It must be recalled with utmost importance that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which was in power during the 21 August grenade attacks, did not take responsibility for the incident. The party still prefers an escapist stance over the matter. There is no sign of atonement or introspection either when the party itself is now going through a leadership crisis and in a completely disorganised state.
Many countries have been targets of terrorist attacks that have become a reality in today's world. But, the 21 August attack is an exception in recent times. It's in the fact that a political party systematically elected by the people and in power wanted to eliminate the main opposition party. The party either used the Islamic militants or allowed them to be used by them to carry out the task. On top of everything, a section of the government too joined in the dangerous act.
The BNP tried to subvert the lawsuit filed for 21 August grenade attacks to a different direction when it was in power. The verdict of the case was finally delivered 14 years after the incident. We hope that the process of drafting a paper book would not pose any obstacle in the legal procedure nor will the hearing at the High Court be delayed. We hope that the government will be proactive to bring back the defendants who are abroad or at large.
Now, it is crucial to assess how the systematic political violence of the 21 August influenced the Awami League's decade-long rule. The people cannot be punished for BNP's involvement in the 21 August grenade attacks. It should be assessed how the psychology of the ruling Awami League has made them create a shrinking democratic sphere, ineffective electoral system, poor human rights, as well as lack of good governance and rule of law. This should be evaluated how far the 21 August incident contributed to make such a situation.
The Awami League has done many things that were impossible for the party prior to 2004. Bangladesh incurred a huge loss when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed with his family members on 15 August 1975. The country was being made up after the fall of the autocracy and restoration of democracy in 1990. But the atrocities of the 21 August attacks have affected the state and society in such a way that we are still paying up for that.
Though the militant organisation responsible for the grenade attacks was terminated, new ones are sprouting up. Several terrorist incidents including that of Holey Artisan took place, but did we take lesson from the 21 August? Has the use of the state for political purposes decreased? If the process is continued, how could we be assured that the state or administration will not be used to assist militancy or terrorism again? Can the measurements for restricting the BNP and suppressing dissents be the same? Is it possible to secure the national interest and strengthen security making the main opposition party powerless? If the answers are negative, then other options must be sought.
Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said he smelled conspiracy and Bangladesh was not free from the politics of violence. That is why we urge the politicians to evaluate the whole matter on the 15th anniversary of the 21 August grenade attacks. The politicians must find the appropriate path to free politics off violence. Also, this must be considered that a long political vacuum as well as lack of democracy is a threat to national security.