The forgotten memory.......burning
Everything seems normal in the country these days.
The political heat, which was created centring on the BNP-led 20-party alliance's indefinite blockade, appears to have cooled down. And the elections to three city corporations added a new dimension to the political landscape.
The prevailing atmosphere hardly gives any hint of the horrific time the nation experienced in January-March when numerous petrol and crude bombs went off, public transports came under attacks and innocent citizens got killed. It was all during the 20-party's countrywide blockade, coupled with 43 days of hartal.
At least 95 people died in violence since January 5, the day the alliance announced the blockade. Several thousand people suffered injuries. Another 45 people got killed in “shootouts” with law enforcement agencies. Half the shootout victims were allegedly involved in arson attacks.
The political scenario has changed, but the ordeals of those injured and the families of those killed have not. We have laws in the country. We can understand who're behind these crimes. So, will there be any justice? Precedent says 'No'.
The burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital looks different now: patients receiving treatment, whimpering now and then in pain, as is the usual picture there.
However, the unit's first and third floors used to be crammed until mid-March with burn victims,
who were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time during the BNP-led 20-party alliance's nationwide indefinite blockade. All voices and sounds in those days were drowned out by their agonised howls.
Only one burn victim is undergoing treatment now in a room on the fourth floor of the six-storey building while another, having released from the unit recently, is being treated in the medicine ward of the DMCH.
This seems to be the only place which still bears testimony to the indescribable sufferings of victims many of whom died while many with critical injuries won the battle for life.
With normalcy apparently returning to the political sphere, they have been forgotten altogether. The Daily Star has visited some of the victims recently to get a glimpse into how they are living their lives now.
Although they received financial assistance from the government and some private organisations, they are weighed down by the question whether they would ever get back to normal life.
Take, for example, the case of Masud Sheikh. The trucker from Kahalu upazila of Bogra suffered 17 percent burns to his face and hands in a petrol bomb attack on January 23 when he was driving back home with his brother-in-law Jahangir from the College Station area in the town.
Every time Masud moves his limbs and shifts his body, he is reminded of those horrifying memories.
"I cannot think of resuming work as I'm still worried about recovering fully," he told The Daily Star. He returned home after receiving treatment at the DMCH burn unit for over two months till March 30.
The 35-year-old still cannot have his meal on his own as he cannot move his fingers. Worse still, he cannot shut his eyes completely when he sleeps.
His injury put the fate of his six-member family in great peril. His younger brother was supposed to go abroad for a better future but the process was halted. Masud got Tk 10 lakh from the prime minister's relief fund, yet he is uncertain about his family's future.
"What would happen if I didn't recuperate fully and couldn't work again," said Masud, father of an eight-year-old boy.
The condition of his brother-in-law's family is more depressing.
A father of two children, Jahangir died at the burn unit after battling with life for 35 days. A resident of Louhajhal of Kahalu, he was the helper of the truck Masud used to drive.
The money his wife Beauty Begum earns through sewing at home is barely enough to run the five-member family. Like Masud's family, they also got Tk 10 lakh and other financial assistance from private organisations.
"I don't know what to do and how to run the family," said Beauty who has to take care of her aged parents-in-law too. "The money will be depleted at some point. How will we survive then?"
Almost all other victims who took treatment at the unit have similar stories of uncertainty and misery to share.
A total of 182 blockade victims have taken treatment at the burn unit since early January when BNP-led alliance began its blockade along with many hartals. Of them, 22 died.
Safiqul Islam, 18, is the only burn victim still undergoing treatment at the unit.
When these correspondents visited him about a week ago, he was having lunch lying on his chest, with a pillow placed underneath, as his back was badly burnt. After finishing lunch, his sister removed the pillow and he put his forehead on another pillow without changing his posture.
Doctors advised him to remain in this posture after they operated his back, his father Mohammad Alauddin said.
"He [Safiqul] finds it very difficult to eat his food. He often says 'it pains'," he added.
Safiqul was one of the victims of the deadly arson attack on a bus that killed seven people on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Chouddagram upazila of Comilla in the early hours on February 3.
"We are not sure whether he would ever be a normal man again," said Alauddin, a driver of a three-wheeler in Sonargaon.
Niranjan Singha, 19, a motor mechanic, suffered 42 percent burns in a petrol bomb attack when he was coming to his workplace in Sylhet town on January 26. Released recently from the unit, he is now being treated in the medicine ward.
Babu Sena Singha, his father, said, "Doctors have said that my son will recover, but I wonder if he will ever get back to normal life."
Niranjan is all that Babu is left with after his wife died 11 years ago. Yet he had to send his son to Sylhet for a better living. But now the stress caused by his poor physical conditions has been compounded by an uncertain future.
"My son didn't do any harm to anybody. Why he had to get burnt? Can burning people be a politics?" the father asked with tears rolling down his cheeks.
Fifty-year-old trucker Ismail Hossain recovered from the burns he had sustained in his legs. He was released from hospital about a week ago. While talking to these correspondents, he vented his anger saying, "One party is trying to stay in power while another is trying to come to power. It's totally their affairs. But why are we, the common people, dying?"
The question Ismail has asked remains unanswered with frustration writ large all over his face.echo "Monir"; /* other country*/
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- The forgotten memory.......burning