Whose guest is Bush?

Protestors promise a noisy show when US Prez arrives in India on Wednesday.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 12:05 IST

Cartoons, poems, T-shirts, paintings, even Bollywood one-liners—everything will turn into anti-Bush arsenal when thousands take to the streets on Thursday to oppose a US President they say is a "war criminal".

And the Communists, spearheading what they claim could be the biggest anti-American demonstration the city has seen, have warned of a "free for all" if the authorities try to clamp down on the planned show of strength against George W Bush.

"We are not going to create law and order problems," said Joginder Sharma, who heads the Delhi unit of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

"Ours is going to be a peaceful protest march from the Ramlila ground (in the heart of the city) to Parliament Street (five kilometres away). But if we are forcibly stopped, it will become a free for all."

The police are in a fix. They do not want the demonstrators, who could number tens of thousands, to march up to Parliament Street. They want the procession to take a detour, but the organisers are not listening.

Protest leaders are promising a colourful and noisy show. And given the fact that neighbouring Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party has also thrown its lot with the Left, the numbers will not be a problem.

"One thing is definite. It is going to be quite a colourful protest," said a prominent Left-leaning cultural activist known only as Rajan. "This is because a lot of creative people have got involved."

Rajan is a member of the SAHMAT, a cultural body that counts many in the fields of arts and theatre as its members.

"Bush, go back!" says one of the many posters prepared for the occasion. Another screams: "Bomb Texas! They have oil too!" Yet another, in a mixture of Hindi and Urdu, asks: "Bush Ahwan, Kiska Mehman?" (Whose guest is Bush?)

There will also be an exhibition of cartoons and paintings. Poets are doing their bit. There would also be T-shirts with Bush caricatures, worn by those who will be taking an active role in the demonstration.

The T-shirts show three guns pointing to Bush and use a Hindi film dialogue from Sholay to say: Tera kya hoga Dubya? (And what of you, Dubya?)

Rajan says it will be a mistake to assume that only the communists and Muslims are opposed to Bush.

"The anger against this man is widespread, I can tell you that," Rajan said. "Only yesterday I was in my car and two young men on a motorcycle asked where I had the anti-Bush sticker from. They also wanted one."

According to Joginder Singh, besides eight political parties, more than 110 trade unions and other groups under the National Platform of Mass Organisations umbrella will take part in the anti-Bush rally.

What is common to all of them is their anti-Bush sentiment, arising primarily on account of the US invasion of Iraq that has claimed thousands of lives.

Joginder Singh was reluctant to reveal how many would be on the streets Thursday but said: "What I can tell is that this would be the biggest anti imperialist rally in Delhi."

He refuses to accept police pleas not to go up to Parliament Street.

"The police are telling us to halt at ITO (Income Tax Office). We cannot accept that. This is a democracy. If others can go to Parliament Street, we too have a right. Bush is not welcome to India.

"If the police come in our way, there will be chaos everywhere in the city, everywhere there will be traffic jams. Whatever is in our command we will resort to in such a case."

And he added: "Bush is a war criminal. He should not have been invited at all."

First Published: Feb 28, 2006 10:47 IST