Remembering the brutality of state-sponsored grenade attack

Published : 20 Aug 2023 08:56 PM

Today marks the 19th anniversary of a tragic event that shook the nation's political landscape and scarred the hearts of many. On August 21, 2004, a state-sponsored grenade attack targeted the Awami League's political program, resulting in the loss of numerous lives and leaving countless others wounded, some of whom still carry the painful shrapnels in their bodies. The attack was a dark chapter in Bangladesh's history, aiming to eliminate opposition voices and destabilize the democratic fabric of the country.

The Awami League, led by Sheikh Hasina, was holding a rally at Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka when the brutal incident happened. The rally, meant to engage supporters and advocate for political change, was abruptly turned into a scene of horror and devastation. The grenades, deliberately targeted at the political leaders and supporters present at the event, claimed the lives of many, and those who survived were left to endure unimaginable physical and emotional pain.

Miraculously, Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the party, survived the attack as she was addressing the crowd from the dais. Central leaders formed a human chain on the dais to rescue her. However, she too suffered grave injuries, including serious internal damage to her ears. The pain she endured serves as a constant reminder of the heinous act perpetrated to silence her and her party's voice in the political arena.

Investigations into the attack revealed shocking revelations about its planning and execution. Evidence pointed towards the involvement of some individuals with affiliations to state agencies, raising serious questions about the country's democratic principles and governance. The attack was an attempt to eliminate the opposition, undermine democratic values, and perpetuate a culture of fear within the political landscape.

In the aftermath of the attack, Bangladesh witnessed an outpouring of grief and anger from across the nation. Citizens from all walks of life condemned the act of violence and demanded justice for the victims and their families. The attack became a pivotal moment that galvanized the nation's spirit, strengthening its collective resolve to uphold democracy, protect human rights, and seek accountability for such reprehensible acts.

Nineteen years on, the wounds inflicted on that fateful day have not fully healed. Survivors continue to endure physical and emotional pain, while the families of the deceased mourn their loved ones' untimely departure. The memories of that tragedy remain etched in the hearts of those who witnessed its devastation and in the annals of Bangladesh's political history.

The mental trauma inflicted upon the family members of those who lost their lives in the 2004 grenade attack, as well as those who survived but carry grenade splinters in their bodies, is immeasurable. 

Today, we pay our respects to the 

brave souls who lost their 

lives and stand in solidarity with the survivors who 

continue to live with the

 scars of that dark day

The attack not only snatched away the lives of loved ones but left a permanent scar on the collective psyche of the affected families. The grief and anguish of losing a family member in such a senseless act of violence continue to haunt them, causing deep emotional wounds that may never fully heal. For those who survived with grenade splinters laodged in their bodies, the physical pain serves as a constant reminder of the horrific incident they endured. Moreover, the psychological burden of surviving such a traumatic event can lead to feelings of anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

The families of the victims and survivors must grapple with these enduring psychological challenges, necessitating support, empathy, and counseling to help them cope with the long-lasting mental scars left by that tragic day in Bangladesh's history.

The heinous attack on August 21, 2004, left an indelible impact on the politics of Bangladesh. The shocking violence perpetrated against the Awami League's political program not only claimed the lives of many leaders and supporters but also exposed the dark underbelly of the country's political landscape. The attack highlighted the presence of nefarious elements within the state apparatus and raised serious concerns about the erosion of democratic principles. The incident engendered a profound sense of fear and insecurity among political activists, hindering open political discourse and creating a climate of intimidation. It also further polarized the already divided political factions, making it challenging to foster a spirit of cooperation and national unity. As a result, the tragic event continues to cast a shadow over Bangladesh's political environment, serving as a somber reminder of the need for transparency, accountability, and a renewed commitment to uphold democratic values.

The Awami League, having been the victim of the heinous grenade attack in 2004, which is widely believed to have occurred with the alleged support of the then BNP government, faces significant challenges in reaching consensus on various political issues. The scars of that tragic event have cast a shadow over inter-party trust, making the process of consensus-building a formidable task. 

The specter of doubt and suspicion has created a lingering atmosphere of mistrust between the Awami League and other political entities, particularly those associated with the incident. As a result, bridging differences and finding common ground on matters of national importance has become a complex endeavor, as the question of trust continues to loom large. The legacy of the 2004 attack serves as a reminder of the imperative need for transparent and accountable governance to rebuild faith in the democratic process and enable meaningful consensus-building efforts to thrive.

As we remember the victims of the 2004 grenade attack, we must also reaffirm our commitment to democratic values and the rule of law. It is imperative that we continue to stand united against all forms of violence and oppression, ensuring that such events never mar the nation's progress towards a brighter and more inclusive future.

Today, we pay our respects to the brave souls who lost their lives and stand in solidarity with the survivors who continue to live with the scars of that dark day. Let us recommit ourselves to creating a Bangladesh where peace, tolerance, and democratic values flourish, ensuring that the sacrifices made on August 21, 2004, are never in vain.

Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi