By Sajid Karim
When Hefazat-e-Islam called their first assembly in Dhaka on April 6, 2013, I was unable to participate since I was busy doing work at a related sector. Later I heard from my friends how the Islam loving people of Dhaka city embraced that assembly. I heard how the brothers who came to participate in the assembly from faraway places were unable to finish eating watermelons which were presented to them by those Ansars (comparison of hospitality of people of Dhaka to that of the Ansars of Medina at the time of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W). So I did not want to miss the assembly of May 5. The day of May 5, 2013 was undoubtedly one of the most eventful days of my life. The men of our family travelled to Motijheel in my uncle’s car. However by evening, as events on ground took a turn towards the worse, I had to return home under pressure from the adults of my family, albeit reluctantly, leaving my brothers at the assembly. From the afternoon itself, rumors of a possible attack by the security forces were floating in the air. This fear turned into a reality when I got up and turned on the TV during the time of Fajr. Guilt and despair were eating at me on the insides, as I felt guilty for not staying there at night. When the sky got lighter at dawn, I got out of the house with my Samsung camera without informing anybody at home. My journey to find out another hidden truth after the massacre that occurred at night began in earnest.
A Blood soaked arena:
A brother was returning to Uttara after staving off bullets with rocks all night. After bidding him farewell, I reached Press Club by bus. It was still early in the morning; almost all the shops and offices were closed. At Baitul Mukarram, the government had been circulating rumors that the Hefazat activists had burned copies of the Holy Quran. I entered into the mosque premises to investigate. In front of the mosque, there were burned buses, and the pavement was in ruins. Rows upon rows of RAB and police platoons were stationed throughout the place. As I started taking some pictures, some RAB officers arrived immediately.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?”
I tried to stay strong, “Yes, I’m a journalist.”
“Journalist or not, you cannot take pictures here. Give us your camera.”
Since I had no journalist card, I did not want to increase trouble. A RAB officer took my camera and deleted all the pictures.
I moved away from that place and started walking towards Motijheel. Ever a busy and bustling neighborhood, at the moment it stood ghostly silent, the only exception being that the place was unusually crowded by Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) staff. Another unusual fact that I observed was that the road was wet, as if it had been raining last night. However, as I clearly recalled, there had been no rain in the previous night. Had they flushed the road willingly?
Continuing to walk, I arrived in front of the party headquarters of the Awami League (at Gulistan). One brother who had escaped from this spot later told me that Awami League activists had slaughtered 12 people (yes, you read that, slaughtered) on that street. The martyrs, along with him were all new in Dhaka. In order to avoid the heinous attacks, they had mistakenly run into the direction of the den of the Awami hyenas. As I walked past the place, I observed some Awami League leaders on the balcony espousing mockery regarding that incident.
Destination Dhaka Medical College:
Noon had passed. I had not being able to achieve anything. Despite the fact that Dhaka Medical College Hospital was situated besides my university, I had never gone there before. So I went there for the first time in my life. To make a long story short, it was awful. The hospital is more often than not always packed with patients, but that day, the hospital premises was crowded, as a lot of patients included the injured brothers from the incident of the previous night. I observed most of them lying on the floor and in the corridor with bloodstained bandages.
A major problem facing those in the hospital was that our brothers had come without any spare clothes, due to which many did not have any clothes to change into. Having no family members by their side, there wasn’t anyone to even spare them a blanket.
This was a story I heard from one brother:
He had been shot in a neighborhood beside Motijheel. As a result of severe injuries, he was close to becoming unconscious from the loss of blood. He was then thrown into a dustbin full of garbage, where he remained lying all night. At dawn, a kind person recovered him from the dustbin and registered him at the hospital. How could a Muslim dump the body of another Muslim into the garbage?
This shocking incident was just not a lone single case. There were dozens of other incidents such as this. The injured from various places at Motijheel were still coming into the emergency ward of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH). But all the patients were being promptly turned away from the hospital under pressure from the government authorities. Furthermore, those who had been admitted at night were directed to vacate the hospital and get admitted elsewhere within the next two days.
In the midst of all this horror, I witnessed one brother whose eyes were gouging out of his sockets. No doctor came forward to treat him in two days. It was likely that he would have incurred an eye infection by then. Later, after his family members were informed, they came for him and he was admitted to the Shyamoli Eye Institute.
In the meantime, I met brother Iqbal and his companion at DMCH. At the time, the hospital security had been ‘strengthened’ by the police. When I turned up alone, the police were not permitting me entry into the hospital premises. Brother Iqbal used to work at DMCH. It was due to his assistance that I was able to enter into and access a lot of places at DMCH. Sadly, I learnt later that the medical authorities expelled him for helping the Hefazat brothers. He used to bring in food from his home for the injured brothers every dawn. He contacted the families of the injured and helped their family members to come to Dhaka. May Allah reward this man; it is not possible for me to do justice to his efforts by writing about the sacrifices he had to endure for the sake of the injured brothers.
That day I also stood witness to the corrupt and vile side of Bangladeshi media. I felt my heart tearing to pieces when I witnessed the scene upon entering the premises of the DMCH morgue. I counted ten to eleven dead bodies of believers, their lifeless bodies laid in a straight file inside that small room.
A renowned journalist had entered the morgue with me. We exited the morgue at the same time. Just then, a call came for the journalist, and I could not help but clearly hear her reply,
“Sir, I saw a total of five bodies at Dhaka Medical College …… no, no, five.”
I realized that these were the people running this godforsaken country; I quietly moved away.
Restrictions on medical treatment in Dhaka:
In the period after May 6, the injured had to face many problems and restrictions in getting medical attention. Within a few days, the DMCH was made free from the injured Hefazat brothers from May 6 under tight government pressure. In fact all the public hospitals had come under the same pressure. The poor people were thus forced to go to private clinics. However, even those institutions were not spared. Government spies who went there threatened the private clinics not to admit any Hefazat activists. It was surprising to observe how the government was applying pressure in order to stop the treatment of its injured citizens. Even though we had anticipated an attack by the police, we had never thought that the government would massacre the Islamic scholars of the nations in such a manner in the dead of the night. And I never imagined that in the aftermath of this massacre, this government which had claimed “legitimate authority” would prevent the access to health care to its own citizens.
After getting rejected at every other hospital, everyone started to go to the Jamaat-controlled hospitals. But government spies were present there as well. They were already struggling to provide medical treatment to the injured brothers of Jamaat themselves, so they had in effect less opportunities to treat the Hefazat brothers. Needless to mention, the presence of the government spies made the situation ever more difficult. Within a few days came the news of the martyrdom of several of those who had been injured, and who had been admitted into these hospitals. May Allah forgive their limitations.
The second problem was financial. None of us were mentally prepared to tackle any situation regarding medical treatment and bearing its costs in the aftermath of May 5. The financial situation of most of the Islamic scholars of Bangladesh is not very good. Medical expenses for treatment of so many people were very high. If we look at the case of Jamaat, we find that they try to bear the medical expenses of their less able activists. However, Hefazat is an umbrella organization, and the majority of the people involved in the May 5 event were general Islamic loving people, who were not politically affiliated in any way. The medical costs for a seriously injured brother, including life saving and essential medicine, stood at about a thousand taka per day. There was also less chance for collection from general people, since the climate of fear at the time had turned the issue of Hefazat into a taboo. Some migrant Shibir brothers raised and sent around 25,000 taka.
One brother who was martyred that night had no one in this world except his wife and a small daughter. He had being his family’s only source of income. In the wake of his demise, his family was left facing very serious consequences. Such were the cases of many other brothers as well. Some of the brothers of Hefazat tried as much as possible to support these families. It’s our duty as Muslims to help the families of martyrs, and to give them all kinds of support.
[These pictures have been taken by my own inexperienced hand. I have forgotten many events of what happened that night. Due to that, and the fact that I do not want to bore the reader with long discourses, this writing of mine is an abridged version of events that happened that day. My flight was a few days after the massacre at May 5. Thus I had to leave, leaving everything behind as well. I was not a journalist myself, but with the help of another brother was able to get acquainted and keep contact with a television journalist. Sitting to reminiscence on the events of that day two years after the incident, I discovered that I had forgotten many of the events of that day. That journalist brother took detailed videos and interviews of many of those affected that day. The tapes have not been released for obvious reasons, but the truth will come out one day Insha’ Allah]
Source: Translation of Post by Progress Bangladesh, with permission from author