When leaders of China and Japan visited this West Indian city in recent years, civilian officials hung a giant piece of fabric along a stretch of road, hiding a slum of around 1,000 families from official marches.
Local children eventually tore the fabric. So when Ahmedabad prepared to welcome its high profile foreign visitor, the city decided that there was only one thing to do.
For President Trump, they built a wall.
“Build that wall” could be a political cry for Trump in the United States, where he dreamed of erecting a barrier to keep migrants away from Mexico, but in India officials barely hesitate to hide, evict or demolish slum houses. inhabitants when the occasion requires it.
And Ahmedabad, sunburnt and downright unattractive, rarely saw a show like what is expected on Monday, when Trump arrives to kick off an official two-day visit to India, the first of his presidency.
The city is decorated with colorful paintings on the walls of the streets. The roads on which Trump’s procession will travel have been repaired or redone. U.S. and Indian flags have been affixed to both sides of the main road, along with larger clippings from the life of Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Large billboards with pictures of the two leaders have posted messages that read “Welcome to the land of Mahatma Gandhi” and “The world’s largest democracy meets the world’s oldest democracy”.
Trump is expected to spend only three hours in Ahmedabad, but the government of the state of Gujarat is reportedly spending about $ 14 million on the visit. Over 10,000 police officers of 5.5 million were also employed in the city.
This is the first time that a seated American president visits Ahmedabad, an anonymous destination for much of the world, but a large industrial city and the source of a large diaspora in the United States. It is also the home of both Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement and Modi, who led the state as prime minister before becoming prime minister in 2014.
Trump’s visit follows Modi’s visit to the United States in September, where the two leaders walked side by side in a rock concert in Houston in front of 50,000 American Indians.
Bharat Pandya, spokesman for Modi’s Bharitya Janata Party, or BJP, said it was “our duty to reciprocate” after Modi’s reception.
“Several important leaders have already come to Gujarat, but this time there is a special attachment because so many Gujarati live in America,” Pandya said in an interview. “The whole BJP … is particularly excited to receive Trump.”
Party officials said that after landing in Ahmedabad around noon – late Pacific Sunday – Trump should proceed to Sabarmati Ashram, a former residence on the Gandhi River. From there, he will head to the Motera stadium, declared the world’s largest cricket venue, where organizers say a crowd of 110,000 people will participate in a political-style demonstration.
Trump told the public in the United States that up to 10 million people would greet him in Ahmedabad, a figure that Indian leaders later declared impossible. About 100,000 rows are expected to be held along the streets to accommodate Trump’s procession.
The state government has assigned buses to administrators from eight nearby districts to bring people into the city, with only 600 buses assigned in the Ahmedabad district, said K.K. Nirala, a senior official.
“Young people from different colleges specifically ask for passes” for the stadium event, Nirala said. “And several industrialists and cricket stars are also ready to participate.”
A meal isn’t on the agenda, which could be just as good – Ahmedabad is an extraordinarily vegetarian city and the president, after all, is a renowned steak fan.
From here Trump and First Lady Melania Trump must travel to the northern state of Uttar Pradesh to visit the Taj Mahal, before arriving in the capital New Delhi. According to Indian media, Trump will be greeted near the Taj Mahal by the state’s prime minister, Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu extremist priest who has a history of incendiary comments against the Muslim minority and whose security forces have been accused of violence in Muslim neighborhoods .
If Trump is annoyed by a photographic work with such a divisive figure – in a landmark that some would remember his ruined Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City – he might not show it.
“Trump said law enforcement in the United States is” rough “and” not too good “… and has applied and extended a” Muslim ban “on immigration,” said senior Council member Alyssa Ayres on Foreign Relations.
“In light of all this, unfortunately I doubt that the president will worry in one way or another about the problems that Yogi Adityanath is creating.”
A group of activists, writers and students are planning to protest in Ahmedabad against Modi’s Hindu nationalist policies, including a citizenship law that critics say discriminate against Muslims. But the group was not given a permit for the meeting and is not expected to come close to Trump.
“If Trump condones Modi’s citizenship policies, then it is clear that there will be no international pressure if a leader wants to subvert democracy in his country,” said Maansi Shah, an associate teacher who is helping organize the protest.
Modi’s party, like most Indians, loves the president and expects an enthusiastic welcome.
“He has taken a strong stance against terrorism,” said Pandya. “If we are to fight terrorism, we must support Trump.”
Ahmedabad officials hope the visit will turn the spotlight on their city, though perhaps not all of it. Nirala, the local official, insisted that the new concrete wall built from a week ago was not intended to hide the slum. But the residents said that’s what it does.
Trump should go back [home] with the belief that only the wealthy live in Ahmedabad, “said Karsan Bhai, a middle-aged tea seller residing in one of the barracks.” This is the development of Modi. “
Special correspondent Parth M.N. reported by staff writer Ahmedabad and the Bengali Times of Singapore.