Women look on during a demonstration against US President George Bush in Bangalore, India, Wednesday, March 1, 2006. U.S. President George W. Bush headed for India on Wednesday as talks on a landmark U.S.-Indian nuclear pact were down to the wire and tens of thousands of Indians rallied in New Delhi and other parts of India to protest his visit. (AP Photo/KPN)
Tens of thousands of Indians waving black and white flags and chanting
"Death to Bush!" rallied Wednesday in New Delhi to protest a visit
by President Bush.
Surindra Singh Yadav, a senior police officer in charge of crowd control, said
as many as 100,000 people, most of them Muslim, had gathered in a fairground
in central New Delhi ordinarily used for political rallies.
"Whether Hindu or Muslim, the people of India have gathered here to show
our anger. We have only one message — killer Bush go home," one of
the speakers, Hindu politician Raj Babbar, told the crowd.
Bush arrives in India later Wednesday for a three-day visit focused on strengthening
the emerging strategic partnership between India and the United States. Dozens
of protests have been planned by Islamic leaders and communist politicians.
While Bush remains more popular in India than he is in many other countries,
some here object to U.S. policies, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. India,
an overwhelmingly Hindu nation of more than 1 billion people, has the world's
second-largest population of Muslims.
Wednesday's protesters carried placards that read: "Bully Bush, Go Home,"
and "Death to America, Death to Bush."
Police, some of them armed with rifles, were heavily deployed around the fairground.
As the rally grew, protesters charged a stage where about 200 Muslim leaders
were waiting to speak, knocking over television cameras.
On Tuesday, about 1,000 Muslims demonstrated in Bombay, some waving placards
reading "Devil Bush Go Back," with caricatures of Bush as a cross
between Superman and Satan — dressed in the superhero's red-and-blue costume
with devil's horns and clutching a missile.
Some mosques in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, where Bush will visit
Friday, have already unfurled banners protesting his arrival and plan to chant
verses from the Quran in hopes that it will drive him away.
Muslim groups also have called for a daylong strike to protest Bush's visit
to Hyderabad, a key center of India's booming information technology industry.
Muslims account for nearly 40 percent of the city's 7 million people.
Members of the leftist Students Federation of India and the Communist Party
of India burned effigies of Bush at three intersections in Hyderabad on Tuesday.
The communists, who are key allies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government,
also plan to protest Thursday at India's Parliament in New Delhi, a few miles
from where Bush and Singh will meet.
"Up to 50,000 people will take part in the march, and we have the police
permission to express our feelings," said Pushpender Grewal, secretary
of the Communist Party of India.
"We will protest against the U.S. policies, especially the inhuman atrocities
in Afghanistan and Iraq, a likely invasion of Iran and its continuing support
to Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine."
Communists and Muslim groups have criticized New Delhi for backing a U.S. move
to report longtime ally Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency over
allegations Tehran is developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program
is for peaceful purposes.
They also oppose a deal that the two countries are working out under which
India would buy nuclear fuel from the United States in return for opening its
civilian nuclear facilities to international inspectors. It was not clear whether
the deal would be sealed during Bush's visit.
"We want the government not to sign the nuclear deal as it undermines
our sovereignty and integrity," said Mohammed Saeeduddin, a spokesman of
the Students' Islamic Organization.
Bush ride: six doors, missile-proof
Over 47 vehicles — mainly SUVs — stretching over 100 yards.
All protecting a 12-tonne six-door missile-proof limousine and its occupant.
This mammoth cavalcade today cruised through the Capital’s streets at
50 to 55 km per hour, testing the routes the US president will be taking during
his three day visit. The exercise began at 7 am from Maurya Sheraton with the
cavalcade tracing the route to Hyderabad House, Rashtrapati Bhawan, Rajghat
and back to the hotel. Later in the day, the cavalcade was deployed between
the airport and the hotel and then to Purana Qila. The trial run for the 47-plus
vehicle cavalcade went off without much trouble, said a senior police official.
While there were some problems manouvering the giant cavalcade along some roads
and finding parking, these problems were later sorted out officials said. The
Bush cavalcade will be supplemented on the periphery with cars from Indian security
forces, Delhi Police and the Traffic Police.
The cavalcade vehicles have been parked at the US embassy.
Meanwhile, all American offices in the Capital are under high security fearing
demonstrations by various groups. Delhi Police will also be keeping a look out
for snap protests along Bush’s route by Left parties and student groups
from JNU and DU besides a host of other organisations.
While the Left parties will hold a rally on March 2, the Jamiat-i-Ulema Hind
is organising a huge demonstration in the Capital on March 1.