When President Donald Trump arrives in Ahmedabad, India on Monday, he's expected to be greeted by roughly 100,000 cheering Indians along a sparkling clean route to the world's largest cricket stadium where another crowd of 110,000 will attend a rally with the U.S. president and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It's pure spectacle.
Modi and his government have built walls along the president's route to hide the slums lining the route, a sign of India's high levels of inequality, from Trump and his retinue.
"Trump promised to build a wall, India did it, just before his arrival," tweeted journalist Rana Ayyub.
India built a wall ahead of Trump’s visit that some say is meant to ‘hide poor people’ pic.twitter.com/urMR50cSIU— NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 21, 2020
The cheering crowds on the street and at the Sardar Patel Stadium will be made up of loyalists and party members.
As the New York Times reported:
Just to stand along the road that Mr. Trump's motorcade will travel for a few minutes on Monday requires a special pass, given to carefully vetted party members, their allies and special groups handpicked by the government. This is a level of control Mr. Modi can deliver in India that is very different from Britain, for example, where Mr. Trump treaded carefully to avoid the optics of hostile crowds.
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Ahmedabad is located in the state of Gujarat, where Modi was once governor. Riots in 2002 in the state that killed nearly 800 Muslims and have been described as a pogrom by scholars spurred accusations that the violence was implicitly encouraged by Modi, leading to a travel ban to the U.S. until his election as prime minister in 2014.
At a rally in Colorado on Thursday, Trump claimed that 6-10 million people would come out to see him during his visit to Ahmedabad, a grossly inflated number.
“I’m going to india next week and we’re talking trade,” Trump says at campaign rally in Colorado. “I hear they’re going to have 10 million people—anywhere from 6 to 10 million people” lining streets on the route to stadium. pic.twitter.com/DBjh7OIbUm— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) February 21, 2020
Trump and Modi are expected to talk trade and arms deals during the two-day visit, which will be punctuated with visits to a number of cities and the Taj Mahal.
The Washington Post visited the slums along Trump's route being hidden by the wall and talked to residents.
Reshma Saraniya, 29, has lived in the slum, a broken-down collection of homes with corrugated tin roofs, her whole life. Earlier this month, she was at her job at a nearby hotel when neighbors called her to say the city authorities had arrived to demolish about 20 huts, including the one where she had lived with her 11-year-old son for the past two years. Saraniya knew a demolition could happen, she said, her voice vibrating with emotion, but she received no warning it was imminent. Now there is ragged earth and a cement wall where she used to live.
Indian activist Aswathy Jwala protested the building of the wall, standing near the slum's entrance with a handwritten sign.
"This is our India, our real India," the sign read. "Don't hide our India. Expose our India and work to make it better."