Patterns of Violence
Anoticeable feature of the Gujarat carnage is the distinct and
similar patterns that have emerged
Selective Targeting of Muslims
From the extensive evidence recorded by the Tribunal, it is clear that Muslims from all social strata, rich and poor, were the prime targets for the state–sponsored pogrom unleashed all over the state of Gujarat. From cities and towns to villages, be it the question of life, dignity or property, barring few exceptions, Muslims were the sole target. While the targeting of economically better off Muslims was limited to their property, and this damage was vast and extensive (the carnage in Gulberg society, where former MP Ahsan Jafri was specifically targeted, being an exception), the lower classes faced attacks on their life, property and dignity. Except in the few cases where some Hindu establishments were targeted in the immediate vicinity of areas that have been converted into Muslim ghettos, in cities like Ahmedabad and Vadodara, the recent carnage was marked (unlike earlier rounds of violence where sections of both communities were affected) by the selective targeting of Muslims.
In most places, Hindu houses amongst Muslim bastis had been marked out before the attacks using saffron flags, or pictures of Ram and Hanuman, or with crosses. Evidence before the Tribunal shows that in some places this marking was done a few days before the February 27 incident in Godhra which was the ostensible justification for the ‘retaliation’. There was no damage whatsoever to the Hindu houses so marked.
In some villages, the adjoining Hindu houses were first sawed away from the Muslim houses before the latter were set on fire. Each attack, therefore, took not just extensive planning but also several hours to execute, which further indicates an abdication of responsibility by the police in its failure to come to the rescue of the targeted community.
From the state wide evidence earlier recorded and placed before us, it is also clear that apart from the lives of Muslims, several symbols of India’s composite culture were deliberate targets during the carnage in Gujarat. The durgahs (shrines) of Sufi saints that are revered by persons from all communities, especially the oppressed castes, deserve special mention here.
The other targets of violence were couples who had entered into inter–community marriages. Violence against mixed couples has become common all over Gujarat and the issue of inter–religious marriage has become part of the hate propaganda against Muslims and those Hindus who enter into or accept such marriages.
Brutality and Bestiality of Attacks
The Tribunal recorded over 1,500 testimonies of eye–witnesses, victims and survivors of the violence from different parts of Gujarat. The widespread violence that targeted Muslims was marked by utter bestiality and brutality.
In the attacks all over Gujarat, as recorded before the Tribunal, areas were besieged for 7–8 hours, by mobs of over a few thousand (this varied in different cases but the marked similarity was the scale of the attackers). In all the cases, the leaders of the mobs co–ordinating and supervising the transport of gas cylinders, trishuls and talwars, chemicals and gelatine sticks have been identified by witnesses and survivors as prominent leaders and elected representatives from the BJP or leaders of the VHP, Bajrang Dal or the RSS. In most cases, there was large–scale mobilisation from local areas; neighbours attacked neighbours even though outsiders were called in to make up the numbers; rapes, too, were carried out by known figures from the village or locality. This, too, was the result of definite planning, intended to terrorise completely and to destroy the faith of the survivors in co-existence or living in neighbourhoods that had been their homes, for centuries in many cases.
Women and young girls were targeted brutally, as were children. Evidence recorded before us shows how in the macabre dance of death, human beings were quartered and the killing protracted while the terrorised survivors looked on; the persons targeted were dragged or paraded naked through the neighbourhood; victims were urinated upon, before being finally cut to pieces and burnt. Hundreds of testimonies before us show how this manner and method of killing has left an indelible imprint on the minds of the survivors, who saw their near and loved ones killed and, that too, in such a fashion. These are images that have the potential to haunt, traumatise and enrage the survivors.
Evidence before the Tribunal shows that the burning alive of victims was widespread. This is not accidental. For the victim community, Muslims, who bury their dead, the killing by burning was meant to annihilate as also to terrorise and establish dominance over the entire community. When 6–year–old Imran asked for water, his assailants at Naroda Patiya made him forcibly drink kerosene, or some other inflammable liquid, before a lit match was thrown inside his gullet to make him explode within. Such brutality, which was encouraged or condoned by the government in power, is now cynically being denied.
Bodies of victims were dismembered in a merciless fashion before they were finally killed. Women and children were especially subject to this; women were not just raped but all kinds of objects and instruments were brutally inserted into their bodies. There were instances where young children, even infants, were hoisted on swords or trishuls before being flung into flames.
Unprecedented Scale and Degree of Violence – Ethnic Cleansing
The Tribunal recorded evidence from more than 16 districts of Gujarat. From the evidence it is clear that starting from February 28, within the first 72 hours, even as Shri Modi claimed the situation to be under control, there was unprecedented loss of life and property. Thereafter, violence continued in 3–4 distinct stages right up to mid–May. Even the hearings of the Tribunal in the first half of May were preceded by warnings to call off the Tribunal. We, too, had to ask for state security.
To cause the maximum possible damage swiftly and comprehensively, a powdery–white chemical was widely used, which not only burnt human beings to the bone, but even cement houses were completely burnt down. From Vatwa to Gulberg society in Chamanpura, Ahmedabad, to far–flung district places like Ode, Sardarpura and parts of Vadodara, we have recorded evidence of the use of this powdery–white chemical. When Tribunal members visited Gulberg society on May 5, the compound of the society was littered with small bottles with remnants of a whitish powder inside. From Vatwa we collected not only evidence of use of this powder but also ingenious electrical wiring to ensure that all 65 homes of the Vohra Muslim Burhani society caught fire almost simultaneously.
During our visit to Ankleshwar, a few days later, we recorded testimonies of many victims who said that in the attacks in that district, gelatine sticks of the kind used in mining operations were widely used. The premeditated and meticulously planned attacks were obviously intended to ensure that the targeted homes and business establishments of the minority were reduced to bare shells.
Evidence before the Tribunal shows that, guided by leaders, the trained mobs first sprinkled the targeted buildings with fuel drawn from kerbas (large cans/barrels), or even a tanker in some cases, followed by a spray of acid. Immediately thereafter, a gas cylinder brought along by the mobs was unsealed and tossed into the flame. The result was a deadly explosion that ripped buildings apart and killed a large number of persons on the spot.
Across Gujarat, over 1,100 Muslim–owned hotels, the homes of not less that 1,00,000 families, over 15,000 small and big business establishments, around 3,000 larri gallas (handcarts), and over 5,000 vehicles (private cars, trucks, taxis, autorickshaws) were badly damaged or completely destroyed in the attacks. These figures, arrived at by the Tribunal through the voluminous evidence presented before us indicate the attempt to economically cripple a community on a scale unprecedented in the post–independence history of communal violence in the country.
Looting and Destruction of Property
The destruction of property across Gujarat, in the most affected cities of Ahmedabad and Vadodara, as also elsewhere, was thorough and precise. The extensive evidence before the Tribunal shows that this, too, was part of the pattern and the planning behind the attacks; to devastate and completely destroy the property of the targeted Muslim section. The Tribunal has photographs and written and oral evidence that shows how even RCC slabs of homes and shops caved in because of the intensity of the chemically–fuelled fires.
As significant is the fact that every single Muslim household and business establishment was looted before being reduced to an empty shell. There are instances where, at the more affluent shops located on the main roads in Ahmedabad or Bharuch, the middle and affluent classes among Hindus, women and girls noticeably, were seen looting choice collections from a boutique or shop before it was completely destroyed. Whether it was household articles painfully collected by the working classes, or dowries that were carefully amassed over the years for girls to be married, the marauding mobs made sure that no recovery was possible and that to rebuild their lives, the affected families would, literally, have to begin from scratch. This was evident all over, whether in the Panchmahal, Himmatnagar, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Chhotaudaipur, Anand and Kheda or in the cities of Vadodara and Ahmedabad.
Most of the attacks in the first round of violence began on the morning of February 28, or on March 1, the day of the Bharat bandh. From March 1–3, in all the affected villages, Muslims were forced to flee their homes taking nothing with them. When these were also attacked, they had to flee. Although in a large number of cases, people managed to escape from their villages and reach safer places, many were chased, caught, killed, and sometimes even dismembered and completely burnt. Women were stripped naked and repeatedly sexually assaulted by mobs. In many cases, the dead bodies have not been found.
Once the Muslims fled from their villages, mobs looted and then burnt their houses and shops at leisure. In many villages, houses were being torched until as late as March 10–13, and, in some instances, even later.
The evidence recorded before the Tribunal shows that while Godhra provided the pretext, there was prior mobilisation of men and materials, and an organisation in place that made possible the systematic and calculated preparations that preceded many of the massacres. The mass use of gas cylinders in Ahmedabad and many other places, even while there was a shortage a fortnight before, the training needed to torch the fire–proof showroom of Harsoliya Motors (Sabarkantha), the selection of the kind of blasting devices and detonators needed to destroy Muslim–owned factories and establishments in the GIDC area in Modasa (Sabarkantha) or Vatwa (Ahmedabad), while the areas were under curfew between March 1–3; they all suggest detailed military–style pre–planning.
Take Over of Muslims’ Agricultural Holdings
The Tribunal has received evidence from across the state of Gujarat that a deliberate motive behind driving Muslims out of villages where they have lived for centuries, and where an economic and social boycott is even today being carried out, is to surreptitiously and illegally take over landholdings held by them.
Military Precision and Planning behind Attacks
l How the operations were executed: Large mobs running into thousands were led by well–known elected representatives from the BJP, leaders of the VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS and even cabinet ministers. From the evidence before us, it is clear that these leaders quite often carried computer printouts of the names and addresses of Muslims homes and shops. Field operations were co–ordinated by a central command using mobile phones.
l The formation of arson battalions: The evidence before the Tribunal clearly points to scores of key actors leading large mobs, fully aware of what they had to do and achieving their task with precision. This suggests the existence of a private, trained militia running into thousands in Gujarat. A militia, moreover, established and made fighting fit through training camps, distribution of weaponry and hate propaganda glorifying violence. Weapons used in attacks, such as swords, were of the same brand, and must obviously have been distributed in advance across large tracts of the state.The deployment in many of the attacks of large tempos or trucks, full of hired hooligans, some local and others from UP, MP or Maharashtra, identified as such because they spoke in Hindi or Marathi, is a worrying indicator of the scale and reach of these underground operations.
Village–level evidence points to hired mobs, where the hooligans were equipped with trishuls, iron rods and swords, carrying supplies of water, salted beans and peanuts and liquor pouches and paid Rs. 500 per day or Rs.1,000 per night.
lProfile of the assailants: The leadership of large mobs running into thousands was provided by easily identified elected representatives of the BJP (including cabinet ministers), and others from the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and the RSS. From the evidence before us, it is clear that these leaders were carrying computerised sheets containing people’s names and addresses. Houses were marked off community–wise. Evidence regarding surveys collected in advance and details obtained through revenue and sales tax records, apart from electoral rolls, was placed before the Tribunal. The mobs, arriving in vehicles such as trucks, Tata Sumos, tempos, jeeps and Maruti vans, were led and directed by local Hindu leaders belonging to the sangh parivar. Leaders, who used mobile phones while the attacks were being carried out, have been named by Muslim survivors in the complaints sent to the police by registered post or in the FIRs recorded.
The second rung comprised of the chief executioners who wielded all the weapons. This was the group primarily responsible for the brutal killings, sexual assaults and other abuses. Muslim survivors from many villages told the Tribunal that these aggressors carried identical backpacks filled with pouches of chemicals. The planning was so elaborate that a particular group of people had been assigned only the task of loading guns.
The third group was mainly involved in looting property from the houses and shops. In some of the tribal areas, this group consisted of Adivasis. In some villages, people said that not all of those who came in the mob spoke Gujarati. Some of them were also speaking in Marathi and Hindi.
l A well–financed operation: Money, in several instances, was an added factor in mobilising mobs. The Tribunal has recorded the evidence of four witnesses who attended training camps conducted by the VHP and the BD, often inside local temples. Swords and trishuls were sold to those attending. They were indoctrinated into being prepared at all times to attack Muslims and assured that if someone lost his life performing his ‘duty’, his dependants would be paid an adequate sum of money; one witness said that a few lakhs was promised as compensation. The propaganda and the indoctrination created fanatics who were comforted by the assurance that, were something to happen to them, their family members would be well looked after.
In many villages in Vadodara rural, Panchmahal and Dahod districts, monetary incentives and liquor were offered to Adivasis to kill Muslims. Three witnesses from Mora told the Tribunal that two Sindhis from Godhra had come to Mora on the night of February 28, offering money and liquor as inducement to attack Muslims and this helped in assembling mobs. They also held meetings in other areas like Methral and Suliath to plan attacks.
Such access to resources raises the critical question as to who funded these operations and from where such huge resources had come from. From the evidence of expert witnesses and victims recorded before the Tribunal, it is clear that groups like the RSS, the VHP and the BD have access to large sums.
Complicity of Civil Society
With their relentless hate campaign, the masterminds of the violence ensured such complicity from civil society in their murderous deeds, that there were very few instances of members of the majority community coming out to protect Muslims. This complicity was due to the following factors.
l Lack of remorse
The visible lack of remorse among a large section of the Hindu educated middle–class, about the enormous human tragedy that affected such large numbers of people in the state, is a disturbing feature of the violence in Gujarat. This situation is quite unlike that in other communal riots, where this social segment played a role in the restoration of peace. In many Hindu middle–class localities, Hindus who had social relationships with their Muslim neighbours, gave encouragement and shelter to attackers.
There was enthusiastic participation of middle–class Hindus in the looting of shops. Right from the beginning of the violence, statements like, ‘a lesson needed to be taught’ and other justifications of the violence were often heard from middle–class Hindus, ranging from university teachers to petty businessmen. It is almost as if the affected people are the antagonistic ‘other’, beyond the pale of human ethics and morality. There is an eerie silence in which victims of the carnage appear to have been rendered invisible.
l Terror generated by threats and hate speech
The Tribunal has recorded evidence that clearly shows how Hindus who sheltered and supported affected Muslim families were threatened and abused. A witness as highly placed as Shri Piyush Desai, CMD, Wagh Bakri Chai, and a corporate leader belonging to the majority community, took the lead in organising relief and mobilising men from the trading and business groups to initiate reconciliatory measures. Even on the day he deposed before the Tribunal, May 5, Shri Desai was threatened by local VHP–BD goons and asked to stop his activities. If a man as highly placed as him could be so threatened, imagine an ordinary citizen or a family wanting to help his/her neighbour. Even retired High Court judges and lawyers did not have the courage to come out openly against the goons, for they, too, felt unsafe.
l Tirades against peace initiatives, secularists
In their public exhortations and speeches, hate pamphlets and articles published in blatantly communal newspapers like Sandesh, and mouthpieces like Hindu Vision and Hotline, top level state functionaries in Gujarat and their minions, have specifically targeted the small number of men and women from Gujarat and outside, who have stood out at this moment of crisis, speaking for sanity and reason, and against hatred.
Among those singled out for slander, abuse and threat were senior journalists Shri Batuk Vora and Shri Digant Oza from Ahmedabad, social activists Shri Rohit Prajapati, Smt. Trupti Shah and Shri Jussar Bandukwala from Vadodara, Star News’ political editor Shri Rajdeep Sardesai and co–editor Communalism Combat, Smt. Teesta Setalvad. In early April, danseuse Su. Mrinalini Sarabhai was targeted simply because she took a serious initiative for peace in Ahmedabad. On June 11, Shri Modi stated, "Those journalists who cover Gujarat… may meet the fate of Daniel Pearl… Cover communal riots at your own risk, look at Daniel Pearl." This is nothing short of threat and intimidation, an utterance unworthy of the post of a chief political executive.
In this context, the Tribunal pays tribute to each one of the witnesses — from Ahmedabad and Vadodara as much as from far–flung towns and villages, in Sabarkantha, Mehsana, Himmatnagar, Bharuch, Ankleshwar, and Dahod — who ignored serious threats and deposed before us in their quest for justice.
Use of Hindu Religious Symbols
Among the clear patterns that emerge from the state wide violence in Gujarat, is the widespread use of upper caste Hindu symbols: fire, to kill and burn; trishuls, as weapons of assault; ‘Hulladiya Hanuman’ (literally, ‘Riot Hanuman’) idols, to symbolise conquest over Muslim places of worship. The ethnic cleansing was premeditated and the plan had been worked out to the last detail. The slogan, ‘Jai Shri Ram!’ was scrawled on the external walls of Hindu houses and shops, so that Muslim premises could be easily identified at the time of attack.
Shrines, mosques and madrassas, several of them dating back to Gaikwadi and even earlier times, were damaged in the violence. In several cases of attacks on mosques, copies of the Koran was vandalised or burnt (Naroda Gaon and Patiya, Paldi, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Raja Rani Talav, Kisanwadi, Navayard and Raghovpura village, Tarsali). Books, furniture and other items in mosques and durgahs were damaged or burnt. The installation of ‘Hulladiya Hanuman’ was evident in many religious places that were attacked or destroyed. Temples were quickly constructed on destroyed Muslim property.
Use of Hate Speech and Hate Writing
Widespread hate propaganda was conducted through pamphlets distributed by Hindu communal organisations in different areas in large numbers. The content of these included calls for the social and economic boycott of Muslims, warnings about Muslims constituting a danger to the survival of Hindus, urging Hindus to awaken and to decimate and drive Muslims out from India.
Much of the local media played a reprehensibly partisan and inflammatory role right from February 28 onwards. Local political leaders used the electronic media in the most despicable manner. The intentions of leaders belonging to the ruling party and their affiliates becomes very clear if one examines the speeches on local TV channels like JTV, Deep and VNM. For example, inflammatory speeches by certain leaders on local cable news channels on March 15, after the Machchipith incident in Vadodara, prompted combing operations by the police. Despite several appeals to the administration requesting action against particularly offensive local news channels, the police commissioner only acted in the last week of March, by filing FIRs, ironically, against two of the relatively less provocative channels.
It would be no exaggeration to state that the local press, particularly Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar (the former with greater impunity) was party to fuelling communal tension in the state through sensationalised, provocative, and, at times, highly inflammatory reporting. Sandesh, for example, carried the headline on February 28: ‘Around 10 Hindu girls pulled out of the railway carriage by a group of religious fanatics’ even though the report that followed merely said this was a rumour.
Hate propaganda: There are numerous examples of motivated and false propaganda used to fuel local passions leading to violence against Muslims. (See chapter, ‘Preparations for Violence’). One example bears mention here. Shri Dalsukh Maharaj of Sanjeli, mobilised a mammoth crowd of 30–35,000 people, mostly Adivasis, some of whom had gathered for a wedding, to slaughter local Muslims and to burn and loot their houses. Baseless propaganda about the abduction of Adivasi women by Muslim men, giving communal colour to the prevalent exploitation of Adivasis by all traders to paint a picture of the Muslims as ‘exploiters’, were some of the strategies behind Hindutva’s mobilisation among Bhils and other tribals.
Similarly, the sustained propagation of myths and falsehoods such as, ‘Alarming increase in Muslim population’, ‘Hindu women being violated by Muslims’, ‘More Hindus than Muslims killed in all earlier riots’, ‘Muslims collecting weapons to attack Hindus’, were used throughout Gujarat to generate widespread hostility against Muslims.
A top district–level official who deposed before the Tribunal provided evidence of distribution of CDs and pamphlets among Adivasis and others in Panchmahal, that contained blatant falsehoods about Muslims. The administration had to crack down on recording and video parlours and photocopy shops engaged in this nasty business.
Muslim refugees from Pandharwada (Panchmahal), Randhikpur (Dahod), Sanjeli (Dahod), Por (Gandhinagar), Rajpardi (Bharuch), Unjha, Dasaj (Mehsana) and several other areas reported the steady build–up of anti–Muslim propaganda through meetings, leaflets, etc. over the last decade and, more intensively, in the last few years. ‘Kodar Doctor’, one of the chief accused in the Pandharwada violence, would tell Muslim villagers that Pandharwada was the land of the five Pandavas where Muslims were not wanted; they were repeatedly told to go away to Pakistan.
Mobilisation of Women, Adivasis and Dalits
l Adivasis: The systematic organisation of tribals by the Sangh Parivar and attacks on Christian missionaries working among the former has been common in western and central India in recent years. Evidence before the Tribunal shows how determinedly the Sangh Parivar had been organising Adivasis over the past few years and how this work had intensified a few months prior to the violence.
In the tribal dominated districts of Panchmahal, Banaskantha and Sabarkantha, the landscape presents a profusion of saffron flags aflutter over freshly painted, well maintained temples. This is clear evidence of the growing political presence of these forces in the tribal regions.
The incitement of tribal communities, and the targeting of Muslims in rural areas, is a disturbing feature of the recent violence in Gujarat. Violence spread to rural areas by March 3. There is clear evidence that Adivasis were incited by Hindu communal organisations to attack Muslim houses and property in Vadodara, Banaskantha and Sabarkantha districts.
While this was a discernible and distrubing trend in many parts of Gujarat, especially sections of Panchmahal, Sabarkantha and Dahod, where the direct political influence of the RSS/VHP/BD had spread, in other pockets adivasis and Dalits rose in defence of Muslims: Rabaris in some villages of Panchmahal actually prevented a massacre and the Tribunal has examples of Dalits, too, in rural areas who sheltered Muslims for days before they could escape. Often this was at great risk to their lives.
l Dalits: Dalits and members of the denotified tribes like Waghris and Charas were active in the violence in urban areas, especially in the more gruesome instances of rape, killing and bestiality. The tragedy behind this pattern lies in the fact that influential and dominant sections of caste Hindu society have driven a wedge among the oppressed sections, pitting Dalits, Waghris and Charas against the Muslim minority. In urban Gujarat, especially Ahmedabad, Dalits and Muslims live in close proximity. The lower castes were cynically trained to indulge in violence of a kind that dehumanises the perpetrators themselves. The Tribunal has recorded evidence to show that, especially in the past two years, in Gujarat, the Bajrang Dal paid salaries of Rs. 3–5,000 a month, to lure unemployed Dalit youth to camps where indoctrination against Muslims and arms training were the main activities.
Women: Women, especially from the affluent classes of Hindu society, were visible participants in the violence; in some cases, they even led the assaults and instigated Hindu men to commit sexual crimes against Muslim women. Examples of this are the BJP’s elected representatives, namely, Su. Maya Kotdani and Su. Amita Patel, who guided marauding mobs that indulged in the most vile forms of violence at Naroda Gaon and Naroda Patiya. Or the large number of women and young girls from elite sections of Ahmedabad who came in their cars to loot from the shops on CG Road. The Durga Vahini, the militant women’s outfit affiliated to the RSS/VHP/BD, which gives arms training to women, has a significant presence in Gujarat.
Communal violence spread to new areas
Unlike in the earlier riots of 1969, 1985 and 1992, which were largely restricted to ‘traditionally riot–prone’ areas, new areas were affected this time. Areas where people have co–existed peacefully for generations have been targets of violence, e.g., Pira Mita and Fatehgunj. This trend began in 1992, when Surat, a city which had, until then, remained unaffected by the communal virus, was first racked by large-scale violence including gang rapes of Muslim women.
The violence affected not only Muslims but poor Hindus as well, because of loss of livelihood, and in many cases, the burning of their homes. Poor and Dalit women have complained to citizens’ fact-finding teams of harassment and sexual abuse by the police during curfew.
Preparation for violence — Immediate and Long Term
The Tribunal recorded extensive evidence on the systematic pre–planning and preparations that also explain the military precision with which the violence was led and its devastating consequences for the state’s Muslims. The evidence that was put before the Tribunal is dealt with in a separate section (See chapter, Preparations for Violence). Suffice it to say here that meetings, training camps and other forms of mass mobilisation were all part of the planning and preparation for the ensuing violence.
In almost all the affected villages, meetings were held on the evening of February 27 or on February 28 to plan the attacks. In some villages, these meetings were described as ‘Shanti Samiti’ (‘Peace Committee’) meetings, but, curiously, as in the case of Sanjeli (Dahod), participants in these so-called ‘Peace Committee’ meetings led the attacks the following day. In Piplod (Dahod), the attack was launched at 4 p.m. on February 28, soon after a four–hour–long meeting in the town, destroying the handful of Muslim houses in the area.
Evidence before the Tribunal also reveals there were many cases where the Muslims fled the villages before the attacks, thanks to their being alerted in time by their peace loving Hindu neighbours. This was true especially in Bharuch, Ankleshwar and Sabarkantha districts and in parts of Panchmahal.
The Tribunal is led to the conclusion that the Gujarat carnage has its roots in the sustained anti–Muslim mobilisation by the Sangh Parivar, among specific social groups. In the face of all the evidence of prior planning, the ‘pratikriya’ (‘spontaneous reaction’) explanation for the post–Godhra violence touted by officials and political leaders is hopelessly inadequate, to say the least.
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