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Anti-Bush protests continue, 40 injured in Kashmir

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 2 (UNI) Left parties and Islamist organisations today organised nationwide protests against US President George W Bush terming the American leader a ''mass murderer'' and burning his effigies.

At a few places the demonstration turned violent, even as President Bush sewed up the historic civilian nuclear energy co-operation deal with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In Jammu and Kashmir, around 40 people were injured when Shia Muslim demonstrators clashed with riot police in Central Kashmir district of Badgam.

Police said the anti-Bush, anti-America procession towards Srinagar turned violent as some protestors hurled stones at passing vehicles and at surrounding personnel.

They accused the US of involvement in the recent bombing of a holy Shia mosque in Iraq and publication of Prophet Mohammad's cartoons in a Danish newspaper.

The demonstrators were teargassed and police fired some rounds into the air to disperse the group. Some security personnel were among the injured.

A report from Shia-dominated Kargil said shops and business establishments in the town were closed in the afternoon in protest against Mr Bush's visit to India.

In the capital, while the landmark Indo-US talks got underway in the sanitised Hyderabad House, hundreds of slogan-shouting Left and Samajwadi Party workers rallied at the Ramlila Grounds in protest against the visit.

A large number of MPs, including those from parties supporting the UPA government, came wearing red caps to Parliament. The Left, the Samajwadi Party and the TDP forced adjournment of both Houses of Parliament.

The Lok Sabha was adjourned till 1400 hrs and the Rajya Sabha till 1200 hrs soon after the two Houses assembled as the Left, the Samajwadi Party and the TDP disrupted proceedings.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, in a bid to pacify them, asserted that India's interests were not being mortgaged to the US under pressure, and that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would come to the House to explain what had transpired during his discussion with President Bush.

Shouting slogans, the members described Mr Bush's visit as an ''affront to the nation and to Parliament'' which, they said had already adopted a resolution condemning the American attack on Iraq and its continued occupation of that country.

Truckloads of slogan-shouting Left and Samajwadi Party workers, students and others descended from nearby states at the Ramlila Ground, which turned into a sea of red flags, caps and banners.

''Mass Murderer, Bush, War Monger, Go Back, Go Back, Go Back,'' they shouted. The parties have been accusing Mr Bush of war crimes and of meddling in the affairs of other countries. They have been opposing American policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and elsewhere in the world.

Protests by organisations, including the 'Azadi Bachao Andolan', the red and black flag waving crowds, security restrictions in force on Mr Bush's routes, created massive problems for commuters in the city.

A large number of MPs from the four Left parties, the SP, the DMK and the JD(S) also held an hour-long sit-in protest at the Parliament's Gate No 1. They also flayed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for breaking protocol to receive the US president at the airport.

Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy also joined the chorus of protests, saying the US President ''is a war criminal responsible for bloodshed and death in Iraq and its continued devastation''.

Lending a powerful voice to the protests, Ms Roy accused Mr Bush of destroying the economies of several countries and said he was here to wreck India's economy.

A fierce critic of the US President and his administration, the author had distributed leaflets flaying the American military invasion of Iraq on the city streets in the run up to the visit.


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