killed. Ivy was the wife of late President Zillur Rahman.
Forming a human shield, Hasina’s personal security squad and AL leaders saved her from the deadly attack that left at least 400 with splinter injuries. Many of them became crippled for life. Though Hasina narrowly escaped the attack, she lost her hearing ability due to the deafening sound of one after another grenade blasts. Court investigations revealed that the grenade attack had been plotted to make AL and Bangladesh bankrupt in leadership, In order to halt the democratic process and establish autocracy instead.
With a call ‘to end the rule of the government that inspires bomb attacks’, the rally was organised protesting the grenade blasts that occurred few days earlier at a militant den in Sylhet while preparing for a an attack on the AL chief during a scheduled visit in the city. As soon as Hasina concluded her speech at the rally pronouncing ‘Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu’ at 5:22pm on the fateful day, all hell broke loose at the rally ground as the militants started hurling grenades.
One after another grenade was being hurled from the rooftops of surrounding buildings, aiming at the makeshift stage on a truck. Meanwhile, on October 10, 2018, a Dhaka court, delivering the verdict of the case, sentenced 19 people to death including former state minister for home affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar while awarded life imprisonment to another 19 including ex-premier Khaleda Zia’s son Tarique Rahman. The court also awarded different jail terms to 11 more accused. A number of 18 of the 49 convicts in two cases over August 21 grenade attack are still at large. Police, however, claims to have the whereabouts of eight of them.
BSS adds: Others who were killed in the attack besides Ivy Rahman are the then opposition leader’s personal security guard Lance Corporal (retd) Mahbubur Rashid, Abul Kalam Azad, Rezina Begum, Nasir Uddin Sardar, Atique Sarkar, Abdul Kuddus Patwari, Aminul Islam Moazzem, Belal Hossain, Mamun Mridha, Ratan Shikdar, Liton Munshi, Hasina Mamtaz Reena, Sufia Begum, Rafiqul Islam, (Ada Chacha), Mostaque Ahmed Sentu, Md Hanif, Abul Kashem, Zahed Ali, Momen, Ali, M Shamsuddin and Ishaque Miah.
Prominent among those who suffered splinter injuries are Sheikh Hasina, Amir Hossain Amu, late Abdur Razzak, late Suranjit Sengupta, Obaidul Quader, Advocate Sahara Khatun, Mohammad Hanif, Prof Abu Sayeed, and AFM Bahauddin. Marking the anniversary, the ruling AL and its associate bodies along with its left-leaning allies and other political parties, social-cultural and professional organisations have chalked out elaborate programmes across the country. AL and its associate bodies will place wreaths at a makeshift altar in front of the party’s central office at Bangabandhu Avenue at 9am today (Wednesday). A discussion will be held at Krishibid Institution of Bangladesh (KIB) at Khamarbari in city’s Farmgate area at 4pm today.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to chair the discussion. Intellectuals and national leaders will address it. Two separate cases, one for murder and another under Explosives Substances Act were filed on August 22, 2004, and the police on June 9, 2008 submitted the charge sheet. The court on September 29, 2008, framed charges in the case.
Investigation Officer and also Additional Deputy Inspector General of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police on July 2, 2011, submitted a supplementary charge sheet before the court and the court on March 18, 2012, framed charges afresh after taking the new charge sheet into cognizance. Fifty two people were held accused in the case while prosecution suggested an influential quarter of the then BNP regime including party’s senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman masterminded its shocking plot engaging militant outfit HuJI and subsequently made desperate efforts to protect the assailants. Three of the accused top HuJI leader Mufty Abdul Hannan, Sharif Shahedul Bipul and then Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed however, were by now executed after trial in other cases.
A total of 31 accused including two former ministers faced the trial in person while 18 including Tarique Rahman were tried in absentia as they are believed to be staying abroad. Tarique, now in London, and 17 others including several intelligence officials were earlier declared “absconding” as they were on the run to evade justice.
Eight suspects including three former police chiefs were on bail as the trial was underway while the court on September 18, 2018, scrapped their bail and ordered their confinement in jail with due facilities they deserved under law. During the BNP-Jamaat regime, the investigators were trying to divert the probe to a wrong direction to save the real culprits. Media reports brought to public attention the cooked-up story of Joj Mia by the then CID officials to derail the investigation. The visible attempt to frustrate the case by the then BNP-led regime prompted the subsequent interim government to order a fresh investigation into the case.