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 curiouser.
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
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.
Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize-winning author of 'The
God of Small Things' and 'The Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire', lives in New