Vol. 4 Num 269 Sun. February 29, 2004  
Front Page

Azad still not out of danger, family gets death threats

Prominent writer Humayun Azad was fighting for life on a ventilator at a city hospital and his family reported receiving death threats by telephone yesterday, a day after he suffered critical stab injuries by unknown assailants.

Doctors of the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) attending to 56-year Azad, also professor of Bangla at Dhaka University, said they were unable to say whether he would survive before 72 hours of anaesthesia ended.

Police were yet to identify his attackers, but arrested a leader of Dhaka University unit of Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student front of main opposition Awami League, suspecting his part in the attack.

"Doctors here are not making further remarks," Smita Azad, daughter of Azad, who was stabbed with butcher's knives in front of Bangla Academy on Friday night, told The Daily Star from CMH at 9:00 last night.

Azad was put on the ventilator in the intensive care unit at the CMH last night after doctors conducted two prolonged operations on his left jaw and head.

The operations, which began immediately after he was given blood on admission, continued until 5:00am.

Azad was taken to Popular Diagnostic Centre in Dhanmondi yesterday morning under police guard as the CT scanning machine at the CMH was inoperative.


As the rumour of his death flew in Dhaka and elsewhere, anxious people flooded The Daily Star and other newspaper offices with calls for news on his condition.

Security near the CMH was tightened as hundreds of DU students, teachers, writers, Azad's relatives, well-wishers and fans thronged there to see him.

When Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina went there to visit Azad, army men at the main entrance sent her back in an action that applied to all other visitors.

Unknown assailants savagely stabbed the outspoken author who has penned over 50 books of poems, novels and essays with butcher's knives while he was returning to his Fuller Road house at 9:35pm and his family blamed fundamentalists for the attack.

With one stab at the back of his head, two in the left side of his face and one in the shoulder and some of his teeth lost, a profusely bleeding Azad was first rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital from where he was shifted to the CMH.


Prof Azad's brother Monjur Kabir, who filed a case with Ramna police accusing unknown 'miscreants' for the attack, said the perpetrators were threatening the victim's family with death if they did not cease to demand justice.

Smita confirmed the death threats, but said: "We don't want to give details of the threats by telephone at this moment."

Monjur in the case said the goons employed by a vested quarter swooped on him with butcher's knives and axes to kill him and melted in the dark of Suhrawardy Udyan after the attack.

DU students who were placing wreaths at the painting of the attack scene propped up on the spot yesterday noon, found a 14-inch knife and a tooth there.

They linked the tooth to Azad.


Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ashraful Huda last night said police might find out the attackers and uncover their motives once Prof Azad came round.

"Since we have information that he talked to them for several minutes, I have reason to believe that he knows them," he said.

"The evidence gathered so far suggests the attackers were not merely snatchers, but executors of a well-orchestrated scheme to kill him."

Ehsan, an assistant commissioner of police (Patrol) went to the scene to take the knife, but incensed DU students assaulted him and handed over the sharp weapon to Vice-Chancellor SMA Faiz.

Faiz later gave the knife to Khan Sayeed Hasan, deputy police commissioner of Dhaka's south zone. Police retrieved another butcher's knife from the spot on Friday night.

Ramna police arrested Abbas alias Boma Abbas, joint secretary of DU's Sir AF Rahman Hall unit of BCL, in Central Shaheed Minar area yesterday.

"We have information about his presence near the spot before and after the incident and as there was a bomb explosion during the attack, he might be involved in the crime," Officer-in-Charge of Ramna Police Station Mahbubur Rahman said.

He alleged that Abbas had a history of bomb-building.

Two witnesses -- Suman alias Babu, 13, a chatpati (local delicacy) seller and Meer Jahan, 34, a vegetable vendor -- told the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court that they saw two youths stabbing Prof Azad and fleeing the area through Suhrawardy Udyan blasting a bomb.

They said Azad came out of the book fair with five youths at around 8:30pm and gossiped with them for about an hour sitting on a cement-bench opposite to Bangla Academy.

"Sir (Azad) along with two of them stood up to take a rickshaw home. Three youths still sitting on the bench made a sign to the pair. Then the pair began stabbing him with butcher's knives. They also blasted a bomb for cover," Suman said.

Yasmin, a street urchin also picked up from the spot, told police that one of the attackers wore short beards.


The attack on Azad cast a shadow on the Ekushey Book Fair, where sombre-looking people expressed despair at the 'assault on freethinking'.

Many people visited the Agami Prokashani, publisher of his much-talked about latest work Pak Sar Zamin Saad Baad, for a copy of the book that drew fire from a section of fundamentalists.

The publisher could not satisfy them as the 200 copies they brought to the stall yesterday flew off the shelf in an hour.

Anxious people inquired after his health, but did not get a satisfactory reply from the publishers close to the author, who has penned about 50 books of poems, novels and essays.

At 6:15pm, stall owners staged a half-an-hour 'stop-sale' protest when visitors to the fair formed a human chain to condemn the attack. Some brought out small processions that paraded through the fair ground.

Rumours of the author's death flew fitfully, triggering scenes of emotional breakdowns when disconsolate publishers, well-wishers and fans broke down in tears.

"I'll identify them if I see them again," Suman said.

Metropolitan Magistrate Nani Gopal Biswas recorded their statements before their release.

Related Stories:
arrow Hasina, B Chy barred from going to CMH
No visitor, not even Leader of Opposition in Parliament Sheikh Hasina, was allowed to see Prof Humayun Azad at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Dhaka Cantonment last night.
arrow DU swells with protest
Dhaka University (DU) yesterday burst into spontaneous protest against the attack on Humayun Azad, as thousands of students and teachers brought out processions and covered their faces with black cloth.
arrow Nation in fury
Awami League President Sheikh Hasina yesterday strongly denounced Friday's heinous attack on eminent litterateur and educationist Humayun Azad.
arrow Writers feel insecure
Writers, poets and intellectuals have expressed their deep sense of insecurity in the wake of the murderous attack on Dr Humayun Azad, now fighting for his life at Dhaka's Combined Military Hospital.
arrow No class at DU until culprits nabbed
Dhaka University Teachers' Association (DUTA) yesterday decided to suspend taking classes at Dhaka University (DU) from today until the attackers of their fellow teacher and prominent writer Humayun Azad
arrow The book that got him marked for death
Humayun Azad's satirical book 'Pak Sar Zamin Saad Baad', which most likely caused Friday's assassination attempt that the writer survived with life-threatening injuries, focuses mainly on the psyche of

Students ring the blood-smeared spot, left, yesterday where unknown assailants stabbed prominent writer Humayun Azad a day ago; Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina, right, walks toward the Combined Military Hospital along with her Awami League colleagues to see the Dhaka University teacher after her car was barred from entering the cantonment. PHOTO: STAR