Muslims stage massive protest in Mumbai

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

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

Staff Reporter

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

Rally draws support from the Left and Samajwadi PartyHusain paintings, Danish cartoons, Iraq crisis discussedImperialist bid to isolate China seen

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

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