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1 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Holey Artisan’s facade gives no inkling of tragedy

But memories of militant attack still linger after 2 years
Saugato Bosu
Holey Artisan’s facade gives no inkling of tragedy

The façade is misleading: it gives no inkling of the tragedy that unfolded inside the edifice over a span of 10 hours a couple of years ago. The building that used to house the Holey Artisan Restaurant is still there—in brick and mortar, that is—but tainted with the memory of what is considered the worst instance of terrorism in Bangladesh's history.

On that day, there was tight security at the entrance to Road 79 and the surrounding area. There was further security in front of the gate of the property that housed the café. Yet, everything changed on the evening of July 1, 2016, when five gun-wielding militants entered the Holy Artisan Café and Bakery with grenades, bombs, explosives, machetes and pistols, and took several dozen people hostages, including 18 foreigners. The name Holey Artisan itself came to symbolise horror and tragedy.

Twenty people—nine Italians, seven Japanese, one Indian, one Bangladeshi-born American and two Bangladeshis—were killed in the terror attack on the restaurant.

Also, two senior police officers—Banani Police Station officer-in-charge (OC) Salauddin Ahmed Khan and Detective Branch (DB) assistant commissioner Robiul Islam—were shot dead when police tried to gain control of the bakery.

Thirteen people, including three foreigners, were rescued while 20 hostages’ bodies were recovered from the restaurant after a successful operation led by the 1st Para-commando Battalion, an elite force in the Bangladesh Army the following morning (July 2). Five militants and one restaurant staffer were killed and one suspected militant was arrested during the drive.

On Friday, on the eve of the second anniversary of the incident, it was seen that security guards were posted at the main entrance. All the windows of the house were closed. The main gate was also locked. When asked, the guard, Hossain, said, “There was a dog inside the house so we locked it.”

An old rickshaw-puller nearby recalled, “No-one was allowed to enter the area. There were law enforcement personnel everywhere.”

The rickshaw-puller did not know anything about the militants but he sure knew that a tragedy of such magnitude had occurred there. “When people from outside the area come here, they enquire about the building. It seems as if people are interested to know something about the horror.”

The guard, Hossain, was also surprised about the occasional visits by journalists. “Now all of you are concerned about it,” he said.

Hossain told The Independent that the house had to be made suitable for living. The owner of the building, Sadat Mehedi, his wife Samira Ahmed and their child stay here sometimes. So visitors are generally not allowed there. Hossain also said there is some furniture in this house. “Sadat Mehdi is engaged in his business and he doesn’t come here much. He lives in another flat in Banani.”

The Holey Artisan building complex, which housed the bakery during the attack, will remain open to visitors for four hours from 10am to 2pm today (Sunday). A dais covered in white will be set up for the anniversary so that people can place flower wreaths to honour the victims.

Six months after the militant attack, Holey Artisan Bakery was reopened with a small range on the second floor of Gourmet Bazar of the Arcade Ranges at Gulshan Avenue 2. At present, there is a bakery here, similar to the one that was there two years ago.

The staffers of the original Holey café inspired the owners to reopen the restaurant within six months of the terrorist attack. The owners reopened it on January 10, 2017.

The guard said the bakery continues to operate, with 20 people sitting inside.

One of the employees told The Independent that eight employees are working here, of whom five are old staffers. While asked about the day of the incident, a sad, shocked look came on his face. He said he wanted to forget about it.

Sadat Mehdi, co-owner of Holey Artisan, told The Independent that the old premises that were attacked no longer housed the bakery. The family was living there.

A caretaker and guards are now looking after the house. Sadat said there were no plans to do anything new with the house.

When asked how they felt living inside a house where such a tragedy has occurred, Sadat said, “It’s hard to describe it, but life goes on. We, too, are moving on.”

Sadat’s wife Samira Ahmed is the owner of this beautiful lakeside property, which used to house the original Holey. Following a court order in November 2016, the police handed over the property to its owner after barricading it for four months for their investigation.

Plot No. 5 at Road No. 79 in Gulshan-2 was originally allotted to Dr Suraiya Zabin for use as a residential building-cum-clinic in 1979. In 1982, Lakeview Clinic was built on one side of the plot adjacent to Gulshan Lake. After Suraiya’s death, her daughters Samira and Sara Ahmed became the owners of the plot. Later, Samira’s husband Sadat started the restaurant there, along with his friend Nasimul Alam Porag, his wife and Ali Arsalan in 2014.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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