Zyma Islam and Rafiul Islam
None of the 48 people who died and around 400 others injured was affiliated with politics, but they became victims of violence in 26 days of hartals and blockades imposed by the opposition alliance since November.
The families of those died and injured told The Daily Star that the victims had come under attacks when they were out on their daily works.
“Why don’t the pickets understand that we go out even during hartals and blockades because we have to earn a living?” lamented Alam Kazi, son of Anwara Begum who died of a head injury caused by a crude bomb explosion.
A cook by profession, Anwara was returning home from work on November 26 when the incident took place.
As many as 89 people became victim of arson attacks for being on the roads during hartals and blockades over the one and a half months.
The victims are generally needy people who had to use public transports like buses, human hauliers, pick-up vans and CNG-run auto-rickshaws for a living.
Montu Chandra Paul, a goldsmith at Tanti Bazar who died in an arson attack in Laxmibazar on November 10, was on his way home from work on a pick-up van.
Hailing from Tangail, he had left home for the capital to support his poverty-stricken family, said his brother Jhantu Chandra Paul.
“He said he would save some money and come back to see me,” said Montu’s 70-year-old mother holding one of the correspondents, crying.
Thirteen-year-old Shimul was in no way involved in politics. He used to work as a human haulier conductor to help his rickshaw-puller father manage the family. He was burnt inside the vehicle on November 11.
Had his father been able enough, the boy would not have to go to work and get admitted with 15 percent body burns at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
“I have nightmares about the time when I was trapped inside the burning vehicle. I thought I would die,” Shimul murmured to the correspondents.
Arson victim Mohammad Rubel, driver of a CNG-run three-wheeler from Comilla, had no savings and had to work every day to send his son to school.
He was burned inside his three-wheeler by pickets for showing the “audacity” of hitting the roads with his vehicle on a blockade day.
“My son is taking the Primary School Certificate examination. The examination centre is quite far away and I had to give him transport fare every day. I do not know how he is going to his exam centre now,” wailed Rubel lying in the burn unit of DMCH.
Mannan, who suffered 19 percent burns in an arson attack on a bus in Rayerbagh, grieved, “Were I not physically challenged, I could have got out of the bus like many other passengers.”
At least nine children had their hands blown away after picking up crude bombs thinking those as tennis balls wrapped in red tape. All these bombs were abandoned in public places.
The children are from needy families that cannot afford toys for them. They were initially excited at the prospect of having a new toy when they had seen the attractive red “balls”.
Eight-year-old Surma and Lal Miah, 7, of Chittagong were rag pickers who sifted garbage for a living. When they saw the red ball-like object, both of them rushed to it, excited to have found a toy. Their hope was soon dashed when the “toy” exploded leaving them with splinter injuries.
Similarly, rag pickers Rony and Milton of Bogra were left reeling in pain after their new-found “toy” exploded.
Three-and-a-half-years-old Lima, daughter of a garment worker, has had her right hand amputated after she picked up a crude bomb because some irresponsible pickets had thrown it and run away.