A grenade attack targeting the then British high commissioner had shaken the Hazrat Shajalal shrine in Sylhet three months before. Militants had been on the prowl and public safety was under threat, prompting the main opposition Awami League to organise an anti-terrorism rally at 3pm on August 21, 2004.
Party chief Sheikh Hasina would speak at the rally, so it was a big event for the party’s leaders and the rank and file as well. Sheikh Bazlur Rahman, then joint-general secretary of Dhaka City unit of Awami League, and Abul Hossain Mollah, Cultural Secretary of Awami Shechchasebok League’s Motijheel thana unit were among the several thousand unsuspecting leaders, workers and supporters who had rushed to the Bangabandhu Avenue to join the rally. The two leaders of the party’s front workers, while talking to the Business Standard, demanded execution of the verdict of the August 21 grenade blast case.
Sheikh Bazlur Rahman
Memories are still vivid in Bazlur’s mind. ‘It was exciting day for us because we were going to arrange a grand rally against the terrorist activities.
“At 3pm the rally formally started. We were hearing the speech of our leader Sheikh Hasina from the north side of the venue. The huge crowd responded to her speech with clapping,” he said.
“She ended her speech, but could not say Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu as a grenade exploded two yards away from the makeshift stage on a truck she was standing.
He saw people running for life before he got senseless in a few seconds.
“Many of our friends were killed in the grenade attack. Fortunately, we are alive. It’s a bonus life for us now,” says Bazlur, now senior Vice-President of Dhaka South City Awami League.
He got treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital and a hospital in India. Doctors almost gave up hope for his life. ‘But I’m still alive,’ said Bazlur, now 65.
His wife and two daughters hide his photos taken when he was wounded to help him forget the traumatic memories. But the 58 grenade splinters that still exist inside his body, some inside his kidney and other internal organs, prevent him from forgetting about the most horrific incident he has encountered ever.
It is now 15 years since the day. The 21 August grenade attack survivor demands execution of the verdict of the case without further delay.
Abul Hossain Mollah
Abul Hossain Mollah, Cultural Secretary of Awami Shechchasebok League’s Motijheel thana unit, reached the venue at about 2pm to join the crowd with joyful mind, without no idea of what might happen in hours.
“We were preparing for a round of applause as our leader Sheikh Hasina almost ended her speech. A grenade exploded with heavy sound and hit my head. I could not assume actually what happened,” said Abul Hossain Mollah, Assistant Manager of Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited.
Before losing sense, he saw some of the leaders made a human shield to save Sheikh Hasina, while people were running and crying for help.
“I went to DMCH with the help of our leaders and activists and later to Sikder Medical. I received injuries in my head and other sensitive places. Now I am carrying 10 to 15 splinters,” he said.
Abul Hossain has been on medicine since then and unbearable pains took away joy and comfort from his life.
“Conditions of some of our injured friends are even more critical. We are 400 now,” he said.
“It was beyond our knowledge that such an incident could occur in a political rally in Bangladesh. That is why we had no tension about any attack. We were spontaneous since the morning of the 21 August. But the attack broke our belief and make the politics vulnerable,” he said.
“Please bring all the culprits who are now abroad to Bangladesh and execute the verdict of the court. We lost our friends, leaders and activists. We want the execution of the culprit before our death,” he said.