Vol. 4 Num 269 Sat. February 28, 2004  
Front Page

Humayun Azad stabbed, fighting for life

Unknown assailants critically stabbed prominent writer Humayun Azad with butcher's knives in front of Bangla Academy last night in an attack his family blamed on fundamentalists.

A profusely bleeding Azad, also professor of Bangla at Dhaka University, is undergoing treatment at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) with three stabs -- one at the back of his head and two in the left side of his face.

Motives for the attempt on his life could not be known immediately, but co-authors and the victim's family blamed a fundamentalist section that threatened him with death for the launch of his latest work 'Pak Sar Zamin Saad Baad' in November.

"Fundamentalists have done this," Azad's wife Latifa Kohinoor alleged at the CMH. "Who else would do this? You know an MP even spat venom against him in parliament."

"Why didn't you take security measures to protect him after such an outrage in parliament?" an incensed Latifa asked Dhaka Mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka and State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar at the hospital.

The ministers kept mum in embarrassment, but later promised action to hunt down the attackers.

DU teachers will demonstrate at the Teacher-Student Centre on the campus in protest against the attack this morning and Udichi and Sammilito Sangskritik Jote will also agitate there in the afternoon.

Witnesses said the gang swooped on the 56-year-old linguist when he was waiting for a rickshaw to take him to his Fuller Road house on the campus from the Ekushey Book Fair.

"Emerging from the Agami Prokashani stall that he frequented during the book fair, Prof Azad was walking out of the Bangla Academy," a DU student who witnessed the incident told reporters at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) where he was first taken from the scene.

"A young man approached him for an autograph at the Bangla Academy gate. He gave him an autograph and crossed the road to take a rickshaw," he narrated.

Four to five youths, who were shadowing him, emerged from the direction of Suhrawardy Udyan and hemmed him, he said.

As Prof Azad cried for help, a loud blast rocked the area. Some people said it was a bomb explosion, some said it was a gunshot, but police said the attackers exploded a homemade bomb in their attempt to get away.

While panic-stricken visitors to the fair began running helter-skelter for cover, some DU students found him lying in a pool of blood. They rushed him to the DMCH.

As Azad's condition deteriorated for profuse bleeding and blood of his B-negative group was not available there, he was shifted to the CMH at 10:45pm.

After the news spread, hundreds of DU students, teachers and fans crowded the DMCH emergency gate and police held them back from surging into ward No 32 where he was being treated.

DU students brought out a procession on the DU campus at 11:00 last night in protest against the attack. The procession beginning from Nilkhet area marched through the campus shouting slogans for immediate arrest and trial of the attackers.

Immediately after the incident, policemen cordoned the scene of the attack and seized a butcher's knife, but nobody was arrested until 1:00am today.

"We have deployed adequate force who are conducting raids at different city points to arrest the attackers," Assistant Commissioner of police (Ramna Zone) Morshedul Hasan said.

"We're yet to talk to Prof Azad's family. We hope to find some clues to the attack once we talk to them."

Talking to The Daily Star, Azad's daughter Mouli Azad said her father left home at 5:00pm."And we got a call at around 9:45pm that he was attacked in front of Bangla Academy."

Talking on the motive for the attack, some publishing house staff said he was receiving threats from fundamentalists after his latest book 'Pak Saar Jamin Saad Baad' was published in a national Bangla daily's Eid issue on November 20.

Addressing a demonstration at Baitul Mukarram National Mosque on December 12, leaders of an anti-Ahmadiyya outfit demanded arrest and trial of Prof Azad for the novel.

On January 25, a Jamaat lawmaker demanded introduction of a blasphemy act in parliament to block the publication of such books.

On the government action to arrest the attackers and dig out the motive, the state minister for home said: "We are engaging all-out efforts to find out whether he was attacked for personal enmity or there were other schemes."

"We will do everything necessary, but let him recover first."

Prof Azad, who has penned 50 books of poetry, novels, articles, comparative literary books, is a staunch feminist and a fearless critic of human rights violation.

He received the Bangla Academy Award in 1996.