Published February 28, 2006
BOMBAY, India – Demonstrators in India shouted "Death to America!" and burned effigies of President Bush on Tuesday, demanding that he be barred from visiting the country this week.
Bush arrives in India 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.
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.
"Bush is terrorist No. 1, and it is an insult to Indian Muslims that he is coming to India as a guest of the government," said Mohammed Saeed Noori of the Bombay-based Muslim organization Raza Academy. "Bush first destroyed Afghanistan, then Iraq. He should be stopped from entering India."
While this nation of more than 1 billion people is overwhelmingly Hindu, it still has the world's second-largest population of Muslims.
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 Koran 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.
Meanwhile, members of the leftist Students Federation of India and the Communist Party of India burned effigies of Bush at three intersections in Hyderabad.
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.