Indians to protest Bush visit

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 U.S. President George W. Bush. Crowd estimates varied, but one police officer 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.

Among the speakers was Raj Babbar, a Hindu politician and actor, who said: "Whether Hindu or Muslim, the people of India have gathered here to show our anger. We have only one message, killer Bush go home." Bush was to arrive later Wednesday in India , a predominantly Hindu nation of more than 1 billion people that also has one of the world's largest Muslim populations.

While he is more popular in India than in most other countries, many here object to U.S. policies, especially the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan . 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, but as the rally grew, protesters charged a stage where about 200 Muslim leaders were waiting to speak, knocking over television cameras. Surindra Singh Yadav, a senior police officer in charge of crowd control, said there were about 100,000 protesters.

A day earlier, about 1,000 Muslim demonstrators in Bombay shouted "Death to America !" and burned effigies of Bush, demanding that he be barred from visiting the country this week. Bush's three-day visit is 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.

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. 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. Communists and Muslim 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, reports the AP.


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