August 21: Another Dark & Cursed Day in Bangladesh Politics

Hiren Pandit: The August 21 grenade attack is another dark and cursed chapter among the events of terrorist attacks on political programs or political figures in the history of Bangladesh. On August 21, 2004, 24 people including Ivy Rahman were killed in a heinous grenade attack at Bangabandhu Avenue at the moment the rally organized by Awami League ended. The then-opposition leader and current Prime Minister Awami League Chairperson Sheikh Hasina narrowly survived. Hundreds were injured.On August 21, 2004, in an unprecedented incident in the history of the world, a grenade attack on Bangabandhu Avenue and killing almost all the central leaders of the Awami League, including Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina, was created.

In 1981, Bangabandhu’s eldest daughter Sheikh Hasina returned to the country risking her life. After returning home, attempts to kill Sheikh Hasina, one of Bangabandhu’s heirs, continued. They were waiting for an opportunity. After she reorganized the Awami League, attempts were made to kill her several times during the anti-dictatorship Ershad movement. Let’s not forget, there was no ideological difference between Zia and Ershad. Sheikh Hasina was first attempted to be shot dead in Chattogram on January 24, 1988. That day, Sheikh Hasina went to Chattogram to address a rally against Ershad. In order to prevent Sheikh Hasina from participating in any public meeting at Laldighi Maidan, the police took over the venue on the orders of Chattogram Metropolitan Police Chief Mirza Rakibul Huda. This Mirza Rakibul Huda served as a Major in the Pakistani Army’s artillery during the Liberation War and fought for Pakistan in the Jashore sector. After the war, Huda returned as a prisoner of war. Later he returned to Bangladesh on the ordersof Bangabandhu. Zia assimilated 17 such returning Pakistani army officers into the police force. When Sheikh Hasina attempted to be killed by a grenade on August 21, 2004, Shahudul Huda was the IGP of the police. He was also an army officer who returned to Pakistan. He fought against the Liberation Army as a Major of Pakistan’s Tank Regiment throughout the Liberation War.

The August 21 grenade attack was well-planned, orchestrated by her elder son and BNP Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman sitting in Hawa Bhaban with the consent of then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Khaleda Zia’s Minister of State for Home Affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar, Khaleda Zia’s political advisor Harish Chowdhury, Jamaat leader and member of Khaleda Zia’s cabinet Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, Khaleda Zia’s former state ministers Abdus Salam Pintu and Maulana Tajuddin, then Director General of Military Intelligence Brigadier General Rezzakul were involved in the original plan. Haider, Abdur Rahman, then head of the National Intelligence Agency. They used the fundamentalist terrorist group Al-Markazul Islam Al Huzi.

Apart from this, some other important leaders of the BNP and Jamaat were involved in this murder plan. Some senior officials of the law-and-order force were fully aware of the matter. They do everything possible to make the incident happen and help them escape. Roughly the group involved in the plan to kill Sheikh Hasina is quite large and like-minded about their goals. Just as it happened before August 15th. The difference is that the important meetings of Bangabandhu’s assassination were held in the cantonment and the meetings about the plan to kill his daughter were held in the Political Office, Hawa Bhaban. Another difference is that the August 21 bombings were also state terrorism. Because a large part of the state administration apparatus, including the then Prime Minister, was involved in this assassination plan.

The question is, why the important people of the Khaleda Zia government carried out such a terrible massacre? Their aim was to establish a kind of monarchy in Bangladesh. They thought that Awami League was the only one before them. It was thought that killing Bangabandhu would end the Awami League and make Bangladesh a mini-Pakistan they hoped for. But their idea was wrong for this reason because Awami League is not just a political party, this party is a name of ideology and feeling from the formation. The party was banned several times after its birth, and four national leaders were killed, including Bangabandhu; But Awami League could not be killed. It is true after Bangabandhu was killed, the Awami League as a party was a bit disorganized; But after the return of Bangabandhu’s daughter, she brought the party to power in 1996 by re-establishing it with great difficulty. The planners of the assassination mistakenly believed that if the senior leaders, including Sheikh Hasina, who were present at that public meeting could be killed, then the Awami League would end and it would be easier for them to establish a new monarchy in Bangladesh.

The rally on August 21 was an anti-terror rally. Earlier, terrorism in the country had increased terribly. The normal security of people was being disturbed. Sheikh Hasina was the opposition leader at that time. She organized an anti-terror rally as a party. Placement is determined by open spaces adjacent to the GPO. The party applied to the police for permission to hold the meeting. Without getting permission from the police, the venue of the meeting was changed to Bangabandhu Avenue in front of the party’s central office. In this regard, an advertisement was also published in several newspapers of that day. This place was quite dangerous. Because there are tall buildings around where the meeting will be held. Sheikh Hasina took a risk that day in the public interest. Later investigation revealed that many grenades were thrown from the top of the building. Since there was no time to build a stage, an open truck was used as a stage.

That day the assassins threw 14 grenades. Despite that, Sheikh Hasina’s survival was a miracle. To protect her, the party leaders and activists formed a human shield around her that day, just like it was done on January 24, 1988, in Chattogram. On August 21, 24 party leaders were killed and more than 500 were injured in a grenade attack. Ivy Rahman, president of Mahila Awami League and wife of late President Zillur Rahman, died at CMH after a few days of serious injuries. More than one BNP leader made jokes about such an incident. Some of them stood in the national parliament and said that Sheikh Hasina herself had brought these grenades in her handbag. A few grenades were lying unexploded at the scene, which could be used as evidence in the investigation. But the next day the soldiers took it to another place and destroyed it. All signs are also washed away.

When Sheikh Hasina formed the government in 2009, the trial against the accused began in a special court. At the end of the trial, the court sentenced a total of 19 people including Babar to death. A total of 17 people including Tarique Rahman were given life imprisonment. The then police chief Ashraful Huda and Shahudul Huda were given four years in prison. Many of the arrested are absconding. Many are in prison.

On June 9, 2005, after 10 months of the incident, CID arrested a young man named Judge Mia. Remanded for 17 days, a confessional statement was obtained from Judge Mia in the court under section 164. But speculations about Judge Mia’s involvement continued from the beginning and it was claimed from various quarters that it was a staged drama and finally, it was mentioned in the later investigation that Judge Mia’s involvement was not found.

Why repeated assassination attempts? The answer is also very simple. The development of Bangladesh through the great liberation war of 1971 holds an ideal. The great architect of Bangladesh, the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed in 1975 with his family in the conspiracy of those who were against the development of Bangladesh in the ideals of secularism, democracy and socialism. Even if he was killed, his ideals could not be killed. Under the leadership of his fortunate daughter Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh is moving forward along the path of his ideals. Those who don’t want Mujib idealsin Bangladesh have repeatedly tried to kill the leader of the people, Sheikh Hasina. The killing of Bangabandhu in his family in 1975 or the grenade attack on August 21 is based on the same formula. An attempt to kill ideals worked behind it. Those who want to remove Bangladesh from the path of progress, from the path of Mujib ideals, have repeatedly made this wrong attempt.

August 21 is another dark chapter in the politics of Bangladesh. The then-ruling party BNP leadership was involved in writing the chapter. August 21 is the day of a brutal incident of making Awami League, the main opposition party in the parliament, the leading party in the freedom movement of this country, completely leaderless with militants and terrorists in the state plan. On this day in 2004, an attempt was made to kill Awami League President and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the Father of the Nation by throwing a grenade. The incident of August 21 is a continuation of the incident of August 15, 1975. What was not completed in 1975, the assassins wanted to do on August 21.

BNP leaders now cry in the name of democratic politics. But how to get rid of this stigma of August 21? Rare is the instance in the civilized world where a government or party would support such barbaric methods of destroying a political opponent! How can those who talk about reconciliation politics in Bangladesh hide August 21 and August 15? Because these two tainted incidents have divided the politics of Bangladesh forever, from which there is no way out, there is no way of reconciliation.Those who dream of settling all disputes between Awami League and BNP and establishing harmony, how will they heal this indelible wound?

Only history can tell how many more years of struggle and sacrifices are needed to completely erase the scandalous chapter written in the life of the Bengali nation by killing the greatest Bengali Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family on August 15, 1975! Not only 75, but August reminds us of the incident of 21 August 2004, in which 24 people were killed and around 500 leaders and workers were injured, including the then leader of the opposition party, Sheikh Hasina, in a grenade attack on the Awami League public meeting in Dhaka.

Hiren Pandit is a columnist
and a researcher.

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