Communal politics and India’s election

Published: April 29, 2014
The writer is a syndicated columnist and a former member of India’s Rajya Sabha

The writer is a syndicated columnist and a former member of India’s Rajya Sabha

I question the timing, practically on the eve of polling for the Lok Sabha election, of the disclosure of conspiracy behind the demolition of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in 1992. I do not know how this has helped the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) at the polls during which it shed the development factor and came out in true colours, the pro-Hindu stance. Its election manifesto is a bit accommodative on the mandir and seeks solution within the constitutional framework. But the BJP remains adamant on Article 370 which is an integral part of the process of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India.

The other main party, the Congress, did not lag behind in communalising the environment. The party marshalled Shahi Imam Bukhari and other Muslim clerics behind. The party did not care about the oft-repeated allegation against it that the Congress goes out of the way to appease the Muslims.

Yet, I commend the meticulous job of piecing together the bits of information through sting operations spread over three years to bring to light the plan to destroy the masjid. The news portal, which has divulged the details, says that the demolition was an “act of planned sabotage.” It was meticulously planned, rehearsed and executed.

This confirms what Justice MS Liberahan had said in his report on the demolition. He has reiterated in a press interview: “It stands beyond doubt that the events of the day were neither spontaneous nor unplanned, nor an unforeseen overflowing of the people’s emotion. Narendra Modi was part of the LK Advani’s rath yatra in support of mandir.”

What has pained me is the fact that both Atal Behari Vajpayee and Advani knew about the proposed demolition—the plan and the exercise carried out for demolition. I was honestly taken in by Vajpayee’s argument that it was an act of people’s spontaneous emotions and had no prior planning behind it. When Advani resigned from the Lok Sabha taking moral responsibility, I really believed that he was speaking the truth. I feel cheated. The alacrity with which he withdrew the resignation within 24 hours indicates the hypocrisy. And Vajpayee still plugs the line that it was a spontaneous reaction of the crowd. This is not true because half a million sevaks were assembled from different parts of the country, particularly Maharashtra, on December 6, 1992.

The Justice Liberhan report is an indictment of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which has taken 22 years to complete the probe as it claims to have done. More than that it is an indictment of public figures that were part of the conspiracy but parade themselves as an apostle of virtue. Other BJP leaders, some of whom I see on various channels of television, do not minimise the sin by arguing that no sting operation has been carried out in the case of corruption deals by the Congress. This can be done even belatedly. But the Sangh parivar cannot be absolved of its nefarious activities.

I knew all along that Narasimha Rao, then the Congress prime minister, had blessed the destruction. He had the army deployed in the vicinity and was bound to use it when the Supreme Court had said to maintain the status quo, that is, to protect the Babri masjid. Not a single soldier was moved to defend the mosque, nor ever the proposal to surround the structure with tanks to ward off any attack.

What Socialist leader Madhu Limaye had told left me with no room for any doubt about Rao’s involvement. Limaye said that when the demolition began, Rao sat for puja. There were frantic calls from his colleagues to reach him out to take action against those who were engaged in destroying the mosque, but he had instructed that he should not be disturbed. When the destruction was complete, Rao’s aide whispered into his ears that the process was complete. Rao finished his puja.

The masjid’s demolition was followed by communal riots, particularly in Mumbai. Rao invited some senior journalists to seek media help to normalise the situation. I was one of the invitees. I asked Rao how a small temple had come to be built overnight when the centre had taken over the administration after dismissing the state government ruled by the BJP. He answered me: the temple would not be there for long.

Twenty-two years have gone by since the demolition. I had reminded Rao of his assurance on several occasions when he was still in power. But no action has been taken despite my repeated writings. The small temple stands there even today and the talk to accommodate the Muslims by building a mosque next to the mandir is not heard anymore.

I can understand and even appreciate the arguments of those who claim that it was the Ram janam bhoomi and not the Babri masjid. But when lakhs of Ram sevaks gather there and even beat up a few Gandhites who objected to violence, the dictum sought to be proved is that the majority community would have the way through peace, if possible, or by force, if necessary.

In fact, the Babri masjid’s destruction is a watershed in our country’s ethos of pluralism. The Muslim community began to tilt on the side of extremists since. Its faith in the secular society was shaken and it went even to the extent of not protesting against the terrorists.

If I were to trace militancy among the Muslims I would find the demolition of Babri masjid as the beginning. The community feels insecure, particularly on the prospects of Modi becoming the prime minister. All that I can say is that India has been a multi-religious society for centuries and the society has learnt to live that way.

If Modi tries to undo the reality, he will find defiance all over. He may even jeopardise the country’s integrity. I wish the BJP election manifesto had mentioned at least once the word of secularism. Although the new converts to the BJP argue that when the party swears by the constitution, it expresses is faith in secularism without spelling it out. I wish it were so because when the Babri masjid was demolished it was done despite the constitution.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (38)

  • rasgullah
    Apr 30, 2014 - 12:28AM

    Hindus are being decimated in Pakistan, but why no militancy from them?


  • EmanuelJ
    Apr 30, 2014 - 3:01AM

    After reading the article, I am so glad that Quaid made Pakistan as homeland for SouthAsian Muslims. I sincerley hope that Pakistan make clarion call to all the Muslims living in India to migrate to the safety of Pakistan, away from the communal India. As sign of generoisty and proof of true secular nature of Pakistan, Good people like Kuldip Sahib too could apply for residency to enjoy the freedom from Modi’s India.


  • Cash
    Apr 30, 2014 - 4:53AM

    Why did India break up for all the centuries of multi religiosity? For all that why did India and Bangladesh not unify when the latter came to being?

    And it is fashionable for the author to show up after the fact to claim a certain moral high ground when minorities like Sikhs and Muslims suffer. He, in an earlier article, claimed in 1983/84 to be part of the PMs advisory committee on Punjab. The state was exploding with violence. When he could have made his reservations public and put pressure on the PM to not unleash the armed forces, he chose to stay quiet. Here too, he claims that he “knew all along”. But despite his influence chose to remain quiet and maintain his proximity to the powers.


  • Gp65
    Apr 30, 2014 - 5:21AM

    @EmanuelJ: – most Indians including BJP spporters like me would say that the destruction was wrong your self righteous tone implies great so of course in Pakistan no places of worship of minority have ever been destroyed – right? Forget that please tell me how many suicide attacks have destroyed how many masjids in Pakistan in the past few years? Also why is it that you need to talk about the need for Pakista67 years after you already have it? Please rest assured that while we may regret the murder, mayhem (on both sides) that happened at he time of partition there is an extremely small constituency in India for reversing partition ala Germany. Had that been something Indians wanted they would at least have tried to partially reverse partition in 1971 but no such attempt was made.

    First of demolition of the Babri structure was not the constitutional way of resolving a long standing dispute.

    But to say that it was the start of problems between Hindus and Muslims is absurd. Perhaps the author iss unaware about the Direct action day and the millions of Hindus and Muslims that killed each other immediately after partition. Nor does the author seem aware of the Hindu Pandits that were being driven out of Kashmir valley well before December 6 1992

    As far as the Ram Janmabhoomi, Babri masjid dispute – it did not start in 1992. It started when Babar destroyed a temple that Hindus was believed was Ram janmabhoomi and to humiliate them further built a mosque on hat very site. The issue had been in court for over a 100 years and no namaaz had been offered in that structure for over 50 years since it had been ordered closed by a court.

    There also had been plenty of communal riots in India between 1947 and 1992 so it is very disngenuous to claim that this was the start of the prolem.


  • water bottle
    Apr 30, 2014 - 5:36AM


    “As sign of generoisty and proof of true secular nature of Pakistan, Good people like Kuldip Sahib too could apply for residency to enjoy the freedom from Modi’s India. “

    Yes take him please. Also take other pseudo seculars and we will be eternally graetful if you take Kashmiri Muslims.

    But we won’t allow Kuldip back when you destroy his house and temple (like you did with three temples just in a single month).


  • Babloo
    Apr 30, 2014 - 6:32AM

    Thousand of thousands of Hindu temples destroyed by Islamic kings who ruled India. Hindus almost wiped out of Pakistan. Thousands of temples of Hindus either damaged, occupied or in ruin in Pakistan as there are no Hindus to look after them. You don’t find a single word about it and cry about a decrepit mosque, hardly used, built over a Hindu holy town , built by a barbaric ruler and self-proclaimed destroyer of Temples , Babur ?


  • Lahori
    Apr 30, 2014 - 6:45AM

    Very important points raised in this article!


  • Apr 30, 2014 - 10:48AM

    @rasgullah: This is a very funny comment. How is this relevant to what writer is saying. I was and am convinced that this act of RSS and BJP combine has been the biggest attack on the fabric of this great country and has seeded a divide that, if not carefully dealt with, will destroy not only India but the entire South East Asia. I pity the wisdom of those who defend this knive act in any manner.


  • shabbar
    Apr 30, 2014 - 11:54AM

    lack of critical mass(number)@rasgullah:


  • Feroz
    Apr 30, 2014 - 12:33PM

    Very nice ! Being a journalist and historian it would be very nice if you give us readers information on the following :-

    1] No of Mosques, Temples, Churches, and Gurudwara’s vandalized and destroyed in India — pre Independence and post Independence.
    2] No of Mosques, Temples, Churches and Gurudwara’s vandalized and destroyed in Pakistan — pre Independence and post Independence.

    This will help readers to form their own perspective on what is communalism and secularism, from public viewpoint. Thank You !


  • Ravi
    Apr 30, 2014 - 1:16PM

    Secularism , Communalism , Kashmiriat are the words coined by people like you. I have never read an article written by you which has ever criticised act of Muslims. It has become fashion for journalist and opticians to talk about SECULARISM to run their shop.


  • Gratgy
    Apr 30, 2014 - 4:39PM

    Wasn’t this the guy who was being covertly handled by Gulam Nabi Fai. He now seems to have a new master


  • G. Din
    Apr 30, 2014 - 5:05PM

    Hindus waited for 500 years to demolish the Babri. There are many, many more such mosques that stand as the mocking symbols of Hindu humiliation all over India. Each one of them shall meet the same fate as the Babri – eventually. Nothing has been forgotten, nothing shall ever be forgotten. This is the unfinished task of our history. Until that process is complete there can be no rapprochement between Hindus and Muslims in South Asia. Lately, there seems to be a stirring amongst Indian Muslims which recognizes this inexorable fact and are getting ready to help Hindus complete this task. All such mosques built on top of demolished Hindu temples have to be razed to rubble and temples constructed in their place. The sooner this is accomplished, the sooner we shall return to a rational, normal relationship. Until then this life-long ranting by this author and his ilk is a mere “bakwaas”!


  • BlackJack
    Apr 30, 2014 - 6:13PM

    You should also ask for the numbers ‘built’! That is an even more stark indicator.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Apr 30, 2014 - 6:30PM

    Kuldip Nayar ji zindabad just respect……sir.


  • Hiren
    Apr 30, 2014 - 7:03PM

    Mr Nayyar is totally ignorant of some facts.

    Article 370 was not part of the terms accession of Kashmir and there is no mention of such in the instrument of succession. It was introduced at the behest of Abdullah family by Nehru with the ulterior motive of retaining control of Kashmir. It was the biggest breach of trust done by Nehru on the Indian people where India bears the entire cost of Kashmir and subsidizes it’s existence while Indians are not allowed to own property there.


  • adnan
    Apr 30, 2014 - 7:26PM

    The author has written an intelligent piece with facts. Almost everybody commenting is just harassing and name calling! If the incident he described was all planned by the Indian government, it is a black spot on Indian history that won’t be washed by name calling. Please admit your problems and improve your country! Only losers find comfort in saying ‘but we are better than our neighbors’!


  • Joginder
    Apr 30, 2014 - 7:35PM

    EmanuelJ is being sarcastic. No need to get worked up about it.


  • Rohit Sen (Singapore)
    Apr 30, 2014 - 8:36PM

    Fact that Babri masjid destruction was one of the most shameful acts in Indian history – I totally agree. Fact that it is used to justify support of radicalization is in poor order. It’s sounds very similar to Hindu radicals using godhra incident to justify Gujarat riots. Two wrong don’t make a right… Violence is never the answer. Fact that a man of kuldip Singh’s stature doesn’t wanna acknowledge that, is hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty. Fact remains that a right of an Indian is based on his citizenship in the country and not because of his religion. I was born Hindu. I have right to chose any religion that I believe is the truth for me. That doesn’t change my rights as a citizen of the country. And I should be treated the same. Anything that is not inline with this principle should be unacceptable. No discrimination or special treatment for any religion. Period!!


  • someone
    Apr 30, 2014 - 9:35PM

    Nice satire :)


  • May 1, 2014 - 2:23AM

    I am in full support of the BJPs pro-Hindu agenda. India is majority Hindu and it should be the main plank of any party that hopes to rule India – the upliftment of the majority of Hindus. If Muslims can claim to be proud of being a Muslim and Pakistan an be called a Muslim nation, there is nothing wrong India being called a Hindu nation and Modi and BJP being proud of their Hindu heritage. The Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains have all flourished under the Hindu rule be it of the Congress version or BJP version. The only folks who have not flourished are Muslims. Perhaps they should stop listening to the retards who run their mosques and the social and political organizations.


  • gp65
    May 1, 2014 - 3:01AM

    @VINOD: “I was and am convinced that this act of RSS and BJP combine has been the biggest attack on the fabric of this great country and has seeded a divide that”
    Is secularism the only thing that is important? What about democracy? What do you think of the following acts of Indira Gandhi?

    – declaring emergency?
    – use of Article 356 and later cash for votes to undermine democracy done by COngress through 80s and 90s?

    If secularism is the only thing that matters what do you think of
    – Indira building up Bhindranwalle so as to undermine Akali Dal and the heavy price in blood that the country paid?
    – the anti-Sikh riots of 1984?
    – Rajiv Gandhi changing the law to undeermine Supreme court judgment in Shah Bano case?
    – the 100,000 Hindus pandits that were driven out of Kashmir starting from 1989 (before Babri demolition)?
    – the Ramjanmabhoomi shilanyas – which Rajiv actually did?
    – Are you aware of riots throughout the eighties where thousands of Hindus and Muslims were needlessly killed by the divisiveness planted NOT by Babri incident which had yet to occur but by TNT, Direct Action and the horrendous violence of partition where ordinary Hindus and Muslims lost their loved ones for the of political ambitions of some who shall remain nameless?

    I totally agree that the destruction was undesirable and unconstitutional but for heavens sake get some perspective. This structure was not one where anyone had prayed for five decades. To say that this event was more divisive than the thousands that were killed (of both sides) well before this incident occurred is absurd.Recommend

  • Kolsat
    May 1, 2014 - 3:44AM

    @EmanuelJ: Will there be any safety in Pakistan for Indian Muslims if the were to migrate there? Every day there is news of suicide bombing or murder somewhere. Also do you know that thre are nearly two hundred million Muslims in India? Pakistan can hardly support its own population let alone this additional burden. Furthermore I do not believe Indian Muslims want to go to Pakistan.


  • May 1, 2014 - 11:31AM

    @gp65: first of all I fail to understand as to why my comments in reply to you have been removed. May be my ideas do not fit into two nation theory. Coming to your reply; thanks very much for “I was and am convinced that this act of RSS and BJP combine has been the biggest attack on the fabric of this great country and has seeded a divide that”
    Is secularism the only thing that is important? What about democracy? What do you think of the following acts of Indira Gandhi?’
    The saddest thing is that you have presumed that I am a supporter of Congress or its deeds. Where and how have you seen in any of my comments a word in appreciation/agreement to Congress” I agree with every word you have said about the deeds of Congress.But when you ask me ” Is secularism the only thing that is important? ” Answer is YES. In to days context it is; If secular thinking and the true spirit of co-existence is not preserved believe me it will not take long to become Chechnya or Bosnia.Democracy will survive, progress will survive and our children and grand children will survive if there is peace and co-existence with dignity and equal stakes OTHERWISE not. Thanks.


  • abhi
    May 1, 2014 - 3:19PM

    Whats the problem if a historical wrong was made right. It could have been done peacefully with mutual agreement if the other community was not so adamant in their attitude. I would say Rao was pragmatic and he has done lot of good things.


  • Nipun
    May 1, 2014 - 5:59PM

    “If I were to trace militancy among the Muslims I would find the demolition of Babri masjid as the beginning.” — Mr Nayyar

    By that logic, “If I were to trace the revulsion of Indians for muslims, I would find the invasion by Mohd Bin Qasim as the begining.”


  • Strategic Asset
    May 1, 2014 - 6:34PM

    Strange that whenever I post a comment on an article by an Indian author, it always gets shot down.

    India has many minorities based not only on religion but also on disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. I am a minority from a religion that constitutes only 2.3% of our population compared to the biggest minority that constitutes 13.4% of our population.

    I should also be allowed to express my opinion on ET as not everyone in India is Hindu or Muslim.


  • Rakib
    May 1, 2014 - 7:21PM

    Many here, while justifying unjustifiable demolition of Babri mosque, have forgotten that the real aim of their specifically named “movement” was to build a Temple. That won’t happen in foreseeable future. An illegal method was adopted to break but political considerations make the very same vandals to take a legal recourse to build. This is not easy despite SC attempts/compromise judgements unless its done by Act of Parliament. Let’s see how Modi passes such an Act that can affect all-India. It needed the ingenuity of Sardar Patel & KM Munshi to reconstruct Somnath extending it to adjacent old work of queen of Indore (Ahalyabai Holker) without breaking any other structure of archeological or theological importance. Today’s BJP-Congress leadership is devoid of such sagacity & statesmanship.


  • May 1, 2014 - 7:33PM

    @abhi: you are totally wrong when you say “Whats the problem if a historical wrong was made right.” You may add another chapter in the history but can never undo what happened in a particular space and time of history.
    How are you going to undo the invasion of Hoons, Tatars and Alexander. What are you going to do about the “KATLEAAM” by Britishers after 1857 war of independence, when thousands and thousands were tied on the barrel of guns and blown, Both side trees on the roads at Allahabad, Lucknow, Barrackpore and roads from Delhi to Agra were strung with hanging dead bodies. Delhi was raised to ground without any distinction of caste, creed or religion. How would you correct when Bahadur Shah was presented on a plate with heads of his own sons. You can not make YOUR historical wrongs right as the victor thought he was right. The wise thing is to preserve these historical monuments and events for coming generations to learn that what happens to a nation when it becomes weak, is divided and full of people who are ready to sell their services. That is why it is necessary to treat each countryman with dignity, equality and justice and build a strong nation. That is what history teaches us. Let us not waste time and energy in correcting the perceived wrongs of past but get together to build a strong nation. A strong future.


  • Rex Minor
    May 1, 2014 - 9:07PM

    Most of the Indian readers commenting on the artcle have not realised that Kuldip Nayar is not only a very good writer columnist with jounalistic talents but also an enlightened personality. People like him are rare in this world and they have the ability to communicate with ease over the ethnic and cultural divide. People like him coulld change the landscape of the subcontinent which is slowly but for surely drifiting to the disaster of the millinium. There have been several Indian civilisations which have vanished without any explanation.

    Rex Minor



  • G. Din
    May 2, 2014 - 5:37PM

    @VINOD: to abhi
    “You may add another chapter in the history but can never undo what happened in a particular space and time of history.”
    A totally self-evident though totally irrelevant truism.
    We can, and are duty-bound to, undo the effect(s) where it is possible to undo and at a time when it is possible to do so, even if it is after hundreds of years. No vile deed should be allowed to go unpunished or unresponded to. Not doing so invites repetition of the original wrong because there are no painful consequences attached to it. Not attempting to right a wrong shows total mental confusion as to what is right and wrong, spinelessness and lack of self-respect and pride. Now, there are many in India and elsewhere who will sell their mothers for “peace” and “brotherhood” and such but any relationship – between any two entities -that is not built on the foundation of respect is a chimera and prepares the grounds for total disenchantment and a more virulent animosity later besides exposing the fact that all such people suffer from lack of self-respect and self-esteem. It also exposes the capacity of such individuals for self-deception.


  • Anil Rao
    May 2, 2014 - 6:01PM

    Good article, but I beg to differ about the point t”If I were to trace militancy among the Muslims I would find the demolition of Babri masjid as the beginning”


  • gp65
    May 2, 2014 - 9:01PM

    I do not condone the destruction of the mosque. But I hope you agree that there is a historic wrong that was committed that needs to be fixed i.e. a temple believed by many to be the birthplace of Rama was destroyed and a mosque built on its site. Correcting that wrong can occur when a temple is rebuilt on that site.

    The matter is in the court and BJP in its manifesto has committed to a solution within the realms of the constitution. So you are correct that the temple will not be built forcibly. However I hope that a negotiated agreement between Hindus and Muslims contesting the case can be reached. One such solution would be for the kar sevaks to rebuild the mosque brick by brick with kar seva at a different place in lieu of an agreement to build a temple at that spot. For Muslims the mosque is important, for Hindus teh spot is important.

    This in fact was proposed in 1990 and was agreed but then for some reason things went sour unfortunately.


    You may or maynot be a Congress supporter. I do not know or care. I was reacting your statement of what you considered as the biggest dividing moment and n that you referred to the struction of a solitary derelict mosque as having more iportance than the killing and making homeless of thousands. I was disappointed that a negotiated agreement could not be reached on the conflict that had been in court for over a 100 years and the unconstitutional path adopted but it is the prioritization that I disagree with.Recommend

  • Rakib
    May 3, 2014 - 9:38AM

    @gp65: I do not agree. I don’t know whether it was The Birthplace in that precise spot. But then it is not my disbelief that matters; it is belief of Hindutva forces that is important since Hindus have the political clout based on numbers that Muslims of India will never have & that clout has been exercised. With overwhelming numbers all that is now needed is an Act of Parliament confiscating the property & that’s that. After all it was lure of Lok Sabha & not merit in afterlife that motivated Advani.. There are 30,000 Historical Wrongs in India, at the very least. You may rest content with righting one, some with Mathura & Benares too & many with not even 30k.How many historic wrongs will you set right? Want to start with Goa & Madras/Malabar too considering VHP is good out there? Was Tirupati a Parshwanath-Jain tirthankara’s temple? There is a Gujarati proverb that yama the lord of death shouldn’t be invited home lest a precedence is then set for him to hunt. Who other than a Hindu becomes a laughing stock in the Global Village when a major political party in so-called Secular Polity goes about destroying & reconstructing houses of worship & yet another party pretending to be a Nehruvian legatee is hand in glove? Is this medieval barbarism in new form worthy of being even considered? Who cares for opinion of real residents of Ayodhya/Faizabad? And Court!?! It rewarded the vandals! Nowhere in the free-world such gross miscarriage of justice is possible.


  • Jun 17, 2014 - 6:22AM

    Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I loved this article.
    It was funny. Keep on posting!Recommend

  • Jun 17, 2014 - 2:20PM

    @gp65: some how I missed this
    “You may or maynot be a Congress supporter. I do not know or care. I was reacting your statement of what you considered as the biggest dividing moment and n that you referred to the struction of a solitary derelict mosque as having more iportance than the killing and making homeless of thousands. I was disappointed that a negotiated agreement could not be reached on the conflict that had been in court for over a 100 years and the unconstitutional path adopted but it is the prioritization that I disagree with.”
    You say ” You may or maynot be a Congress supporter. I do not know or care.” So do I, But would certainly like to know that, on what presumption you were asking me about the deeds of Congress party/ Indira Gandhi. These days I am supporting most of the views and actions of Mr Modi, does it make me a BJP person? Secondly how have you come to the conclusion that the spot where this, as per you “the struction of a solitary derelict mosque” was standing is the precise place of birth of Lord Ram. Quote evidence,as a devout Hindu I would appreciate to know.
    To know and understand why I call this biggest dividing moment, you have to be a part of the period, place and and lived in mohallas where Hindus,Muslims and Christians lived next door for decades in this country. Celebrated each others festivals and were fully conversant with each others customs and beliefs. Understand why this poison of hate was sown. This division was created with great craftsmanship and design. Dig deep please. Regards and best wishes.( Hope this is published)


  • Jun 18, 2014 - 6:56PM

    @Rakib: I. appreciate your views. well expressed


  • Rakib
    Jun 18, 2014 - 10:36PM

    @VINOD: Thank you Vinodji Your posts were quite illuminating as always. And Gp65 is a very good interlocutor though perhaps prone to common error of belief that all critics of BJP are natural supporters of Congress!! All in all,a good thread.


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