Those who survived the attack now have to bear both physical and psychological scars as well as receive regular medical care
Terming the August 21 grenade attack in 2004 a nightmare, victim AH Morshed, a freedom fighter, said the hellish experience of the day still rattled him.
That incident, along with his son’s passing due to an unidentified disease in the same month in 2012, has made August a traumatic symbol for him.
“As the speech of the then opposition leader and now Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was about to end, the first explosion occurred all of a sudden and I started running towards Bangabandhu National Stadium,” he said.
The freedom fighter continued describing his ordeals on that day: “Then several other grenades started exploding. I sustained a grenade splinter injury and fell down. I do not know how many people ran over me. I started bleeding from my legs and my left eye was damaged as well.”
The pain in his legs has increased and the lid of the injured eye closes involuntarily.
“I cannot use my left eye. The doctors said the splinters had damaged its arteries,” he added.
He was in agony whenever he passed through Gulistan due to the awful memories resurfacing, Morshed said. “I see people crying for help, bodies scattered on the ground, but the law enforcers do not come to help.”
Morshed, father to two sons including the one who has passed away, now fends for his family with the monthly freedom fighter allowance of Tk20,000.
Some 500 individuals like Morshed are still enduring the pain caused by the splinter injuries in different parts of their bodies inflicted 17 years ago.
At least 24 people were killed in the attack on an Awami League rally at Bangabandhu Avenue on August 21, 2004.
The then opposition leader in parliament, Sheikh Hasina, narrowly escaped the attack with an ear injury.
Like Morshed, the families of 20 injured and 11 deceased received flats in 2018 from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina under a government housing project in the Joynagar area in Mirpur 13.
Another harrowing recollection
Another victim, Harun Ur Rashid, cannot speak much owing to the pain in his body.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Harun said: “We reached the GPO intersection from Bangshal police station, led by former mayor of Dhaka city and the then city unit Awami League president Mohammad Hanif. We later went to the place where the stage had been erected.”
“One of my associates and friends, Billal, was standing in front of me. Terrorists attacked our anti-terrorism rally … Billal died on the spot and I survived as he was standing before me,” he said, breaking into tears.
Harun has had 17 surgeries for removing splinters from his body, including one from his head in 2014.
“I could not remove the splinters from my knees as the doctors in Singapore told me I could become crippled if they operated on my knees,” he said.
Harun said many of the injured had died and he was holding on to dear life, enduring pains throughout his body.
“The cost of my medicine is more than Tk10,000 per month, which is borne by the current prime minister. I want justice for this incident before dying … I want to see the perpetrators hanged,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ashraful Alam Khokan, former deputy press secretary to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said there were 80 splinters in his two knees.
“I cannot stand in one place for long. My body trembles in the winter due to the unbearable pain … This pain will last a lifetime. Sometimes an indescribable pain surges through my legs when I go to bed at night,” Khokan told Dhaka Tribune.
Another victim was Billal Hossain, whose then 7-month pregnant wife Lucky Akter was turned away by her in-laws after Billal’s death in the blast.
Lucky said: “Splinters penetrated my husband’s chest, causing his death. My in-laws then refused to let me stay at their house, forcing me to come to my parental home in Munshiganj. My daughter is in college now … The government helps us a lot.”
One victim in ICU for Covid, many others need regular treatment
Khurshida Begum Hena, another victim of the August 21 attacks, is currently in the ICU of the capital's BIHS General Hospital. She was hospitalized a week ago for Covid.
Hena, vice president of the Bangladesh Mohila Awami League, had earlier said that she had managed to reach where Ivy Rahman was after the attack.
Last year the women activists injured in 2004 said that most of them had been followers of the deceased Ivy Rahman and Sahara Khatun.
It may be recalled that Dhamrai’s Selim Chowdhury died in 2019 after undergoing 10 surgeries, while Shiuly Parveen, another victim, died in 2016.
Those who survived the attack now have to bear both physical and psychological scars as well as receive regular medical care.