The survivors of the numerous arson attacks took place in the streets of Dhaka and elsewhere in the country are still haunted by the horror and trauma even after almost four years of the mayhem triggered by the blockade enforced by the BNP-Jamaat alliance over the 2014 general election.
While the chronicles of their slow and painful battle to return to normal life are often overlooked, the survivors still carry vivid memories of the flames of deadly petrol bombs, screams and barbarity occurred during the arson attacks.
Tazul Islam, a 50-year-old truck driver who survived a deadly petrol bomb attack, said, “I often tell myself that it’s a bad dream, but my left hand and other body parts betray with me as I have been suffering from fatal burn injuries.”
“I luckily survived the bomb attack, but over 40 per cent of my body was burnt. My left hand, beneath the wrist, turned into a piece of coal,” Tazul lamented.
Many other victims shared their horrible experiences caused by street violence and arson attacks took place across the country in 2013, 2014 and 2015. BNP and its main ally Jamaat-e-Islami unleashed the violence to resist national election in 2014. The violence started to unfold from the last quarter of 2013. Subversive activities were also carried out in 2015 across the country.
The so-called protesters vandalised several thousands vehicles, torched public and government properties. As many as 500 people, including 20 law enforcers, were killed and over 4000 were injured (mostly through burning).
Arson attacks were carried out to burn 2,903 cars, 18 rail carriages and 8 passenger water vessels. Through targeted attacks, 70 government offices were vandalised and or destroyed and six land offices were burnt.
Recalling those days, Minara Begum, injured as the picketers hurled petrol bombs at a passenger bus at Mithapukur in Rangpur, said she always keeps her face covered to hide the burn scars all over her cheeks.
“Sometimes the burn injuries in my hand and back make it difficult to do any household chores,” she said.
Siddiqur Rahman, an auto-rickshaw driver who was attacked by an arson attack on the 1st anniversary if 2014’s January 5 election, has become partially disabled and can’t find any work now.
“I can not drive my auto-rickshaw as I can not bend my hands, I am regularly taking painkillers. I don’t know how long I will have to suffer from such pain,” Siddiq said.
Moutushy Sultana Bannya, the daughter-in-law of critically burn-injured Fazlur Rahman, said her father-in-law went to Chittagong to visit his only son with a good health but returned home after two months with severe burn injuries.
“He underwent treatment at a hospital in Chittagong for over a month. He still can’t walk properly,” Moutushy said.
Once a rickshaw puller, Fazlur Rahman can’t work now and most of the money given as assistance has been spent on his treatment.
“On top of the financial assistance, we had to sell our land to bear the treatment cost. My sister had to be married off… we are now burdened with a debt of five lakh taka,” said Aminur Rahman, son of Fazlur Rahman.
“We can’t stay in our house as we owe money to people. I appeal to the authorities to help us escape the miseries we have been facing,” Aminur said.
Sheikh Mostakim, a bus driver of Dhaka-Narayanganj route, said, “Will there be any benefits of recalling those horrible experiences? The truth is I have to suffer the rest of my life.”