As the clock struck 5:22pm this day in 2004, all hell broke loose as assailants hurled grenades indiscriminately at an anti-violence rally of the then opposition Awami League on the Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital.
This day, during the BNP-Jamaat tenure, in 19 years ago, grenades were hurled at the rally in the capital, killing at least 24 people, including Ivy Rahman, former women affairs secretary of Awami League (AL), and wounding scores of others.
Today is the horrifying August 21, one of the cruellest days in the country’s political history.The people of the country are still haunted by the August 21 carnage even after 19 years of the heartrending incident.
There was a makeshift podium on a truck as the BNP-Jamaat government didnot allow the use of any usual podium.
Besides the sound of grenade blasts, there were men and women screaming either in panic or pain after being wounded.
The area was flooded with blood and pieces of human flesh. Sheikh Hasina luckily survived as her party men formed a human shield around her. The grenade targeting her did not explode luckily.
On the eve of the 19th anniversary of the heinous grenade attack, President Mohammed Shahabuddin and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid rich tributes to the victims of August 21 grenade attack in 2004.
The head of the state said that the aim of the assassins was to make Bangladesh and Awami League leaderless, stop the democratic process and establish dictatorship and militancy in the country.
“They planned to kill Bangladesh Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Bangabandhu, on August 21, 2004, during a public rally, though the most brutal grenade attack in history,” he said.
“By the mercy of the Almighty Allah, Sheikh Hasina survived but 24 party leaders were martyred,” he added.
In her message, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the grenade attack on August 21, 2004 was carried out as a continuation of the conspiracy that started with the brutal killing of the greatest Bangalee ever as well as father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members on August 15, 1975.
“The gruesome killings of August 21 will be marked as a shameful chapter in the history of Bangladesh politics,” she said.
Noting that the anti-liberation sectarian groups are still conspiring in various ways, she urged all to work together to resist any conspiracy of this evil power and make Bangladesh a safe and peaceful home for the next generation.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said BNP-Jamaat alliance has always been trying to make Bangladesh a failed state by patronising militants and terrorists.
In a landmark verdict, the court on October 10, 2018 awarded capital punishment to 19 people, including former state minister Lutfozzaman Babar and former deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu, in two cases filed over the deadly grenade attack.
Other convicts are former NSI chief Brig Gen (retd) Rezzaqul Haider Chowdhury, former DGFI Director Brig Gen (retd) Abdur Rahim, BNP leader and owner of Hanif Paribahan Mohammad Hanif, Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader Yusuf Butt alias Majid Butt, Kashmir-based LeT leader Abdul Malek alias Golam Mohammad, Harkatul Jihad (HuJi) founder Abdus Salam, and Huji leaders Maulana Tajuddin, Maulana Shawkat Osman, Maulana Abu Sayeed alias Dr Abu Zafar, AbulKalam Azad alias Bulbul, Jahangir Alam, Maulana Abu Taher, Hossain Ahmed Tamim, Mufti Moinuddin Sheikh alias Abu Zandal alias Masum Billah, Rafiqul Islam Sabuj, Mohammad Ujjal alias Ratan and Mohibullah alias Mofizur Rahman alias Ovi.
The court also sentenced life imprisonment to 19 persons, including BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman, who is now staying in London.
Other convicts are Khaleda’s former political secretary Harris Chowdhury, former BNP lawmaker Qazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad, BNP leader Ariful Islam Arif, Huji leaders Shahadatullah Jewel, Maulana Abdur Rouf, Maulana Sabbir Ahmed alias Abdul Hannan Sabbir, Arif Hasan Sumon, Hafez MaulanaYahya, Maulana Abu Bakar alias Selim Howlader, Mahibul Muttakin, Anisul Mursalin, Md Khalil, Jahangir Alam Badar, Md Iqbal, Liton alias Maulana Liton, Mufti Shafiqur Rahman, Mufti Abdul Hai and Ratul Babu.
The court awarded four years’ imprisonment to two former inspectors general of police — Ashraful Huda and Shahudul Haque, Lt Commander (retd) Saiful Islam Duke, nephew of Khaleda Zia, former DGFI official (sacked) Saiful Islam Joarder and Maj Gen (retd) ATM Amin under two sections.
Former Deputy Commissioner (South) of DMP Khan Sayeed Hassan and former DC (East) of DMP Obaidur Rahman Khan were also jailed for six years each under three sections.
The court also awarded five years’ jail to former IGP Khoda Baksh Chowdhury, former SP Ruhul Amin and former ASPs of CID Atiqur Rahman and Abdur Rashid.
Earlier, three accused --Jamaat secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and Huji chief Mufti Abdul Hannan and his associate Sharif Shahedul Alam alias Bipul-- were dropped from the charges as they were hanged following their conviction in other cases.
To protect the real culprits, the then BNP-Jamaat government staged ‘Joj Mia drama’, showing him the prime accused in the grenade attack case.
To mark the day, the ruling Awami League, its front organisations and different political, socio-cultural and professional organisations will place wreaths at a makeshift altar on Bangabandhu Avenue at 11:00am.
A discussion will also be held with AL president and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
The ruling party alleged that the BNP-Jamaat alliance government carried out the grenade attack to kill Sheikh Hasina to make the party leaderless.
The incident took place on Saturday. Sheikh Hasina attended the party rally as the chief guest. After the rally, an anti-violence procession was supposed to be brought out. Miscreants started hurling grenades soon after she (Sheikh Hasina) finished her speech with the slogan ‘Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu’.
AL leaders and activists and common people got stunned when grenades exploded at the political gathering, killing at least 16 party activists on the spot. Ivy Rahman, wife of late President Zillur Rahman, succumbed to her injuries after fighting for 58 hours in hospital.
Party leaders and activists started screaming and made a human shield to save Sheikh Hasina.
Her private security personnel Mahbubur Rahman sacrificed his life while trying to save Sheikh Hasina.
Many Awami League leaders, including Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Kazi Zafarullah, Abdul Latif Siddique, Obaidul Quader, Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Maj Gen (Rtd) Tareq Ahmed Siddique, AFM Bahauddin Nasim and Pankaj Debnath escaped death but still haunted over the gruesome incident as they have been living life with splinter injuries.
The government filed two cases — one for the murder and the other under the Explosive Substances Act.
The government is trying to bring back 18 fugitives in the cases to the country through the Interpol. Tarique Rahman is now staying in London.
One of the key accused in the cases, former minister and Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed was hanged to death in a case over crimes against humanity during the War of Liberation in 1971 while Huji chief Mufti Abdul Hannan and Shahidul Alam Bipul were hanged in another case over terrorism.