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Independence Day: Furies of 1947 in South Asia

India's Congress Party leaders expected Pakistan to fold soon after partition, says Nisid Hajari, the author of recently published "Midnight's Furies: The Deadly Legacy of Indian Partition". "The indian leaders hoped Pakistan wouldn't survive at first. They hoped in a few years it would decide it wanted to be a part of india again in a friendly way", Hajari told TV talk show host Charlie Rose in a PBS interview. India's actions since 1947, such as the  1971 invasion of East Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh, have shown their inability to peacefully reconcile with the existence of Pakistan as an independent state. This has contributed to Pakistan becoming a nuclear-armed national security state, and ensuing India-Pakistan proxy wars in the region.

Muslim Refugees trying to flee New Delhi in 1947 Source: AP

Delhi and Punjab Massacres:

Hajari has documented in detail the partition horrors that my parents and relatives saw and reported to me and my generation that was born after 1947. Here are some excerpts from his book:

"For several days running, according to some eyewitness reports, small groups of Sikh and Hindu militants had been roving the broad, manicured avenues of New Delhi, defying the curfew. Some appear to have been marking out the rooms in government dormitories occupied by Muslim clerks and peons, as well as the houses and bungalows where Muslims lived or worked as servants. A British diplomat later reported seeing a lorry full of Sikhs pull up outside the home of the local chairman of British airline BOAC, which had agreed to transport Muslim officials to Pakistan by air until the trains resumed. “That’s the place,” one of the Sikhs confirmed, carefully noting down the address."

"On the night of Sept. 6, sword-wielding gangs began working their way from target to target, dragging out and killing Muslims. The next morning mobs took to the streets all over the city. One descended on the military airfield at Palam, from where the BOAC charters were taking off; another blocked the runways at the civilian Willingdon Airfield as airline employees fled in terror. Muslims caught out in the open were stabbed and gutted, including five who were killed in front of New Delhi’s cathedral while worshippers celebrated Sunday Mass. Looters broke into Muslim shops in Connaught Place, the colonnaded arcade at the heart of the city. By 10 that night, Delhi hospitals were reporting three times as many Muslim as non-Muslim casualties."

"The Indian leaders seemed incapable of transferring Pakistan government servants to the new capital Karachi, or of protecting them in their Delhi homes. Cargo trains full of equipment and supplies meant for Pakistan were being derailed and torched in the Punjab. At least some members of the Indian Cabinet appeared to be winking at the Sikhs’ murderous activities."

Pakistan a Nissen Hut:

Lord Mountbatten, the British Viceroy of India who oversaw the partition agreed with the assessment of Pakistan made by India's leaders when he described Pakistan as a "Nissen hut" or a "temporary tent" in a conversation with Jawarhar Lal Nehru. Here's the exact quote from Mountbatten: "administratively it [wa]s the difference between putting up a permanent building, a nissen hut or a tent. As far as Pakistan is concerned we are putting up a tent. We can do no more." The Brits and the Hindu leadership of India both fully expected Pakistan to fold soon after partition.

India-Pakistan Ties:

Nisid Hajari traces the origins of the enduring India-Pakistan hostility to the events leading up to the partition in August 1947. Here are a few excepts of what Hajari told Terry Gross, the host of NPR's "Fresh Air":

"This rivalry between India and Pakistan has been going on now for nearly 70 years and it seems like a feature of the landscape ... as if it has always existed, and once you created two countries out of one that it was inevitable....I don't think it was inevitable and a closer look at what happened in 1947 teaches you how the seeds of this rivalry were planted. It was obviously worsened over the years by various actors, but this is where it all started."

"They (Hindu majority elected in 1937 and later elections held by the British Raj) controlled the schools, they controlled the educational curriculum, they oversaw the police and they gave out jobs and patronage to their own followers. And Muslims could see, particularly professional Muslims, Muslims who would otherwise have perhaps won these jobs, could see that they would have very little power in a democratic system, a parliamentary system after independence."

Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Vision:

Hajari argues that Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted a state where Muslims would be in a democratic majority and so would be in control of their fate, but anytime anyone asked him whether it would be a Muslim theocracy he would laugh them off. He'd say, "That's absurd," that's not at all what he was intending.

Summary: 

Many scholars, and even Indian leaders like Jaswant Singh, believe that the Quaid-e-Azam was a great Indian and he would have agreed to live within a united India had his demand for autonomy of Muslim majority provinces within a federal structure been accepted by Congress leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. After the bitter experience of Muslims living under Hindu majority during a period self-rule under British Raj, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah sought Pakistan as a democratic country where Muslim majority could control its own fate.  The sad plight of Muslims in India today only serves to confirm the worst fears of Pakistan's founder at the time of the partition.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

Maulana Azad's Grandniece on Indian Muslims

Looking Back at 1940 Pakistan Resolution

Modi's Pakistan Policy

Indian Muslims Worse Off Than Dalits

Gujarat Muslims Ignored By Indian Politcians

Are Muslims Better Off in Jinnah's Pakistan?

India's Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs 

Views: 361

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 20, 2015 at 4:53pm

#Indian #Muslims fear rising tide of #Hindu nationalism in #Modi's #India. #BJP #VHP http://wpo.st/JfFW0....  At an event in New Delhi last year, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said the Hindu scripture Bhagwad Gita must be declared a “national scripture.” Another BJP politician, Manohar Lal Khattar, the chief minister of the northern Haryana state said Bhagwad Gita is considered more important than India’s secular Constitution.... The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (or the World Hindu Council, which is associated Modi’s party) launched a program called “Gharwapsi” (or Homecoming) to urge India’s Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism, which they said was the religion of their ancestors. The controversial debate began in December 2014 when more than 50 impoverished Muslim  families in a slum in the northern city of Agra attended a simple ceremony at which they were asked by a Hindu priest to chant and throw offerings into the holy fire in front of some Hindu idols.... Last month, India hanged Yakub Memon, a Muslim accountant convicted of helping plan bombings in 1993 in Mumbai that killed 257 people. Many critics, including the Muslim lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, opposed the execution saying that there were other non-Muslim convicts waiting in the death row that were given clemency. More than 15,000 Muslims joined Memon’s funeral procession in Mumbai....Members of the World Hindu Council launched a campaign last year urging Hindu families to be on guard against what they called “love jihad” – romantic relationships between young Hindus and Muslims. They accused Muslim men of coercing Hindu women into love in order to convert them to Islam.....The BJP government in the western state of Maharashtra banned the sale of beef because the cow is worshipped as a holy animal by many Hindus. Muslims dominate the meat industry in many parts of the country. “This is a political decision,” said Mohammed Aqil Qureshi, president of the Buffalo Traders Welfare Association in New Delhi. “They want to gratify the Hindus and harass the Muslims.” There have been calls for a national beef ban as well.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 10, 2015 at 8:44pm

The first recorded communal riot occurred in 1854 in Godhra, Gujrat, followed by Mumbai’s in 1893. These proved to be a wake-up call for the Muslims who had gone deep into mire of despondency and decadence as a consequence of the end of Mughal rule.

At this critical juncture Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had a vision and he ushered in a renaissance for the Muslims of India. Though opposed tooth and nail by the theocrats he pursued the mission of providing Western education to the Muslims who had been rendered into “hewers of wood and drawers of water” outnumbered by a better educated Hindu majority that had geared itself according to the changing needs of the time with the onset of industrial revolution.

Sir Syed was a visionary among Muslims after the debacle of 1857. He could foresee the future course of India under the Indian National Congress. He advised the Muslims not to be part of its game. He perceived the Congress’s demand for a wider role for the Indians in the government as the “thin end of the wedge for monopolising absolute power.”

According to him, Muslims would not get equitable share in jobs and other areas of socio-economic endeavours. Their best of the brains would be outnumbered by the better educated Hindus. This observation was a manifestation of increasing polarisation on grounds of economic disparities between the two nations despite the fact Sir Syed believed that “Hindus and Muslims are two eyes of the beautiful bride that is Hindustan”.

During the British Raj all the religious communities had equal rights. Where they did not have equitable opportunities were the fields of employment and economic enterprise. And this friction got adequately postulated in Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s 14 points rejected by the Nehrus.

Until 1946 the Quaid had agreed to be part of a confederal India as outlined in the May/June 1946 Plan. It envisaged a united India in line with Congress and Muslim League aspirations. The Jinnah-Nehru consensus ended when Jawaharlal Nehru told a journalist that the Congress would be in majority and as such it would decide the future of India negating the basis of Muslim demands for ‘political safeguards’ built into post-British Indian laws so as to prevent absolute rule of Hindus over Muslims forcing Jinnah to opt for independence as a last resort.

The Quaid spelled out his vision in his speech of August 11, 1947 in the mother legislative assembly — rightly described as his Magna Carta for Pakistan, that:

• Jinnah’s Pakistan — all its citizens will be equal, they will enjoy equal rights — irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender; they will be free to practise their religions, go to their temples, mosques and churches, etc.

• Islamic socialism and secularism — according to the Quaid — were not a contradiction of Islam but its true manifestation.

• That’s why the Quaid separated religion from state management and declared categorically that Pakistan would not be a theocratic state.

However, after his death (Sept 11, 1948), his dream of Pakistan as a modern, democratic, liberal and secular state was waylaid by the power troika comprising the military, civil and judicial bureaucracy backed by the feudal. From a social welfare state Pakistan was converted at gunpoint into a security state (garrison state) supported by religious groups that had opposed all three Muslim greats — Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Sir Muhammad Iqbal and the Quaid.

While observing his death anniversary we must understand the dynamics of history. We have before us the most recent example of the break-up of the Soviet Union. It had the biggest military in the world and none could save it from disintegration and collapse as it could not sustain its population, provide it succour and socio-economic well-being or bear the heavy load of a back-breaking Praetorian establishment.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/954526/quaids-vision-for-pakistan/

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 10, 2015 at 9:07pm

Excerpt from Dilip Hiro's "The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry Between India and Pakistan":

A minority among the Muslim nobility adapted to the new reality. Prominent among them was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817–1898). A highly educated, pro-British, richly bearded aristocrat, Sir Syed was a political thinker and an educationist who urged fellow Muslims to learn English. He founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College in Aligarh in 1875. He advised his coreligionists to stay away from the Congress Party and focused on expanding the Muhammadan Educational Conference.

He perceived the Congress Party’s demand for a wider role for Indians in the government as the thin end of the wedge for the departure of the British from the subcontinent. “Now, suppose that the English community and the army were to leave India, taking with them all their cannons and their splendid weapons and all else, who then would be the rulers of India?” he asked in a speech in March 1888. “Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations – the Mohammedans and the Hindus – could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable… But until one nation has conquered the other and made it obedient, peace cannot reign in the land.”

Sir Syed’s statement reflected the rising friction between the two communities, which he pointedly called “nations.”

At times these tensions escalated into violence. The first recorded communal riot occurred in the North Gujarat town of Godhra in 1854. Details of the episode are sketchy.

More is known about the communal riot in Bombay (later Mumbai) in August 1893. It erupted against the background of the rise of a militant cow protection movement – Gaorakshak Mandali – that many Muslims regarded as provocative and was launched in Bombay Presidency in late 1892. Muslim worshippers leaving the Juma Masjid, a striking mosque in South Bombay, after Friday prayers attacked a nearby temple on Hanuman Lane. In a predominantly illiterate society in a pre-broadcasting era, wild rumours spread rapidly over the next two days. The army was drafted to restore control. All together seventy-five people lost their lives.

In December 1906 the Muhammadan Educational Conference meeting in Dacca (later Dhaka) decided to transform itself into a political party, the All India Muslim League. Dominated by feudal lords with a sprinkling of religious scholars and educationalists, it elected Adamjee Pirbhoy as its president. He was followed by Sir Ali Imam and the twenty-three-year-old Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah – popularly known by his title of Agha Khan (or Aga Khan) – in successive years. The League was headquartered in Lucknow. Its primary goal was to promote loyalty to the British crown while advancing Muslims’ political rights.

It demanded separate electorates for Muslims when the British government decided to introduce the concept of conferring the right to vote on Indians with the enforcement of the 1892 India Councils Act. It turned the hitherto fully nominated central and provincial legislative councils into partly elected chambers. Nominated municipal boards, chambers of commerce, landowner associations, and universities were authorised to submit lists of elected members from which the viceroy and provincial governors made a final selection of council members. These members, forming a minority, had the right to debate the budget but not vote on it. In popular terms it meant franchise for 2 percent of the adult population, about a third of literate Indians.


http://scroll.in/article/715541/godhra-riot-in-1854-trouble-over-co...

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 6, 2015 at 10:00pm

Not all the #Hindus are Hindus! #India #Dalit #Adivasi #Jain #Caste #BJP #Modi http://www.dawn.com/news/1217795 

...The Rig-Veda says that the self-destruction of Purush, the primal man, brought human society into existence. The whole society was divided into four Varnas; the Brahmins, the Kashatrias, the Vaishias and Shudras. The Brahmins came out of Purusha’s head, the Kashatrias from his arms, the Vaishias from his thighs and Shudras from his feet. Different organs of Purush determined the metaphysically sanctioned social status of different Varnas in an inflexible hierarchy. Thus the Brahmins were declared the religious/intellectual leaders, the Kashtrias the warriors/rulers, the Vaishias the farmers/artisans/craftsmen, and Shudras the labourers/menial workers. This stratification initially was an outcome of racial and ethnic discrimination that ensued from the fair-skinned Aryans’ victory over the dark-skinned Harappa people, the ancient inhabitants of the Indus valley. Varna (Varn) means colour. The social division was colour-based imposed by the victorious fair-skinned to their advantage. The victors became the masters and the vanquished the slaves. In the Punjabi language we still use ‘Van’ with letter R dropped for colour. ‘Vano Van’ means of different colours. ‘Van Savann’ means colour diversity, and ‘kanak Vanna’ means the one whose skin colour is like that of wheat.

Historical evidence suggests that not all the locals were branded as Shudras. Class factor also played a role in determining the status of local persons as to which Varna they would belong. The wealthy and powerful Dravidians could join the club of upper Varnas on certain conditions by offering high value presents and a share of their wealth. At the other end of spectrum Aryans who happened to live at socio-economic fringes were pushed into Shudras’ enclosure. It surprises you when you come across the dark-skinned Brahmins and Kashtrias (some of the Rajputs for example), and the fair-skinned sweepers among the descendants of Shudras. The myth of racial purity proves hollow if examined empirically and critically.

Then there were large groups which remained outside the Aryan fold. They were the wretched of the earth, lower than Shudras in status and were generally known as untouchables. Since the Brahmins had pathologically been obsessed with the idea of ritual cleanliness, they declared all those who did supposedly polluting jobs, untouchables. The untouchables of today are descendants of Shudras and pre-Aryan indigenous communities who after being subjugated were forced to adopt the so-called polluting professions. This was in fact a politico-religious ploy to retain the power of the dominant Varnas. Varna system was based on the distinctions of colour. But later on the Aryan elite, religious and secular, evolved caste system which stemmed from Varna division of society. Caste system (Jati Dharma) within the loose framework of Varnas gradually re-aligned different social groups along the lines of their supposed descent and professions. And most menial professions were assigned to the untouchables who were not allowed to touch the higher castes. They in fact were required to stand at a distance while talking to their upper caste overlords. Dalits and Adivasi, the perennial flotsam of Indian society, form the bulk of the untouchables in the present-day India. Though culturally Indians, they are not Hindus if viewed from the perspective of upper castes. Their ways of eating, dressing and worshiping are different from those of upper castes which set them apart as people with a distinct identity, older than Brahminic hocus-pocus flaunted as a marker of Indian identity.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 4, 2016 at 10:59am

The Other Side of Silence
Voices From the Partition of India 
By URVASHI BUTALIA

I looked at what the large political facts of this history seemed to be saying. If I was reading them right, it would seem that Partition was now over, done with, a thing of the past. Yet, all around us there was a different reality: partitions everywhere, communal tension, religious fundamentalism, continuing divisions on the basis of religion. In Delhi, Sikhs became targets of communal attacks in 1984; in Bhagalpur in Bihar, hundreds of Muslims were killed in one of India's worst communal riots in 1989; a few years later, the Babri Mosque was destroyed in Ayodhya by frenzied Hindu communalists (supported, openly and brazenly, by political parties such as the Bhartiya Janata Party, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena), and later, thousands of Muslims were again targeted in Surat, Ahmedabad and Bombay. In each of these instances, Partition stories and memories were used selectively by the aggressors: militant Hindus were mobilized using the one-sided argument that Muslims had killed Hindus at Partition, they had raped Hindu women, and so they must in turn be killed, and their women subjected to rape. And the patterns were there in individual life too: a Muslim and a Hindu in independent India could not easily choose to marry each other without worrying about whether one or the other of them would survive the wrath of their families or communities; if such a marriage broke up, or for some reason ended up in court, you could be sure that it would be accompanied by public announcements, for example on the part of the judiciary, about those who had accepted the two-nation theory and those who had not.


https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/b/butalia-silence.html

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 20, 2016 at 9:39pm

‘Respect Gandhi If You Will, Don’t Sentimentalise Him’The distinguished professor of history now trains his lens on modern Indian history, discussing his book at lengthPRAFUL BIDWAI INTERVIEWS PERRY ANDERSON

http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/respect-gandhi-if-you-wi...


Gandhi was gripped by regressive personal phobias, had limited intellectual formation, was impervious to rational argument...

You could say that, very roughly, it advances five main arguments that run counter to conventional wisdom in India today. Firstly, that the idea of a subcontinental unity stretching back six thousand years is a myth. Secondly, that Gandhi’s injection of religion into the national movement was ultimately a disaster for it. Thirdly, that primary responsibility for Partition lay not with the Raj, but Congress. Fourthly, that Nehru’s legacy to Republic was far more ambiguous than his admirers will admit. Lastly, that Indian democracy is not contradicted by caste inequality, but rather enabled by it. This is a crude summary. Obviously, in each case, much more is said than this.

You’ve explained that one of the reasons why, instead of writing simply about contemporary India, you start by looking at the struggle for independence, was your shock at the reception of Kathryn Tidrick’s work on Gandhi, so thoroughly blanketed by silence that most Indians are unaware of its existence. Tidrick concentrates on the relationship between Gandhi’s self-perception as a world-saviour— his religious beliefs— and his politics. She doesn’t really explore his role as a mass leader and tactician of the independence struggle. How far is your own account of Gandhi, which many in India would regard as a savage criticism, based on hers?
Tidrick’s biography of Gandhi is an extraordinarily careful, calm and courageous work. Not just I, but any serious student of this historical figure, would have more to learn about his outlook from her work than from any other extant study of him —the vast majority of Gandhiana being, to one degree or another, hagiographic. The silence covering it in India is an intellectual scandal which reflects poorly on local opinion. The problem here is not, of course, confined to her work. More recently, the reception of Joseph Lelyveld’s much more superficial and not very political, but extremely respectful, book about Gandhi—it’s even entitled Great Soul—tells the same story. Because it dismantles some of the legends Gandhi propagated about his time in South Africa, we have his grandson complaining that it ‘belittles’ him. It’s only in this climate of deference that my treatment of Gandhi could be regarded as sacrilege. Actually, I single out not only his remarkable gifts as a leader, and his achievement in making Congress a mass party, but also his personal sincerity and selflessness—he did not want power for himself, as most politicians do. In his own way he was a great man.


The principal catastrophe of 1947 lay in the Congress folly of not realising that it was, in composition and outlook, a Hindu party.
But that does not exempt him from criticism. He was gripped by a set of regressive personal fixations and phobias, had a very limited intellectual formation, was impervious to rational argument, and entirely unaware of the damage he was doing to the national movement by suffusing it with Hindu pietism as he reconceived it. He is to be respected, with all his blindness. But there is no need to sentimentalize him. The complete latitude he gave himself to declare as truth whatever he happened to say at any time, and then change it from one day to the next, still as the word of God shining through him, set a disastrous example for his followers and admirers. 



Comment by Riaz Haq on October 29, 2018 at 7:34am

Indians were equally responsible for Partition, not just Pakistan or British: Hamid Ansari


https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/indians-were-equally-responsi...

Former Vice President Hamid Ansari said while people like to hold Pakistan or the British responsible for India's partition, no one wants to admit that India was equally responsible for it.

Referring to a speech delivered by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's on August 11, 1947, four days before India got its independence, Ansari said in that speech, Patel had said "he took these extreme steps after great deliberation".

Ansari claimed that Patel in this speech also said that "despite his previous opposition to Partition, he was convinced that to keep India united, it must be divided".

He said these speeches are available in Patel's records.

"But as politics of the country changed, someone had to be blamed. So Muslims became the scapegoat and were blamed for Partition," Ansari said.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janta Party has hit out at Ansari. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra demanded an apology from Ansari for his comments.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 18, 2019 at 7:35am

The Malign Incompetence of the #British Ruling Class. "Even a columnist for The Economist, an organ of the British elite, now professes dismay over “Oxford chums” who coast through life on “bluff rather than expertise.” #Brexit #chumocracy #India #England https://nyti.ms/2RWEZsY

by Pankaj Mishra 

Mountbatten, derided as “Master of Disaster” in British naval circles, was a representative member of a small group of upper- and middle-class British men from which the imperial masters of Asia and Africa were recruited. Abysmally equipped for their immense responsibilities, they were nevertheless allowed by Britain’s brute imperial power to blunder through the world — a “world of whose richness and subtlety,” as E.M. Forster wrote in “Notes on the English Character,” they could “have no conception.”

----------

Even a columnist for The Economist, an organ of the British elite, now professes dismay over “Oxford chums” who coast through life on “bluff rather than expertise.” “Britain,” the magazine belatedly lamented last month, “is governed by a self-involved clique that rewards group membership above competence and self-confidence above expertise.” In Brexit, the British “chumocracy,” the column declared, “has finally met its Waterloo.”

It is actually more accurate, for those invoking British history, to say that partition — the British Empire’s ruinous exit strategy — has come home. In a grotesque irony, borders imposed in 1921 on Ireland, England’s first colony, have proved to be the biggest stumbling block for the English Brexiteers chasing imperial virility. Moreover, Britain itself faces the prospect of partition if Brexit, a primarily English demand, is achieved and Scottish nationalists renew their call for independence.

It is a measure of English Brexiteers’ political acumen that they were initially oblivious to the volatile Irish question and contemptuous of the Scottish one. Ireland was cynically partitioned to ensure that Protestant settlers outnumber native Catholics in one part of the country. The division provoked decades of violence and consumed thousands of lives. It was partly healed in 1998, when a peace agreement removed the need for security checks along the British-imposed partition line.

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The re-imposition of a customs and immigration regime along Britain’s only land border with the European Union was always likely to be resisted with violence. But Brexiteers, awakening late to this ominous possibility, have tried to deny it. A leaked recording revealed Mr. Johnson scorning concerns about the border as “pure millennium bug stuff.”

Politicians and journalists in Ireland are understandably aghast over the aggressive ignorance of English Brexiteers. Business people everywhere are outraged by their cavalier disregard for the economic consequences of new borders. But none of this would surprise anyone who knows of the unconscionable breeziness with which the British ruling class first drew lines through Asia and Africa and then doomed the people living across them to endless suffering.

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