Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday asserted that punishment would be inflicted to those responsible for the grenade attack on an Awami League rally in the capital on 21 August 2004.
She also accused the past government formed by the alliance of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and her elder son Tarique Rahman of perpetrating the attack on AL men.
“It was not possible to carry out such attack without patronisation of the BNP-Jamaat government,” she said while addressing a discussion marking the 15th anniversary of the 21 August grenade attack at Krishibid Institute of Bangladesh (KIB) in the city.
The prime minister went on saying that “It (the patronisation of the BNP-Jamaat in the grenade attack) has become a truth that was proved by evidences and we have got a verdict upon filing a case.”
She said that incidents of staging Joj Mia drama, destroying evidences of the grenade attack, barring the AL volunteers from going to the rooftops of adjoining buildings around the rally venue, subjecting the party leaders and activists to torture by charging batons and throwing teargas shells to help the attackers flee the scene and conducting a judicial inquiry bore testimony to evidences of BNP-Jamaat’s patronisation in the grenade attack.
“Now, it will go to the higher court as death reference and we hope to get the justice. Regrettably, the party leaders, workers and supporters who were killed in the attack would not return anymore,” she said.
Twenty-four people, including Bangladesh Mohila Awami League president Ivy Rahman, were killed and over 500 others sustained injuries in the attack. Many of the injured became crippled for life, she said.
Though Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped the attack, she lost her hearing ability due to the impact of the repeated grenade blasts near the truck-dais of the huge public rally.
A one-minute silence was observed as a mark of profound respect to the memories of father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and other martyrs of the 15 August 1975 carnage, the four national leaders and the martyrs of the 21 August 2004 grenade attacks.
AL advisory council member Amir Hossain Amu, its presidium members Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, and Sahara Khatun MP, AL general secretary and road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader, organising secretaries BM Mozammel Haque and AFM Bahauddin Nasim, Dhaka South City Corporation mayor Sayeed Khokon, Dhaka South City AL president Abul Hasnat, AL leader SM Kamal Hossain, and Dhaka North City AL general secretary Sadek Khan, spoke on the occasion.
AL publicity and publication secretary and information minister Hasan Mahmud and its deputy publicity and publication secretary Aminul Islam jointly moderated the function.
Recalling the sad memories of the grenade attack, Sheikh Hasina said, “I was not supposed to be alive escaping the attack and the then government even didn’t think so.”
“I know many incidents relating to the place where the attackers took shelter and from where the phone came to know whether I had been killed,” she said, adding, “Khaleda Zia might have kept the condolence message ready on my death.”
She referred to some remarks of Khaleda Zia and her party leaders and her son Tarique Zia staying in his father-in-law’s residence on Dhanmondi road No. 5 in the capital before the grisly grenade attack.
“Begum Zia had said that the Awami would not be able to go to power in next 100 years and I would never be the prime minister or even the leader of the opposition in future,” she said.
The prime minister posed a question if Tarique Zia lived in his father-in-law’s residence in Dhanmondi for 10 months consecutively to hatch conspiracy against her, saying, “Tarique left the house for their cantonment residence on 1 August (2004).”
In this connection, the prime minister requested the media to conduct an in-depth investigation into the matter to find out why Tarique Rahamn stayed in his father-in-law’s house for a long period.
“We were not allowed to utter a single word or discuss the matter in parliament. Even we were barred from bringing any motion in Jatiya Sangsad to condemn the attack. So it’s clear who were involved in this incident,” she continued.
Holding the BNP-Jamaat government responsible for destroying the evidence of the grenade attack, the prime minister said the attackers left the scene under the cover of the law enforcement agencies and they destroyed the unexploded grenades and helped the grenade suppliers leave the country.
“The attackers threw 13 grenades, 12 of which were exploded and one unexploded. Then the government destroyed the grenade and fired an army man from his job as he wanted to preserve the grenade (as evidence),” she said.
The government even washed out the place of occurrence to destroy the evidence, she said, adding that they brought prisoners from the jail in ambulance to carry out the attack as grenades were also found in Dhaka Central Jail.
Sheikh Hasina said efforts were not made to rescue the injured on Bangabandhu Avenue. Instead, the policemen lobbed teargas and resorted to baton charge to disperse those AL leaders and workers who came forward in aid of the injured, she said, adding the law enforcers also didn’t allow any vehicles to move around the scene.
She further said AL organised the rally in front of the party office on 21 August 2004 for peace and in protest against terrorist activities of the militants across the country including an attack on the then British High Commissioner at the shrine of Hazrat Shahjalal (R) in Sylhet and killing a Chhatra League leader in Gopalganj.
Hasina referred to some remarks of then prime minister Khaleda Zia and her party leaders, staying of her son Tarique Zia in his father-in-law’s residence on Dhanmondi road No. 5 in the capital and planting of twin bombs -- one weighing 76-kg and another 84-kg -- in Kotalipara before the grisly grenade attack.
“Then the attack was carried out to kill me and eliminate the Awami League.”
The prime minister also said that even the BNP-leaning physicians did not attend the injured AL leaders and workers at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital and did not allow to admit the injured to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Medical University and Hospital (then PG Hospital).
“But, I took initiatives to rescue the injured and ensure their treatment through sending them to different hospitals,” she said.
The prime minister said the BNP ministers in parliament cut a joke falsifying “I carried the grenades in my vanity bag to stage the attack.”
Recalling the terrified scene of the grenade attack, Sheikh Hasina, who was then the leader of the opposition in parliament, said everything went wrong at the last moment as a photographer requested for a snap.
“Losing my eyeglasses it was also difficult for me to go for a shelter. But, Awami League leaders protected me creating a human shield around me and saved my life.”
The prime minister said attempts on her life were made time and again.
She said there is no doubt that the Zia (late president and founder of the BNP Ziaur Rahman) family was involved in the 15 August massacre in 1975 as his government rewarded the Bangabandhu’s killers by giving indemnity to them.
Sheikh Hasina also said the BNP is adept in spreading rumours and resorting to falsehood as the party spread at places, even to the children of the schools that “I hurled grenades by carrying those in my vanity bag, and that means I came to commit suicide.”
The prime minister, however, reiterated her commitment to do everything possible till her death to build a poverty and hunger free country as dreamt by father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.