Two thousand protestors carrying banners and placards tried to march up to the Israeli embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday, shouting anti-Sharon slogans.
“Butcher Sharon, go back, go back … you have blood on your hands,” screamed the protesters from various Indian political parties which have been staunch backers of the Palestinian cause since the height of the Cold War.
Anti-riot paramilitary soldiers blocked the protesters, who included women and students, but many squatted on a street leading to a hotel, now fortified for Sharon’s stay.
Also in the capital, Sayyid Ahmad Bukhari led a march of some 2000 Muslims from the Jama Masjid, India’s main mosque.
Waving black flags and placards that read “Down with Sharon, Sharon go back”, the marchers walked from the mosque but stopped short of a police cordon where they dispersed after brief prayers.
“We want to make it clear to Sharon and the Indian government that if the lives and honour of Muslims in the world are not safe then nobody will remain safe,” Bukhari told the gathering before the march began.
Muslims expressed solidarity with
Bukhari also derided Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani for inviting Sharon.
“Sharon, the killer of innocent Palestinians in Lebanon and Palestine, is the apple of our government’s eye because it considers him their guru in the animosity towards Islam,” he said.
In addition to protests in New Delhi, there were also large demonstrations in Mumbai, Madras and in Indian administered Kashmir.
Earlier Tuesday, police stopped activists of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) from marching on the Rajghat tomb of Indian freedom champion Mahatma Gandhi ahead of Sharon’s trip to the barricaded mausoleum.
The CPM argues that since Gandhi was an apostle of peace, Sharon had no right to pay homage there.
Many were offended to see Sharon
In the western economic hub Mumbai, more than 100 people staged a protest in the busy Bhendi Bazaar Muslim area, chanting anti-Israeli slogans before they were rounded up by police.
As they were being led away to waiting police vans, the protestors chanted slogans such as “Sharon is the enemy of humanity”, “death to Sharon” and “Ariel Sharon should be hanged”.
Police indicated they would release the protestors without charging them.
In Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-adminstered Kashmir, dozens held a noisy demonstration against the Israeli leader.
“Down with Sharon. Down with Israel,” shouted several hundred Kashmiri workers from the Communist Party of India.
Students organisations also staged an anti-Sharon demonstration in southern Madras city, police said.
New Delhi Joint Police Commissioner Maxwell Pereira, tasked with Sharon’s security, said protesters would not be allowed near any of the sites the Israeli prime minister is due to visit during his trip.
“None of the groups has our permission to hold such demonstrations and rallies at the venues,” Pereira told reporters.
Sharon has already cancelled a planned trip to the Taj Mahal town of Agra, cutting short his original five-day trip by a day due to security fears.