India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

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Indian dancers perform Bengali dance during Republic Day celebrations in Gauhati, India, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. Sunday's event marks the anniversary of the country's democratic constitution taking force in 1950. (AP)
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Indian tribal Deuri women in traditional attire perform to mark Republic Day in Gauhati, India, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. Sunday's event marks the anniversary of the country's democratic constitution taking force in 1950. (AP)
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An Indian army tank rolls past during Republic Day parade in Lucknow, India, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. Sunday's event that showcases India's military might and economic strength marks the anniversary of the country's democratic constitution taking force in 1950. (AP)
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Indian Railway Protection Force (RPF) dog squad displays skills during Republic Day celebrations in Hyderabad, India, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. Sunday's event marks the anniversary of the country's democratic constitution taking force in 1950. (AP)
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A vendor with an Indian national flag painted on his face sells sweets during Republic Day celebrations at India Gate in New Delhi on January 26, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 26 January 2020

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

  • Schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indians converged on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital amid tight security to celebrate the Republic Day on Sunday, which marks the 1950 anniversary of the country’s democratic constitution.
During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.
Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colorful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.
The 90-minute event, broadcast live, was watched by millions of Indians on their television sets across the country.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.
He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honor by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.
At the parade, Bolsonaro watched keenly as mechanized columns of Indian tanks, rocket launchers, locally made nuclear-capable missile systems and other hardware rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
Apart from attending the Republic Day celebrations, Bolsonaro’s visit was also aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties across a range of fields between the two countries.
On Saturday, Modi and Bolsonaro reached an agreement to promote investment in each other’s country.
Before the parade, Modi paid homage to fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi as the national capital was put under tight security cover.
Smaller parades were also held in the state capitals.
Police said five grenades were lobbed in the eastern Assam state by separatist militants who have routinely boycotted the Republic Day celebrations. No one was injured, police said.
Sunday’s blasts also come at a time when Assam has been witnessing continuous protests against the new citizenship law that have spread to many Indian states.
The law approved in December provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.


Bakery spearheads deaf empowerment in Malaysia

Updated 24 September 2020

Bakery spearheads deaf empowerment in Malaysia

  • Young deaf Malaysians say that work opportunities are their chance to be included in society and contribute
  • Coffeehouse giant Starbucks followed in the footsteps of Silent Teddies and opened ‘signing stores’ in Kuala Lumpur and Penang

KUALA LUMPUR: At a small bakery in Kuala Lumpur’s Lorong Ampang area, a group of men and women take out from the oven and pack colorful cookies in complete silence. The cookies have one shape — that of a hand with the thumb, index finger and pinkie finger put up. In sign language it means “I love you.”
 
The bakery, Silent Teddies, was founded in 2004 by Cindy Leong, a sign language interpreter who has sought ways to empower Malaysia’s deaf community by encouraging entrepreneurship and training hearing-impaired youths to be independent. All staff members of Silent Teddies are people with hearing loss.

'I love you' in sign language cookies come out from the oven at Silent Teddies Bakery in Kuala Lumpur on World Deaf Day, Sept. 23. (AN photo by Ashwin Gobinath)

“We aim to build talents here and the mindset of the community needs to change because we cannot be solely surviving on corporate social responsibility donations or support to sustain ourselves,” Leong told Arab News as the International Week of the Deaf started on Wednesday.

About 40,000 Malaysians are registered as deaf and have limited access to education and career opportunities.

“Many deaf people are from the bottom 40 segment,” Leong said, referring to Malaysia’s lowest earning group.

Staff bake and pack cookies for sale at Silent Teddies Bakery in Kuala Lumpur. (AN photo by Ashwin Gobinath)

It took her Silent Teddies years to gain traction but in 2012 the efforts flourished with a deal with Malaysian airline AirAsia, the biggest low-cost carrier of Southeast Asia.

“It was a stepping stone for me and the bakers here to have their cookies and products sold to the masses in Asia. We were never driven by profits, our main goal is to empower the community by providing them training and opportunities to grow and support themselves.”

Cindy Leong, the founder of Silent Teddies Bakery, in Kuala Lumpur. (AN photo by Ashwin Gobinath)

Through the Society of Interpreters for the Deaf (SID), the initiative expanded to the coffeehouse giant Starbucks.

Berjaya Starbucks Coffee Company, a licensee of the Starbucks franchise in Malaysia, in 2016 opened the doors to employment for deaf people and established the signing store model — the first of its kind for Starbucks globally.

Starbucks Signing Store in Kuala Lumpur's Bangsar area, which employs deaf baristas. It is the first of its kind model for Starbucks globally. (AN photo by Ashwin Gobinath)

“Starbucks have always hired the deaf at our stores even before we were planning the signing store but because of certain security risks and cultural sensitivities, we could only give them very simple and menial tasks such as restocking and cleaning,” Berjaya Starbucks representatives said in a statement for Arab News.

Their signing stores changed the situation and offered hearing-impaired people better jobs and career progression. Established in consultation with the SID, the outlets in Kuala Lumpur’s popular hangout area Bangsar and in George Town, Penang, employ 14 deaf partners.

Barista Mohammed Akmal Abdul Khalid Akmal prepares coffee at Starbucks Signing Store in Kuala Lumpur's Bangsar area. (AN photo by Ashwin Gobinath)

“The training that we provide our deaf partners is the same training that we provide our hearing partners, that includes theory classes as well as on-the-job training in our stores and by extension, our deaf partners are also welcome to participate in the same learning opportunities as are hearing partners, such as our coffee master certification and advanced coffee master certification,” Starbucks said.

One of the coffee masters at Starbucks’s Bangsar store is 34-year-old Mohammed Akmal Abdul Khalid.

Barista Mohammed Akmal Abdul Khalid Akmal prepares coffee at Starbucks Signing Store in Kuala Lumpur's Bangsar area. (AN photo by Ashwin Gobinath)

Speaking to Arab News through a sign language interpreter, he said that he was ecstatic when his friends and family told him about job openings at Starbucks. He saw it as a chance to finally be included in society.

“The first thing that crossed my mind was my curiosity on how the deaf partners communicate with hearing individuals without any sign language, but I am adapting with the whole new culture.”

 Staff bake and pack cookies for sale at Silent Teddies Bakery in Kuala Lumpur. (AN photo by Ashwin Gobinath)

He said that the job allowed him to learn proper communication with hearing partners and customers, and he hopes that other deaf people will be given this opportunity.

“I hope there will be more chances for the deaf to work through the Starbucks signing store in Malaysia and across the world, because I want to see the deaf work hard and contribute to the society, just like everyone else,” he said.