Even though 21 years have passed since a bomb attack on Udichi Shilpi Gosthi in Jashore claimed 10 lives, the trial of the case is yet to start.
The high court ordered a retrial in 2011, but charges have not been framed yet.
Today marks the 21st anniversary of the bomb attack that also left over 200 injured. On this day in 1999, the attack was carried out on the 12th national council meeting of Udichi Shilpi Gosthi on the Town Hall premises of Jashore town.
Udichi observes the day every year as a black day in the country's cultural history. Today, Udichi's Jashore branch has arranged several events including memorial discussion, torch lighting and presentation of revolutionary songs.
According to court records, on December 14, 1999, police submitted charge sheets against 24 people over the attack. Tariqul Islam, the former standing committee member of the BNP, was also included in the charge sheet and later indicted by court along with the rest.
But the High Court dropped his name in August 2003, based on his plea. On May 30, 2006, the Jashore Special Tribunal cleared the remaining 23 people charged in the case of wrongdoing, citing improper investigation.
Seeing the scope of justice narrowing, Udichi asked the home ministry for a retrial in 2011. The ministry responded by entrusting the CID with an extended investigation into the heinous crime.
After the Awami League-led grand alliance assumed power, the government appealed at the High Court against the lower court verdict of dropping charges against all the accused. The High Court accepted the plea.
As per the High Court's directive, on June 21, 2011, the Chief Judicial Magistrate's Court summoned the 23 accused in the case to surrender.
Of the accused, Mahiuddin Alamgir, Ahsan Kabir Hasan and Mizanur Rahman Mizan have died, bringing down the number of accused to 20.
Over time since the court issued the summons, 17 have surrendered and secured bail. On February 22, 2014, however, Saiful Islam, a prime accused and one of the 17 to get bail, was murdered.
The other three accused – Shafiqul Islam Minta, Shariful Islam Litu and Sohrab – did not surrender within the stipulated time and the court issued arrest warrants against them.
Regarded as a leading perpetrator, Shafiul Islam Minta, was arrested in February 2012 and is now out on bail. Court proceedings have not moved any further from this point because separate charges are yet to be framed for the retrial.
Meanwhile, militant group Harkatul Jihad's leader Mufti Hannan was arrested in 2007 during the tenure of the last caretaker government. On November 19 the same year, Mufti Hannan confessed at court about his involvement in the bomb blast.
Based on his statement, police arrested Harkatul Jihad members Abul Hossain from Barisal and Mawlana Abdur Rouf from Madaripur. Both are out on bail at the moment.
In this backdrop, Udichi, as well as the bereaved families are naturally at a loss. Mahbubur Rahman Mizan, advisor of Udichi's Jashore branch, said the government started a farcical trial in 1999, prompting Udichi to ask for a reinvestigation.
Even though the plea was accepted by court, till now the national and local administrations have not taken any steps to proceed with the trial, despite repeated requests by Udichi, Mizan claimed.
Idris Ali, public prosecutor at the Jashore court, said the government appealed at the High Court to reassess the lower court verdict. The court ruled in favour of the verdict and now a hearing is about to start.
After the appeal is resolved, court proceedings would resume at the relevant court and pave the way towards justice for the families of the dead and the injured, he concluded.
The people who were killed in the attack were identified as Nur islam, Nazmul Huda Tapan, Sandhya Rani Ghosh, Ilias Munshi, Shah Alam Babul, Babul Sutradhar, Shah Alam, Bulu, Ratan Rai and Ramkrishna.