Within a few minutes of the explosions, the police began to throw tear shells on the rally premises and one got inside the store.
On that fateful day, I was assigned to cover the Awami League rally. When I reached Bangabandhu Avenue, the area was swarmed with thousands of activists and leaders who came to attend the rally. I met my fellow journalist, Dulal Bhai, at the entrance to the AL office. We entered a departmental store which was right beside the party office and began to take notes.
Back then, shop owners in Dhaka always used to be on high alert in terms of political programmes as violence and clashes were almost regular. The moment they heard a noise or a clamour, they immediately closed the shutters. Those were volatile times.
We were almost done with taking notes and we could hear Sheikh Hasina end her speech with "Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu". But as soon as she was done, a grenade exploded almost two yards from the makeshift stage on a truck where she was standing.
With the first sound of the explosion, the owner rolled the shutter down. Although I was a bit baffled but I remained calm inside the store. I had been covering political news for quite some time and was used to such sudden violence. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that the grenades would kill so many people.
Within the next minute and a half, a shower of grenades exploded. A total of 13 explosions ripped through the rally premises that day. When the larger grenades began to explode, we were sure by then that something apocalyptic was on the run outside.
Traumatised inside the store, we all summed up that the attacks were on Sheikh Hasina. But we just could not imagine the magnitude of the level of barbarism by then.
Within a few minutes of the explosions, the police began to throw tear shells on the rally premises and one got inside the store. The pungent air made it difficult for us to breathe so we got out, and for the first time, I took a look at the premises.
I was not ready to see what I saw on Bangabandhu Avenue that day. I saw death and blood. At the same time, I smelled the rotten political culture of a nation where oppositions can get annihilated. I saw the corpse of democratic values on Bangabandhu Avenue that day.
Sheikh Hasina was lucky to survive as her party men had built a human shield around her. Fortunately, the grenades exploded on each side of the truck. She was safely escorted out of the rally. The chief of her security personnel had sacrificed his life to save Sheikha Hasina on that day. Many Awami League leaders including Suranjit Sengupta, Kazi Zafarullah, Abdur Razzak, Rahmatullah and Obaidul Quader were injured.
I was very close to the spot where the women party leaders were attacked. Many journalists suffered the consequences of that ghastly grenade attack. I consider myself lucky to have survived the atrocity.
My wife was expecting our first child at that time. My daughter is now 14. I sometimes get traumatised with the very thought of the day that could have obliterated everything. I still shudder at the thought of my own death, something that could have happened that day.
Dr. Shameem Mahmud is a former journalist. He is currently an Adjunct Faculty at Hamburg University, Germany.