How do India’s Muslims perceive the visit of George W. Bush? If a rally in Lucknow on February 19 was any indication, the US president is not very welcome in India. Irate crowds of Lucknawi Muslims, numbering over a lakh, started out as a protest against the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, but ended up fulminating against the US president. Placard after placard dubbed him as ‘Shaitan Bush’ or ‘The Real Terrorist’; his effigy was beaten and burnt; the Stars and Stripes was dragged through the streets. On that Sunday, America was trampled upon and rubbished. Fiery speakers, in succession, demanded that the Manmohan Singh government should cancel the visit of Bush.
The rally in Lucknow may well be a dress rehearsal for the protests scheduled on March 1, the day the US president is to arrive in India. On that day, the Jamait-ul-Ulema has planned protests in Delhi, at a public meeting on the Ramlila grounds. A second demonstration is slated for March 3, before the UP assembly. "The agitations won’t stop till the time our voices are heard," says Maulana Mahmood Madni, general secretary of the Jamait-ul-Ulema. And he’ll take nothing short of the maximum: a reversal of the upa government’s policy of proximity to the US.