Bush in India: Just Not Welcome
By Arundhati Roy
-- -- On his triumphalist tour of India and Pakistan, where he hopes
to wave imperiously at people he considers potential subjects,
President Bush has an itinerary that's getting curiouser and
For Bush's March 2 pit stop in New Delhi, the Indian government
tried very hard to have him address our parliament. A not
inconsequential number of MPs threatened to heckle him, so Plan One
was hastily shelved. Plan Two was to have Bush address the masses
from the ramparts of the magnificent Red Fort, where the Indian
prime minister traditionally delivers his Independence Day address.
But the Red Fort, surrounded as it is by the predominantly Muslim
population of Old Delhi, was considered a
security nightmare. So now we're into Plan Three: President
George Bush speaks from Purana Qila, the Old Fort.
Ironic, isn't it, that the only safe public space for a man who
has recently been so enthusiastic about India's modernity should be
a crumbling medieval fort?
Since the Purana Qila also houses the Delhi zoo, George Bush's
audience will be a few hundred caged animals and an approved list of
caged human beings, who in India go under the category of "eminent
persons." They're mostly rich folk who live in our poor country like
captive animals, incarcerated by their own wealth, locked and barred
in their gilded cages, protecting themselves from the threat of the
vulgar and unruly multitudes whom they have systematically
dispossessed over the centuries.
So what's going to happen to George W. Bush? Will the gorillas
cheer him on? Will the gibbons curl their lips? Will the
brow-antlered deer sneer? Will the chimps make rude noises? Will the
owls hoot? Will the lions yawn and the giraffes bat their beautiful
eyelashes? Will the crocs recognize a kindred soul? Will the quails
give thanks that Bush isn't traveling with Dick Cheney, his hunting
partner with the notoriously bad aim? Will the CEOs agree?
Oh, and on March 2, Bush will be taken to visit
Gandhi's memorial in Rajghat. He's by no means the only war
criminal who has been invited by the Indian government to lay
flowers at Rajghat. (Only recently we had the Burmese dictator
General Than Shwe, no shrinking violet himself.) But when Bush
places flowers on that famous slab of highly polished stone,
millions of Indians will wince. It will be as though he has poured a
pint of blood on the memory of Gandhi.
We really would prefer that he didn't.
It is not in our power to stop Bush's visit. It is in our power
to protest it, and we will. The government, the police and the
corporate press will do everything they can to minimize the extent
of our outrage. Nothing the happy newspapers say can change the fact
that all over India, from the biggest cities to the smallest
villages, in public places and private homes, George W. Bush, the
President of the United States of America, world nightmare
incarnate, is just not welcome
the Booker Prize-winning author of
'The God of Small Things' and
'The Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire', lives in New Delhi,
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