DHAKA, Bangladesh (AFP) — Tens of thousands of people from minority faiths rallied in cities across Bangladesh on Saturday in protest against a series of deadly attacks on Hindu temples and homes.
Demonstrations were held in more than 60 places across the Muslim-majority country, including the capital Dhaka, as protesters vented anger over anti-Hindu riots last week that left seven people dead.
“The law-enforcing agencies and civil administration have utterly failed to protect the minority people, especially the Hindu people,” said Rana Dasgupta, a leader of the Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist Christian Unity Council, which organized the rallies.
Dasgupta said the biggest protests were held in Bangladesh’s second-largest city of Chittagong where at least 15,000 people joined in.
Another big rally took place in the Shahbagh neighborhood of central Dhaka where several thousand gathered.
“The aim of these ghastly attacks was to drive away minorities from their homes as was done in the past,” Dasgupta said.
He said the protesters had submitted 11 demands to authorities including the setting up of a judicial commission to investigate the attacks.
The anti-Hindu riots spread to many parts of the country after footage emerged of a Koran being placed on the knee of a Hindu god during celebrations for the Hindu festival Durga Puja.
Hindus make up about 10 percent of Bangladesh’s population. But the minority community has often fallen victim to communal violence in the country of 169 million.
Bangladesh police have said they arrested about 500 suspects in connection with attacks on Hindu temples and other properties.
They include a Muslim who allegedly placed the Koran on the knee of the Hindu idol.
Authorities said they have deployed extra security including paramilitary border guards to control any further unrest.
High-speed mobile internet services were shut down last week in an apparent bid to prevent the violence from spreading.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also met leaders of the Hindu community and promised to take stern action.