21 August grenade attack
17th anniversary of grisly attack being marked
The nation has been observing the 17th anniversary of the savage 21 August, 2004 grenade attack on a rally of then opposition Awami League - held up as a pivotal moment in Bangladesh’s political history - with a heavy heart amid various programmes on Saturday.
Awami League and its associate bodies will observe the day as the ‘Grenade Attack Day’ with elaborate programmes, including discussions, reports UNB.
Allies of the AL-led 14-party alliances socio-cultural and professional organisations have taken different programmes to observe the day across the country.
On this day in 2004, the grisly grenade attack was carried out on an anti-terrorism rally organised by Awami League at Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital city during the BNP-Jamaat alliance rule. The aim reportedly was to eliminate then leader of the opposition Sheikh Hasina. And they came mighty close.
At least 24 leaders and activists, including Awami League’s women affairs secretary and late president Zillur Rahman’s wife Ivy Rahman, were killed and 300 others injured in the grenade attack. However, Sheikh Hasina fortunately escaped the attack unhurt but her hearing was affected badly.
Nearly 14 years after the gruesome grenade attack, a Dhaka court in October 2018 sentenced 19 people, including the then BNP-led government’s state minister for home affairs, Lutfozzaman Babar, to death.
Sheikh Hasina said whenever BNP-Jamaat alliance came to power, they intended to make the country a failed state by patronising militants and terrorists
Tarique Rahman, exiled eldest son of jailed BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and the party’s current acting chief, and 18 others were also sentenced to life in prison in the case.
On this occasion, Awami League and its associated bodies will place wreaths at a makeshift altar in front of the party’s central office at Bangabandhu Avenue in the morning.
Messages of president and prime minister
President M Abdul Hamid and prime minister Sheikh Hasina, also president of ruling Awami League, on Friday paid rich tributes to the victims of 21 August grenade attack in 2004 and prayed for eternal peace of the departed souls of the martyrs.
In separate messages on the eve of the 17th anniversary of the heinous grenade attack, they urged all to come forward being imbued with the spirit of Liberation War to turn the sorrows of 21 August into strength for building a peaceful and democratic Bangladesh which will be free from terrorism and militancy.
“August 21 grenade attack in 2004 is a mournful day as the killers launched the barbaric grenade attacks on an Awami League rally at Bangabandhu Avenue with an attempt to kill Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina,” said president Abdul Hamid in his message.
Though Sheikh Hasina escaped death by the grace of almighty Allah, Awami Mahila League’s former president Ivy Rahman and 23 other leaders and activists were killed and many others injured, the head of the state added.
The 21 August, 2004 grenade attack was aimed at making bankrupt the AL and Bangladesh in leadership and stopping democratic process and establishing autocracy and militancy
Abdul Hamid said many of the injured persons in the attack became crippled for life and now they are living in endless miseries.
“The 21 August, 2004 grenade attack was aimed at making bankrupt the AL and Bangladesh in leadership and stopping democratic process and establishing autocracy and militancy,” he said, adding that the people of the country did not let it happen.
The president expressed his optimism that the pro-democratic and patriotic people would come forward being imbued with the spirit of the War of Liberation to build a dignified, happy and prosperous Bangladesh.
He said mutual respect and tolerance are a must to make the country’s democracy meaningful.
In a separate message, prime minister Sheikh Hasina said the barbaric grenade attack was carried out on that day in 2004 under the direct patronisation of BNP-Jamaat alliance during an anti-terrorism rally of Awami League to kill her.
Terming the grenade attack a ‘stigmatised day’ in the political history of the country, she said, “Our party leaders and workers saved me from the series of grenade attacks by forming a human shield.”
“I survived the attack due to immense blessings of the Almighty but some 22 leaders and workers including president of Mahila Awami League Ivy Rahman embraced martyrdom,” the prime minister said, adding that over 500 leaders and activists, journalists and security personnel were injured that day.
Sheikh Hasina said it was the moral obligation of a government to arrest the culprits involved with such a heinous attack. But, the then government of BNP protected the killers and helped a number of attackers to leave the country.
They destroyed the evidence of the incident and in the name of investigation, diverted the heinous incident to other direction, she said.
“But truth can never be suppressed. Today, it has come out through investigation that many high-ups of the BNP-Jamaat alliance government were directly involved with the attack,” said the prime minister.
After 14 years, Dhaka’s 1st Speedy Trial Tribunal handed down the verdict of 21 August grenade attack case in 2018, she said, adding that the court awarded death sentence to 19 people including former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar and former deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu and life imprisonment to 19 including ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia’s fugitive son Tarique Rahman and Haris Chowdhury, said Sheikh Hasina.
“Rule of law has been established through this verdict. We hope this verdict will be executed following all legal procedures,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said whenever BNP-Jamaat alliance came to power, they intended to make the country a failed state by patronising militants and terrorists.
The prime minister further said the people of the country voted Awami League to power again through a landslide victory on 29 December in 2008 general election to end all evil-attempts and conspiracies of BNP-Jamaat.
She said her government started working to establish the country on a strong economic base overcoming all impediments and Bangladesh is now moving ahead.
Sheikh Hasina said in the last 12 and a half years, the country has achieved expected progress in every sector and Bangladesh is now a “role model” in socioeconomic development.
Commemorating the day, an art summit titled ‘August Repeated Attempts’ will be organised on the premises of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy from 21-23 August.
The summit would be inaugurated at 5:00pm Saturday.