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Thousands in India Protest Bush's Visit

ANAND GIRIDHARADAS and HARI KUMAR / New York Times 2mar2006


Indians protested against President Bush today in Bombay. photo: Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press -- Thousands in India Protest Bush's Visit ANAND GIRIDHARADAS and HARI KUMAR / New York Times 2mar2006

Indians protested against President Bush today in Bombay.
photo: Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press


MUMBAI — For the second day in a row, there were raucous protests across India today against President Bush's visit, with the most militant here in India's commercial capital.

As Mr. Bush was having lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the capital, New Delhi, tens of thousands of demonstrators turned out at the Azad Maidan, a field in Mumbai made famous by Gandhi's civil disobedience protests against British rule.

The protest, called by Muslim organizations and leftist political parties, was largely peaceful, but bristling with an anti-American rage that is not often on display in this country. The demonstrators shouted slogans against Mr. Bush. In one section of the field, a crowd gathered to burn an American flag. The crowd began beating the flaming flag. Then a young man lifted a boy named Shoaib over the fire and instructed him to urinate on it. He did, bemused by all the attention on him. He said he was in third grade.

Nearby, a few dozen men nearby stood under a banner declaring: "We are ready to become suicide bomber." It is a sentiment rarely expressed openly in India, which has had domestic terrorism over the years but whose citizens have not seemed to be attracted to the current global terrorist networks.

"Suppose Bush is here," said Sajid Khan, 25, a student. "I will suicide bomb to Bush. If we could get a visa, we would go there and fight."

Crowd estimates varied from 250,000 to 700,000, according to city police and a protest organizer — or between 10 and 25 percent of the Muslim population of Mumbai.

On the streets of New Delhi, protests were much milder today than on the day before. Fewer than 10,000 people showed up for a protest march and rally called by leftist political parties. "I am Bush. I ambush," read one placard. "Bush go back," the crowd chanted.

"We oppose Bush and our government," said an agricultural laborer named Bijender Singh, 28. "Why did they invite Bush?"

Prakash Karat, secretary of the Communist Party of India, told the crowd at the rally, half a mile from the Parliament building, "George Bush is the guest of the government of India but not of the people of India."

Mr. Karat's party supports Mr. Singh's Congress Party-led coalition government but has been the loudest voice of opposition on the nuclear deal between the United States and India. The Communists also staged a protest on the steps of the Parliament.

Jainarain Singh, a security guard active with the Communist Party, said he considers the alliance with the Bush White House to be detrimental to India's growth — exactly the opposite of the message Prime Minister Singh tried to convey. "We should be independent," he said. "We should not decide our policies under U.S. pressure."

All roads and lanes leading from the march route to Hyderabad House, where Mr. Bush and Mr. Singh held a joint news conference, were heavily fortified by police.

From the eastern city of Calcutta, television news stations reported protests that drew an estimated 50,000 protesters who burned effigies of Mr. Bush.

Elsewhere in the capital, Mr. Bush's appearance today seemed to draw far less interest than the test cricket match between India and England. At a Subway fast-food restaurant on Connaught Place, New Delhi's commercial center, the television was tuned in to the cricket match.

Rajesh Kumar, 42, a marketing and sales executive for an Indian airline, said he was cynical about how India would benefit from the nuclear agreement. "It's just a balloon of air, designed to pump up India's ego," he said. ""People are still fighting for their bread and butter here — this won't solve anything."

He added, "America wants to dominate the world."

The nuclear deal did not much energize a computer engineering student, Sidharth Jain, 19, either.

"The deal doesn't matter to us much," he said. "I don't think anyone really understands what it means." But he was hopeful that improved ties with the United States might make it easier for him to go to a university in America.

Anand Giridharadas reported from Mumbai for this article and Hari Kumar from New Delhi. Amelia Gentleman contributed reporting from New Delhi.

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/international/asia/02cnd-protests.html?_r=1&oref=slogin 3mar2006

Bush-Fire Spreads Like Wild Fire at Azad Maidan

Cybernoon (Bombay, India) 2mar2006


Protestors shout anti-Bush slogans, burn US president’s effigies to protest against Danish media’s blasphemy

More than one lakh people led by various organizations, protested at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan against US President’s visit yesterday. The demonstrators demonstrated their wrath by beating an effigy of George Bush with their footwear and set it on fire. Waving placards in the air and chanting loud anti-Bush slogans. protestors did not only stop at criticising Bush but even demanded death sentence to the journalist who published the cartoon of Prophet Mohammed. With a throng of protestors spilling onto the streets, police personnel were stationed in and around the venue to avoid any untoward incident. Shouting slogans against Bush and the American government, the protestors did not spare the government which had invited President Bush to India. Incidentally, President Bush’s visit to India has been greeted with loud protests by Muslims across the country. The community is disappointed with cartoons of Prophet Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper.

Mohammed Abdul Kashmiri, a Muslim leader said, “George Bush himself is a terrorist and by insulting Prophet Mohammed he wants to instigate the Muslim community to spread terror in the world. Once that happens, he will label the Muslim community as terrorists and then continue to attack our community as he has done earlier in Iraq, Libya and now wants to do the same in Asian countries too. It is his agenda to pressurise India too.” Kashmiri finds it difficult to comprehend why Bush has been invited to India, given the fact that in case of the US attack on Iraq, India had strongly criticised Bush. “The government has hurt the sentiments of the community by doing so. America is adopting the same strategy with Iran which it did with Iraq.” Kashmiri minced no words when he said that Bush was not only an enemy of Islam but also an enemy of humanity. “Bush is killing humanity in the name of terrorism,” he stated.

The demonstrations seemed to be having its ripple effect around the locality. Fearing sabotage by protestors, an eatery in the vicinity selling burgers and such American fare, was shut down as a preventive measure. Even its hoardings were shrouded in white cloth as protestors urged people to boycott American products. With word of the protest having spread around in advance, Muslim-dominated areas like Masjid, Crawford Market and Madanpura witnessed a bandh as shops had downed shutters and even received support from non-Muslim shopowners in the vicinity. One of the protestors, Inayat Husain Lohar from Darookhana said, “It’s very disappointing that when all the world is protesting against Bush, India and Israel are supporting him.” Lohar said he had witnessed such a huge crowd after 1965 when a mosque was demolished in Palestine when protestors had formed a serpentine queue from Kalaghoda to Madanpura. The murmurs of protest could be heard among the crowd of people gathered at Azad Maidan. M A Khan condemned George Bush saying the US president himself was a terrorist and that India shouldn’t have invited him here. Perfume vendor Rizwan Khan was clear about his agenda in joining the protest. “It’s a political matter whether or not the government should call Bush but we are protesting against him only for our community. It has no relation with politics,” he stated categorically. Meanwhile, many flags belonging to Samajwadi Party and Communist party could be seen among the crowd of protestors.

source: http://www.cybernoon.com/DisplayArticle.asp?section=fromthepress&subsection=inbombay&xfile=March2006_inbombay_standard9107 3mar2006

Muslims Stage Massive Protest in Mumbai

The Hindu (India) 3mar2006


Rally draws support from the Left and Samajwadi Party; all sects participate

SEA OF HUMANITY: An aerial view of an anti-Bush rally at the Azad Maidan in Mumbai on Thursday.

MUMBAI: Over a lakh Muslims participated in a rally at the Azad Maidan in Mumbai to protest the three-day visit of U.S. President George Bush. The rally also drew the support of the Left parties and the Samajwadi Party, with leaders like Ahilya Rangnekar and Abu Asim Azmi sharing the dais with imams from across the country.

Several organisations, including the Communist Party of India, the Communist Gadar Party, the National Railway Workers' Union, the Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind, the All India Ulema Council and the Mumbai Aman Committee, participated in the mammoth rally.

Organisers of the rally said all sects — Shia, Sunni, Khoja, and Bohra — participated.

The speakers touched on a gamut of issues — from Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasreen and M. F. Husain's paintings to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Afghanistan and Iraq crisis. Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi said atrocities perpetrated against Islam would not be tolerated.

The crowd cheered the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid in Delhi, Ahmed Bukhari, when he said: "Bush should know that America is not a super power. Only the God sitting above is. The Americans can't get away with killing several hundred people in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Traffic bottlenecks

The crowd was hard to control.After Mr. Bukhari's speech, the barricade erected in front of the stage collapsed under the surge of people. Traffic around Azad Maidan came to a standstill and the entrance to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was blocked.

The organisers said people had come from distant suburbs like Mumbra, Thane and Jogeshwari to attend the rally. Shops and establishments in predominantly Muslim areas like Bhendi Bazaar and Mohammed Ali Road were closed by early afternoon.

Apolitical rally

Farid Shaikh from the Mumbai Aman Committee said: "This rally is not political. We just wanted all Muslims to assemble for a cause. We are against the Danish cartoonist who hurt the feelings of Muslims. Bush is not good for us. Look at how he attacked Iraq for no reason. We are protesting against all these issues."

However, a civilian said: "I have nothing against America and I am here to pray to Allah. We want peace and I want to pray." Organisers, however, shooed him away and insisted that media persons interact only with authorities and not with the "general public."

Rally in Kolkata

In Kolkata, a Left Front rally cautioned the country against "the global designs of U.S. imperialism" and "protested the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government's surrender of national interest and honour to the U.S. by jettisoning India's independent foreign policy."

The rally, held across the road where the American Centeris located, was to protest against the visit of Mr. Bush. Effigies were burnt and posters, describing Mr. Bush as "an enemy of humanity" and "symbol of the U.S. threat to the Third World," displayed. Anil Biswas, State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and senior Polit Bureau member, said Congressmen who did not favour the Centre's U.S. tilt in foreign policy issues "were increasingly being isolated."

He wondered whether the clinching of the nuclear accord was a U.S. attempt to use India and other countries in Asia as strategic partners against China in Washington's campaign against communism."We (the Left parties) will not allow this to happen... this is part of an imperialist design to isolate China."

Biman Bose, chairman of the Left Front committee and CPI (M) Polit Bureau member, said: "We don't like your visit, go back President Bush. People cannot accept your systematic destruction of civilisation and of humanity in the name of democracy."

Left Front rally in Kolkata cautions against `global designs' of U.S. imperialism

source: http://www.hindu.com/2006/03/03/stories/2006030317191600.htm 3mar2006

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