Archive | October, 2013

Diwali – The Indian National Festival

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

Diwali, or Dipawali, is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (or deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects us from spiritual darkness. This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians.

Diwali, celebrated in October or November each year, originated as a harvest festival that marked the last harvest of the year before winter. India was an agricultural society where people would seek the divine blessing of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, as they closed their accounting books and prayed for success at the outset of a new financial year. Today, this practice extends to businesses all over the Indian subcontinent, which mark the day after Diwali as the first day of the new financial year.

Indians celebrate with family gatherings, glittering clay lamps, festive fireworks, strings of electric lights, bonfires, flowers, sharing of sweets, and worship to Lakshmi. Some believe that Lakshmi wanders the Earth looking for homes where she will be welcomed. People open their doors and windows and light lamps to invite Lakshmi in.

Over the centuries, Diwali has become a national festival that is enjoyed by most Indians regardless of faith: Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs.

Hindus interpret the Diwali story based upon where they live:

  • In North India they celebrate the story of King Rama’s return to Ayodhya after he defeated Ravana by lighting rows of clay lamps.
  • South India celebrates it as the day that Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura.
  • In western India the festival marks the day that Lord Vishnu, the Preserver (one of the main gods of the Hindu trinity) sent the demon King Bali to rule the nether world.

In all interpretations, one common thread rings true—the festival marks the victory of good over evil.

Non-Hindu communities have other reasons for celebrating the holiday:

  • In Jainism, it marks the nirvana or spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira in Oct. 15, 527 B.C.
  • In Sikhism it marks the day that Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru was freed from imprisonment.

Five Days of Diwali

On the first day of Diwali, housewives consider it auspicious to spring clean the home and shop for gold or kitchen utensils.

On the second day, people decorate their homes with clay lamps or diyas and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand.

This is the main day of the festival when families gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities.

This is the first day of the new year when friends and relatives visit with gifts and best wishes for the season.

On the last day of Diwali, brothers visit their married sisters who welcome them with love and a lavish meal.

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Ontario Election in Spring, Really?

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

Do Ontarians have an appetite to go to polls two years sooner than the next elections? One is not expected this year in spite of hopes of Progressive Conservatives. New Democrats have supported Liberals twice in passing the budget, so that no elections were held, and minority Liberal government still remains in power.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s fall economic statement on Nov. 7 will not be a confidence motion.

“I don’t foresee this to be a measure of confidence,” Minister Sousa told the reporters.

“The measures in this fall economic statement will talk to a number of programs and initiatives that will be addressed in the budget in the coming spring,” he said.

Minister Sousa is expected to reiterate government’s plan of eliminating deficit by 2017-18.

“We’re going to be talking about the ways that . . . we’re going to stay committed to balancing the books by 2017-18,” he said.

 “The people of Ontario are ready for a change in direction and the only way it seems we can have a change of direction is to change the government,” said Progressive Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli.

 “Here we are with 600,000 men and women who woke up this morning without a job and there’s absolutely no plan whatsoever from this government to put any of those people to work,” he said.

NDP MPP Gilles Bisson (Timmins—James Bay) did not sound too keen on having elections before they are due.

“Listen, there’s going to be an election in Ontario over the next couple of years. Whenever that is (then) the people of Ontario will pronounce themselves as to what they want to do as far as a change in government,” NDP MPP stated.

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Brampton conservative MPs don’t want senate to change

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

With non-stop scandals from the Senate, Canadians are frustrated by the undemocratic body and inaction from both Conservative and Liberal MPs on bringing an end to a Senate that is unelected, unaccountable and an under indictment.

While all four Brampton area Conservative MPs including Bal Gosal and Parm Gill have dragged their feet, the NDP developed practical steps to bring more accountability to the Senate immediately. As Canadians move towards abolition, the NDP proposed a motion that would have immediately made the Senate more answerable to Canadians.

“The NDP has long called for Senate abolition, while the Conservative and Liberals have been busy trying to protect the status-quo in a chamber filled with well-connected insiders that are unaccountable to Canadians,” said Official Opposition Critic for Democratic and Parliamentary Reform Craig Scott (Toronto Danforth).

New Democrats were optimistic that both Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau would listen to Canadians and re-evaluate their use of the Senate as an extension of their party organizations—and support this motion. The NDP sought to end senators’ partisan activities and limit taxpayer-funded travel to activities directly related to their parliamentary work.

“While the Conservatives including those from the Brampton region have pretended to prioritize Senate reform, this vote reveals that they were merely paying lip service to the idea of accountability,” added Scott. “It was particularly disappointing to see the Liberals join the Conservatives in defeating this motion.”

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Harper Government red tape reduction measures help small businesses seize the moment

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay

The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of National Revenue, met with business community leaders at a roundtable event in Toronto to highlight many of the initiatives that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has implemented as a result of its Red Tape Reduction Action Plan and consultations with small businesses.

“Our Government recognizes the vital role small businesses play in creating jobs and supporting the economy, especially during this week as this is Small Business Week,” said Minister Findlay. “Small businesses provided input with suggested improvements to our services and what they shared helped us as we implemented significant red-tape reduction measures. There are now fewer regulations and the cost of red tape has been reduced by nearly 20 million dollars annually.”

The CRA’s Red Tape Reduction Action Plan webpage, launched by Minister Findlay, lays out the 12 commitments that the CRA has made, based on the irritants businesses identified during the Red Tape Reduction Commission’s consultations in 2010, and further refined by the CRA’s own consultations in 2012.

“We have already made many improvements to services so that business owners can more easily meet their tax obligations, saving them time and money, and creating jobs in local communities,” said Minister Findlay. “As we continue to implement action plan commitments, and promote and support Canadian businesses large and small through the historic Canada-EU Trade Agreement, we want to make sure that small businesses are informed. Our government is listening and taking action, building on a tradition of service, integrity, and professionalism.”

Some highlights for 2013 are:

  • A new CRA Red Tape Reduction Action plan webpage that gives businesses up-to-date information on the CRA’s progress.
  • A new online mail service for Canadian small businesses. Businesses can now communicate with the CRA online which will help streamline their interactions with the CRA.
  • The My Business Account online enquiries service. Businesses or their representatives can ask the CRA tax-related questions about their accounts online and they will receive answers online and in writing.
  • A one-stop-shop webpage for business services. Businesses can now easily find information and service options relevant to their tax situation.
  • Agent ID for the CRA’s business enquiries telephone service. Now, when a business owner calls the CRA, the agent who answers provides an ID at the beginning of the call. The Agent ID number provides increased accountability for business calls to the CRA, ensures a consistent experience for callers, and makes it easier for business owners to give feedback on CRA services.

The CRA will continue to consult every two years with small businesses and small business service providers in cities across the country.

For opportunities to participate in further consultations, please visit the CRA’s Red Tape Reduction webpage regularly, and stay connected by subscribing to our mailing lists and joining the conversation on Twitter. The CRA’s next consultation period will be in 2014.

Meanwhile, the Harper Government continues to help create jobs across all sectors of the economy, finalizing an agreement in principle between Canada and the European Union (EU) on a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, seizing an historic opportunity to gain preferential access to the largest market in the world—a market with over 500 million consumers and a Gross Domestic Product of $17 trillion.

Minister Findlay noted that the Canada-EU Trade Agreement will generate prosperity and growth for all Canadian businesses, including small and medium sized businesses, in every region of the country. It will help them to succeed abroad by making it easier and less costly for them to do business in the EU. The Canada-EU Trade Agreement will also help level the playing field in the EU, making Canadian small and medium-sized businesses more competitive, giving them a significant advantage over most third-party competitors.

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Harper Government to introduce new model of “inviting” immigrants from 2015

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

Canada is moving from passive economic immigration to active recruiting under a new intake system tentatively titled the Expression of Interest System (EOI). Our plan for 2014 takes that change into account and works toward a successful launch on January 1, 2015.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander calls this approach “reactive and responsive”. He announced an immigration plan that will drive economic growth in 2014 and position Canada for success in the years ahead.

“Securing economic growth is and will remain our Government’s top priority,” said Minister Alexander. “Canada is in a global competition for the best and brightest immigrants, and this plan is crafted with attracting the people we need for Canada to succeed.”

In his opening remarks at a teleconference with the reporters, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander stated that “when done properly,” immigration “can help further our economic interests.” EOI system, he stated, will allow “the best and the brightest of the world” to come to Canada in as little as six months.

After tabling the Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, Alexander said Canada plans to welcome 240,000 to 265,000 new permanent residents in 2014, with record admissions forecast in both the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and the Provincial Nominee Program.

“While Canadians will continue to get the first crack at available jobs, getting the right people in the right places is key to addressing regional labour needs and fueling Canada’s long-term prosperity,” said Minister. “We need newcomers willing to put their skills, ideas and energies to work.”

Minister Alexander stated that there are 200,000 jobs in Canada that go unfilled each year because of various reasons like less population in a certain geographic area or in a particular sector of the Canadian economy. To fill these jobs, Canada needs “to recruit the best and the brightest” of the world.

In response to a question from Generation Next about the reports that suggest that labour shortages in Canada is overblown, Minister Alexander said that whenever there are analyses about labour shortages in Canada, “an argument is not made against immigration.”

He further said that big banks and other major organizations analyzing immigration take “strong, sustained levels of immigration for granted.”

The government, he said, is making sure that “we have the right immigrants to do the jobs that are available in Canada right now and reforms we are making are aiming to do just that.”

Economic immigration is slated to increase to 63 per cent in 2014. The remaining 37 per cent will consist of family class immigrants, refugees and others admitted under humanitarian programs.

 “We will continue to drive down backlogs, reduce wait times and improve service. We will continue to reunite families. We will continue to give refuge to the world’s most vulnerable,” he said.

Minister Alexander reminded that Canada’s skilled worker program has improved tremendously as it invites “economic immigrants” to come to Canada “long before they come to Canada” by having their credentials recognized.

 He stated that by having credentials recognized ‘immigrants’ can avoid having an “illusion” of getting a job when they come here.

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said that since provinces and territories regulate professions, the federal government has been working with provinces and territories, so that immigrants’ qualifications can be evaluated before they come to Canada. In Ontario, however, not all professional regulators evaluate credentials before immigrants’ arrival into the country.

What would family reunification look like under the new EOI program in 2015, we asked?

To this Minister Alexander responded that the government understands that economic immigrants succeed when they have their spouses and children with them. With regards to parents and grandparents, he noted that super visa has been very popular. He said that super visa has overall approval rate of over 84 per cent and it is “the right policy response” for Canadian families. Canada has issued over 20,000 super visas till October 2013.

Minister Alexander also noted that Canada does not plan its immigration system based on countries from where it will take economic immigrants. “We go after skills we go after talent,” he said. However, in 2012, the largest source countries of economic immigrants were India, China, Philippines, Pakistan, United States and United Kingdom.

Every summer, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) consults with provinces, territories and stakeholders across Canada to develop a balanced immigration plan. This year, CIC received over 4,700 responses between June 21 and August 31, 2013.

 

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Your posture directly affects your health

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

October 25th, 2013, International group of Chiropractors released ground breaking book about health and wellness. If there was one simple thing you could do to give your body its best chance at optimal health and maintaining its top performance, would you want to know about it? The professionals who wrote this book think you would.

“Your spine goes everywhere with you, take care of it” said co-author of The ART of Being Healthy, wellness concepts from the pros. Dr. Rubina Tahir helps to identify risk factors of poor posture, and details four poor posture types to be aware of. An increasing number of people are complaining of spinal pain as a direct result of poor posture. The demands of everyday life, from computer work to commuting etc. put stress on the natural curves of the spine. This often leads to a variety of preventable musculoskeletal complaints, including back pain and overuse syndromes.

Protecting your spine is easy and this chapter gives readers an easy protocol to identify poor posture and shows you how to fix it.

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Internet safety tips for teens

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

  • Never give out personal or identifying information such as name, home address, school name, or telephone number in a public message such as at a chat room or on bulletin boards. Never send a person a picture of you without first checking with your parent or guardian.
  • Be sure that you are dealing with someone that you and your parents know and trust before giving out any personal information about yourself via E-mail.
  • Never put personal information or interests in your Instant Messaging profile. This includes posting your picture as well. It can be copied from the computer screen and saved by anyone.
  • Keep your passwords private, even from your best friend! Your online service will never ask for them, so neither should anyone else.
  • If a person writes something that is mean or makes your feel uncomfortable, don’t respond. Log off and tell your parents. Never respond to these types of messages. When in doubt—always ask your parents for help. Just logoff if you’re not sure — you can always go back on later.
  • Be careful when someone offers you something for nothing, such as gifts and money. Be very careful about any offers that involve your coming to a meeting or having someone visit your house.
  • Never arrange a face-to-face meeting without telling your parent or guardian. If your parent or guardian agrees to the meeting, make sure that you meet in a public place and have a parent or guardian with you as it is potentially dangerous for this meeting to take place unsupervised.
  • Remember that nothing you write on the web is completely private, including email… so be careful and think about what you type and who you tell.
  • Not everyone is as nice, cute and funny as they may sound online. Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you can’t see or even hear the person it would be easy for someone to misrepresent him- or herself. Thus, someone indicating that “she” is a “12-year-old-girl” could in reality be an older adult.
  • Consider adding only friends you know and trust to your ‘buddy list’.
  • Remind your parents to keep your computer properly protected by installing up-to-date security patches, current anti-virus software and a firewall to protect it from intrusions (hackers).
  • Always delete unknown email attachments without opening them. They can contain destructive viruses.
  • Always scan virus all files that are downloaded to your computer for viruses, even those from known persons.

www.opp.ca 

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Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the United States: A Score Card

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

Lahore

Nawaz Sharif completed his four day visit to the United States on October 23 with a meeting with President Barack Obama. The political circles in Pakistan are now debating the outcome of this visit. Two factors are influencing this analysis. First, the active political circles are evaluating the visit on the basis of their party affiliations. The Tehrik-i-Insaf people appear to be extremely critical of the visit. The same can be said about the Jamaat-i-Islami whose leadership has been making negative comments. Some militant Islamic groups and Islamic parties are criticizing it in varying degrees. The PPP, the PMLQ, the MQM and the ANP are cautious in their comments. The activists of these political parties may criticize some aspects of the outcome or the management of the visit but they have not rejected it altogether.

  Second, Pakistan’s government is responsible for increasing the expectations of the people about the visit. It created an emotional hysteria in public on the drone strikes by describing how damaging were these strikes. They created the impression that the Pakistan government could no longer tolerate this and that the U.S. would accept the demand. They also created excitement on the Afia Siddiqui issue and the Kashmir issue. The Foreign Office and Pakistan Embassy in Washington should have known the position of the United States on these issues but they still let the political government create false hopes. In this way the Sharif government became a victim of its own propaganda when their propagated agenda on these issues did not materialize.

  On Kashmir, the U.S. policy is clear. It views Kashmir as a disputed territory between India and Pakistan but does not insist on the implementation of the UN Resolutions on Kashmir. It does not offer a solution of the Kashmir problem from its side. Nor does it want to play the role of a mediator. It encourages India and Pakistan to hold talks on Kashmir and agree on a solution. If a solution is agreed upon by India and Pakistan the U.S. will help to implement it. However, it does not want an armed conflict on Kashmir because of the fear of its escalation to a full-fledged war. The non-official circles and think-tanks working on South Asian affairs have floated some proposals for settling the Kashmir problem but these proposals are non-official in nature and the U.S. Administration does not own them.

 Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington has produced mixed results. It has reactivated and expanded interaction between Pakistan and the U.S. in the economic and social development sectors and military sales. The cooperation in economic and social development sectors was already going on. This cooperation is expected to be more active with a focus on energy, education and health care, strengthening democracy, capacity-building of state institutions, support to agriculture and agriculture-related job generating activities and training of people in various skills for improving their performance and helping them to earn their living. The military sales stalled at the end of 2011 will now revive. .

 The U.S. has paid to Pakistan 322 million dollars as reimbursement for the expenses in relation to countering terrorism in the past. This amount was blocked by the U.S. in 2012. More payments are expected in the future from what the U.S. describes as the Coalition Support Fund. The U.S. has also agreed to release 1.6 billion dollars for economic development and military sales. This amount was withheld in the past. It will now be released starting from January 2014.

 The U.S. seeks Pakistan’s cooperation for transit of its goods and other materials, including military equipment, from Afghanistan through Pakistan to Karachi port for onward shipment. Some goods have already passed through this channel. Most of American goods will pass through Pakistan in 2014. Pakistan and the U.S. have also reiterated their support for the Kabul government to stabilize itself after 2014.

  The disagreements between Pakistan the U.S. are also noticeable and these are likely to persist for a long time. Pakistan wanted the U.S. to stop the use of drone aircraft in Pakistani tribal areas. This was not acceptable to the U.S. that argued that if Pakistan could establish its writ in North Waziristan, expel foreigners and Afghan Taliban from there, no drones would be needed. Pakistan is unable and unwilling to do that. Pakistan wanted to get Dr. Afia Siddiqui released out of American prison and the U.S. wanted Dr. Shakeel Afridi be allowed to leave Pakistan. These wishes of two countries could not materialize under the present circumstances.

  The U.S. wanted strict punitive action against Jamaat-ud-Dawa which was viewed as the political wing of Lashkkar-i-Tayyaba. Pakistan’s government was not politically in a position to take any strict action against Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The U.S. also wanted a quick disposal of the court cases of those under trial since 2009 in Pakistan for their involvement in the Mumbai attack in November 2008. Pakistan could not give any commitment on this.

 The U.S. wants Pakistan’s civilian government and the military to take non-discriminatory action against all militant groups that engage in violence in Pakistan, Afghanistan or India. Pakistan did not give any commitment on this and has continued with the dual policy of taking action against some militant groups and tolerating others or allowing them to function.

 If the U.S. did not accept Pakistan’s demands completely, Pakistan was also unable to accept some of U.S. demands for taking specific actions for countering terrorism. These differences have created mutual distrust between Pakistan and the U.S.

 Despite the differences outlined above, Pakistan and the United States would continue to cooperate with each other in economic and social development sectors and military-to-military relations. They are expected to continue with the dialogue on the issues in dispute. Convergence and divergence will exist at the same time in the relations between Pakistan and the U.S. 

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Laying the groundwork for a future university in Brampton

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

Linda Jeffrey, MPP
Brampton-Springdale

In the course of my ten years representing the people of Brampton-Springdale at Queen’s Park and in cabinet I am constantly amazed at the growth and vitality of our community.

We have accomplished a great deal from the opening of the Brampton Civic Hospital to extending Highway 410 to the redevelopment of the Peel Memorial Hospital as well as improvements in our schools, recreation and cultural centres over the past decade.

The next exciting phase in our growth is championing a university campus in Brampton.

Not long after this very successful Brampton Civic Hospital project was complete I began to hear from residents about a new dream for our community – a university campus.

The growth of the Brampton community has resulted in many post secondary age students having to commute to campuses in Mississauga, North York, Scarborough or downtown Toronto. The other alternative is to choose schools outside the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) where they incur residency costs.

During the election our government announced an intention to expand university enrolment in and around the GTA. Sources speculated that this expansion would take the form of satellites of existing universities – Kitchener Waterloo’s Wilfred Laurier University would likely have a new Milton campus; Sudbury’s Laurentian University would locate a Barrie campus; and best of all, the potential of a Brampton campus linked to York University, the University of Toronto or Ryerson University.

I know families across our city were excited by the prospect and if given the opportunity I want Brampton to receive serious consideration.

There are many benefits from hosting a campus in Brampton. The economic benefits include attracting highly qualified professors and researchers; providing well paying jobs in a variety of settings; and acting as a resource to companies in the business community. I could go on but I think you get the idea.

Brampton is also uniquely qualified to partner with international universities that have close ties to multicultural communities living here.

We know from past experience that there is no time to waste – we need to do our homework and assemble the right ingredients in order to ensure our future success.

We must work with existing institutions to find a partner who is willing to expand to Brampton. We must find a site that will be home to this institution that is close to transit and close to the centre of the city. And we must put in place a funding plan that will ensure that this future institution has the strong foundation it needs.

There is no magic or short cuts to getting projects approved. It takes vision, cash and political leadership.

Government alone cannot build these great institutions – nor can one group in isolation build it.

None of us by ourselves can bring this university to Brampton but none of us is as strong as all of us working together. Our hospital is more than bricks and mortar and it is one of the most important institutions that now helps define our community.

Join me in setting a new course and new vision for Brampton that includes a university campus that will make us all proud.

Linda Jeffrey is Liberal MPP from Brampton-Springdale.

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India bomb blasts target BJP rally in eastern city of Patna

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

Five people killed in six small explosions as hundreds of thousands gathered to hear speech by BJP’s Narendra Modi

A series of small bomb blasts have killed five people and injured dozens in the eastern Indian city of Patna, just hours before a major campaign rally by the country’s main opposition candidate for prime minister in a nearby park.

After the six homemade bombs went off in the Bihar state capital, panic erupted briefly among the hundreds of thousands of people gathered to hear Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) speak.

Authorities quickly restored order, the rally went ahead as scheduled and Modi made no mention of the explosions during his hour-long speech. The longtime chief minister of western Gujarat state has been waging a fierce national campaign to unseat the Congress party-led government in next year’s elections.

Police detained one man for questioning, but did not say whether he was a suspect.

India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, condemned Sunday’s violence and appealed for calm.

The first blast came from a crude device that exploded in a public toilet building on an isolated railway platform, the Patna district police chief, Manu Maharaj, said.

Another bomb went off near a cinema, and two more exploded just outside the park, sending plumes of grey smoke into the air above the crowd.

“All the bombs produced low-intensity blasts,” Maharaj said. “An anti-sabotage team is investigating what happened.”

Five people were killed in the blasts and 73 were being treated for injuries, according to the head of Patna Medical College hospital, Vimal Karak.

Bomb disposal and forensic teams had found another two unexploded devices near the railway station and were defusing them, the railway police superintendent, Upendra Kumar Sinha, said.

Modi ignored the blasts during his speech and instead focused on criticising Singh’s government for the country’s high inflation rate. He also accused Bihar’s highest elected leader, Nitish Kumar, of betraying the BJP after using its support to win his seat in the state.

Modi’s plans to visit Bihar have been controversial since Kumar severed ties with the BJP six months ago to protest against Modi’s candidacy. Kumar has questioned Modi’s secular credentials and suggested he could exacerbate communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India.

Over the past decade, Modi has been accused of ignoring a 2002 spate of violent attacks against Muslims in his home state of Gujarat, an allegation he has denied.

Associated Press 

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