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#India – Not tortured as badly as I was last time: Prashant Rahi #prison #humanrights

Anahita Mukherji, TNN | Oct 17, 2013,

Pic- courtesy Shikha Rahi

Rahi has been arrested on grounds of being a Naxal courier, he rubbished the claim.

NAGPUR: Two years ago, at a sparsely-furnished flat in suburban Mumbai, Prashant Rahi, a soft-spoken social activist with a quiet demeanour, told TOI that he had been subjected to third-degree torture in Uttarakhand, where he had been jailed for allegedly being a Naxalite. Rahi had said that he was stripped, beaten mercilessly “in parts of the body where the pain is unbearable” and had petrol inserted into his anus.

TOI met him once again at the high-security Nagpur Central Jail, where he has spent over a month after his re-arrest on charges of Naxalism on September 1. “This time, I was not tortured badly like the last time,” said Rahi. He said he was “only badly beaten twice,” including one occasion where he refused to allow police to check his emails.

“The fact that Prashant Rahi should make a comparison between levels of torture, and talk of the difference between being tortured badly and not-so-badly speaks volumes of the extent of human rights violation that takes place in custody. Beating is equivalent to torture,” said Shashikumar Velath, programmes director, Amnesty International India, which has run a campaign to prevent Rahi from being tortured.

“Nobody in detention should be tortured, regardless of what they are suspected of. This isn’t the first time Rahi has said he was tortured in custody and, unless those responsible are held accountable, it is unlikely to be the last. Unfortunately many police officials in India still believe torture is acceptable and that they are above the law,” Velath said.

While Rahi has been arrested on grounds of being a Naxal courier, he rubbished the claim. Since his release from Uttarakhand (he was first arrested in 2007 and released on bail in 2011), he has worked on cases of other political prisoners in India, like himself. “Many of the cases I fought were successful. I have fought for some very old people who were in jail, including some who were incapacitated and on their death-bed,” Rahi said.

Rahi’s lawyers, Surendra Gadling and Jagdish Meshram, believe his human rights activism on behalf of political prisoners marked him as an obvious target for arrest.

While the police have said they caught Rahi in Gondia district of Maharashtra, Rahi said he was in Raipur ( Chhattisgarh) when he was picked off the streets, pushed into a car and taken on a 12-hour journey to Gondia.

“There were only two hearings left in the Uttarakhand case against Prashant. We were expecting the case to finish soon. His re-arrest looks like a ploy to prevent him from being free. It is obvious he is being targeted for his work on political prisoners,” Rahi’s wife Chandrakala said over phone from Uttarakhand. She said his train ticket to Raipur was confiscated by the police at the time of arrest.

Incidentally, Rahi had told TOI two years ago that he had been picked up by Uttarakhand police in a similar manner. He said he was picked off the streets of Dehradun and stuffed into a car, whereas the official story is that he was picked up from the forests of Udham Singh Nagar.

“The police say JNU student Hem Mishra, also arrested on charges of Naxalism, had mentioned Rahi’s name in connection with Naxal activities. This is not true. Hem was tortured in police custody. He has never mentioned Rahi,” said Meshram, lawyer for both Mishra and Rahi.

Rahi is one among a whole host of social activists arrested on charges of Naxalism. Cases against some others, such as Binayak Senand Arun Ferreira, have collapsed in court.

  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/press-release-arrest-of-hem-mishra-and-prashant-rah-silencing-voices-of-dissent/" target="_blank">PRESS RELEASE- Arrest of Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi – Silencing voices of dissent
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/india-prashant-rahi-who-was-trying-to-help-cases-of-political-prisoners-arrested-wtfnews/" target="_blank"> #India – Prashant Rahi, who was trying to help cases of political prisoners arrested #WTFnews

 

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#India – How to deal with Maosim, put poor behind bars #Chhattsigarh #WTFnews

Face to Face: Vrinda Grover

The conviction rate in Dantewada and Jagdalpur is one and three per cent. The entire objective appears to be to keep them in jail
Souzeina Mushtaq Delhi

The brutal assault on tribal school teacher Soni Sori by policemen led by an officer in Chhattisgarh, involving stones inserted in her private parts, had shocked the nation. Her continued imprisonment, after being branded a Maoist, on “false charges and fabricated evidence”, has been widely criticized by civil society and human rights groups in Indiaand abroad. Eminent lawyer Vrinda Grover, who is representing the case of Soni Sori and her nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, recently met them when they were brought to the court in Dantewada, and also in Jagdalpur jail, Chhattisgarh. Excerpts from an interview with Hardnews:

You met Soni Sori and her nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, in jail. What is the status of their cases?

I had gone to Chhattisgarh, particularly to Jagdalpur and Dantewada, to argue on behalf of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi. Soni Sori was facing six cases; she has been acquitted in four of them, in one case she has got bail. This particular case is the last one, and is still going on. Lingaram Kodopi was facing two criminal cases. He has been acquitted in one, the other is pending.

It is important to underline that in all these cases, the chargesheets filed had serious criminal charges against both of them, such as attacks on an MLA’s house or burning of trucks or being part of a larger Naxal crowd that has attacked some place. The sections invoked in those chargesheets were of a very serious nature, including the Arms Act, the Explosive Substances Act, and serious sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). However, in all of the cases, they have been acquitted. The attempt was to project them as dangerous, dreaded Naxal leaders, and they were not given bail in any of them. Since there was no evidence against them, the court had no option but to acquit them.

However, they have been in custody since 2011. So, two years are over. In this particular case, the allegations were that a contractor, BK Lala, on behalf of Essar company, was paying off the Naxals not to disrupt their work. And that Soni and Lingaram were the conduits and they had come to take the money and pass it on to the Naxals.

Ironically, in this case, the seizure memo says that Lala was in possession of Rs 15 lakh; but he is out on bail. The Essar manager, who is alleged to have benefitted from this, is also out on bail. The only two people in jail are Lingaram Kodopi and Soni Sori, who stood to gain nothing in this entire so-called transaction. I am not even for a minute saying that the transaction is true; the whole case is totally fabricated and false.

Soni’s father, who came to meet her in the Dantewada court, was on crutches.  His right foot was severely swollen and he had tied a little rag around it. The foot was in a very bad shape. I am not sure, if, medically, his foot can be retrieved anymore. He received this injury because Naxals shot him, as he refused to become a Naxal informer. So that is the real story of this family which is playing itself out, and which actually illustrates the story of the adivasis in Chhattisgarh who are today facing multiple assaults by the State.

How do you call these cases false and fabricated?

Take this case as an example. Framing the charge is the first stage of a criminal trial. The two people who stood to gain from this so-called financial transaction are out on bail. They do not care if the case trials drag on. In fact, it is in their interest to delay and drag the case. The evidence, if at all, is against them. There is no evidence against Soni and Linga. So they are interested in delaying and protracting the issue before the court. The judge herself told me that, for the last one-and-a-half years, Lala and his counsel did not argue. Even this time, his counsel did not argue. He did not turn up. He put in some
medical application.

This incident happened in September 2011. By October-November, the chargesheet should have been filed. From 2011 to 2013, why have the charges not been framed? What is the explanation for this? Why is nobody in the entire legal system worried or concerned that two people are in jail for no fault of theirs?

The maximum punishment under the sections that they are being accused under in the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act is two years. In this case, they will get acquitted because there is no legal evidence against them. However, they have already served a punishment. What kind of legal system allows this? Why is the court allowing these kinds of delays to happen?  Why does the court allow these adjournments?

Why do you think this is happening all the time? Surely, Soni Sori’s case is not the only one…

This is a much bigger story. Perhaps the case of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi reachedDelhibecause they happened to be here and know some people. But this is a story of a large number of vulnerable, poor adivasis inSouth Chhattisgarhtoday. To my mind, it is part of a State project, and it is extremely horrific that a democratic State deliberately allows this kind of State project in the name of controlling some Naxalite activity, which is an armed group, and is throwing a challenge to certain policies, particularly economic policies, land acquisitions, mining activities. The State wants to send a chilling message to the entire community that anybody who protests, anybody who dissents from the policy that the Centre and the State government have decided — which is only meant to profit certain private and other business houses — those people will be put away. This is what is happening. The most frightening part of the story is that this is actually playing out in front of the judiciary. The courts are seeing these cases before them. A court can make out that there is no evidence because the entire case is false and fabricated. Yet, the police and the prosecution continue to file such cases.  And courts are not discharging them, not granting them bail.

The entire chargesheet before the trial court in Dantewada does not have one single piece of evidence to show that either Linga or Soni have anything to do with Naxals. It is a perfect case for discharge. It is a story that has been concocted. The story was made up because they wanted to project Linga and Soni as dangerous Naxal leaders. Like all the other cases have collapsed so will this. Clearly, what the police, the prosecution, and the State are determined to do is to punish them through the legal process by incarcerating them.

I also want to point out that, invariably, the adivasis, who are jailed in all these so-called Naxal cases, are not even produced before the court because they are given ‘administrative excuses’ that vehicles or security guards are not available. Since they are branded in so-called ‘Naxal cases’, therefore, a larger contingent of CRPF, and so on, needs to accompany them. It is another matter that these cases collapse like a house of cards each time. I am told that Soni had to argue, request and plead with the jail superintendent of Jagdalpur to allow her and Linga to be taken to the Dantewada court. She had told them that her lawyer had come all the way fromDelhi. The jail superintendent made special efforts, contacted the police, and saw that Soni and Linga were produced before the court.

What is the condition of the adivasis in the area?

There are Naxals operating in some parts ofSouth Chhattisgarhand the State is not able to pick up most of the Naxal leadership. What they are doing is picking up large numbers of adivasis during search operations. They are nabbed, and thrown into jails; all kinds of totally fabricated cases are made against them.

In this particular case, for instance, they have also invoked other serious sections like waging war against the State, sedition, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act — all these are meant to over-awe the mind of the court when the judge considers a bail application or has to decide if this is an appropriate stage of discharge. The very fact that these are very serious sections would obviously have an impact on the court — although it should not. And the court should be able to see the deliberate, devious plan that the State is playing in order to keep these ordinary, very poor, marginalized, vulnerable people in jail.

Most adivasis in Jagdalpur and Dantewada do not have private lawyers. They cannot afford them. Legal Aid lawyers represent them. We all know and it is an established fact across the country that Legal Aid lawyers do not provide effective legal representation. For many of them, their families do not come to visit them because the jails and the courts are too far. They are also insecure. For instance, if someone from the village comes to meet them, they are abused, called names, picked up by the police, further harassed. They are told: ‘You are also Naxal informers; therefore, you have come to meet him.’ All this is happening very far away from the capital. Jagdalpur and Dantewada are faraway places. Nobody is going to see what is happening in these courts, what is the condition of adivasis in jail — why are they being incarcerated in jail for so many years?

I have been informed that the conviction rate in Dantewada and Jagdalpur is one and three per cent, respectively. So, the entire objective appears to be to keep them in jail for three to four years. Trials drag on for very long and eventually everybody knows that they will get acquitted. But who is going to compensate these people for their loss of liberty, for the agony that they are suffering, for the trauma that the family suffers, for the impact that their incarceration is having on the family? There is absolutely no accountability for this.

Why do the courts keep them inside prisons?

I think the answer lies in what the lady prosecutor said in a very brief argument in the court. Her argument was that all the offences were made out against the accused. Second, these were grave crimes. Third, it was a Naxal-affected area. As far as I see it, the first one is her legal opinion. The second one is a statement of fact. The third one is not a statement that can be made in a court of law. A statement saying this is a Naxal-affected area is a very underhand attempt to over-awe the judiciary. The judiciary of Chhattisgarh should not allow this State project of completely crushing the adivasis. It places a very huge responsibility on the judiciary.

Have the jail conditions improved?

When I met both of them, they looked much weaker. In Indian prisons, it is high time that we raise the issue of what kind of diet is given to the prisoners. To give a person, day in and day out, only one dal and one vegetable, it is obviously going to affect their health. However, it is not the fault of the jail. The diet that is permitted by law for undertrials and convicted prisoners is in itself a poor diet. That is what the law of this land is. I am saying the law is wrong. The jail manual is wrong. You have to have a better diet for people who are in your custody. Let us not allow the State to escape its responsibility by saying that these are poor people and at least they are getting two meals a day. These are hardworking people and they have multiple sources of nutrition when they are living on their own in their villages. They understand the vegetables and nutrition way better, which the jail manual completely loses out on. Therefore, everybody’s health condition is going to deteriorate inside the jail.

Has any action been taken against Ankit Garg, the police officer who has been accused in the alleged sexual torture of Soni Sori?

Yes. The President of India has awarded him a gallantry award for the sexual torture of Soni Sori. That is a statement of fact. The petition saying that torture had taken place has been pending in the Supreme Court for two years. The apex court has not thought of it as a matter that needs to be taken up urgently. Soni has said repeatedly that, under the directions of Ankit Garg, she was stripped, tortured in custody, and the torture was of a sexualized nature. It is perhaps the most heinous offence that can be committed against a woman. At a time, post-December 16, 2012, when the whole country spoke out about violence against women, it is extremely regrettable that the highest court has still not decided this matter. Ankit Garg’s President’s Gallantry Award should have been snatched away, at least while the matter is pending.

The issue was repeatedly highlighted by women’s rights groups; the National Commission for Women (NCW) conducted a jail visit. They went to Jagdalpur jail to see the condition of women prisoners. They met Soni Sori and others. But over maybe two years, the NCW report, despite repeated reminders, requests, meetings by women rights groups, has not been made public. They had talked to Soni, and Soni had told them about the kind of torture she had faced in Raipur. She and other prisoners would be stripped and searched; she narrated the humiliation they had to suffer. But NCW has till date not made its report public.

Is it true that women prisoners have organized themselves in jail?

Well, they have not organized themselves. They are seeking their rights as prisoners and undertrials. For instance, the food that they were being served earlier often had worms and other insects. So they went on a hunger strike and demanded that they be given a separate kitchen where they can cook their food. After they went on a hunger strike, the jail superintendent agreed to their demands.

Now there is a separate kitchen where they cook their own food. However, they still have complaints. The quality of the raw material, whether it is dal or flour, is bad; there are often worms and insects in it. Clearly, it is the responsibility of the jail authorities and the State to ensure that proper quality food is given to them.

How do Soni and Lingaram see their future?

When I met Linga, he asked me if he would be rearrested again after his release. Such is the future he is staring at. Here is an educated young man from the adivasi community who, if allowed, and if not persecuted and tortured by the police, can provide true leadership to the adivasi community. He has equipped himself to be a young voice from his community. But the State has targeted him.

It is the case with Soni as well. I do not understand why theIndianStateis afraid of such people who can bring about a positive change in their communities, in democratic ways, without taking up arms.

Pic: Joe Athialy

From the print issue of Hardnews

 

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#India – Two champions of people’s causes , both from Uttarakhand arrested in the name of Maoism #fabricated

hem

Sanjay Singh : Dehradun, Mon Sep 16 2013,

The two alleged Maoistcouriers arrested in Gadchiroli are both activists who have taken up various social causes in Uttarakhand.Prashant Rahi, 54, is an engineer-turned-journalist who hails from Maharashtra and whose daughter Shikha is a filmmaker, an assistant director for Taare Zameen Par. He was arrested in 2007, too, for alleged Maoist links and got bail thee years later. He participated in labour and other movements in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh in the 1990s before settling in what is now Uttarakhand, where he worked as a journalist. He was working on providing legal aid to suspected Maoists — “political prisoners” — when he was arrested, allegedly while organising a Maoist training camp.

Hem Mishra, 30, cut his teeth as a student-activist in Almora before moving four years ago to JNU to study Chinese. The causes he took up included water, forest and land, and a shift of the capital from Dehradun to Gairsain. Every year, he would join a programme to pay tribute to those killed in the Rampur Tiraha firing incident in 1994 during the statehood agitation, say people who know him.

Mishra was arrested in August while allegedly couriering material on behalf on Maoists. The arrest of Rahi came days later, in September.

“As part of the Progressive Students’ Front, Hem used to participate in street plays and recite poems written by Girish Tiwari Girda,” says Shamsher Singh Bishta, himself an activist in Almora. “He participated in a padyatra in support of the demand for shifting the capital.”

Retired teacher Keshavdutta Mishra describes Hem, the youngest of his three sons, as “an intelligent boy who loves to participate in cultural activities”. Hem graduated from the SSJ campus of Kumaon University. “Four years ago, he was selected for MSc in mathematics and also for Chinese in JNU,” his father says. “He chose the JNU course… Yes, he is very social and a lover of music. But he has never carried home any literature that would suggest he is involved in Maoist activities.”

He says it is normal practice in Gadchiroli to describe any person after his arrest as a Naxal.

Rahi, 54, or Prashant Sangalikar — police also call him Navin and Mahesh — hails from Nashik. He won a B Tech from Banaras Hindu University in 1982, followed by an M Tech, and worked in a power company in UP’s Sonbhadra district, a left-wing extremism-affected area.

Intelligence sources in Uttarakhand cite a long history with movements — a labour movement in Maharashtra in the 1990s, work with youth organisation Purvanchal Nauzwan Sabha in UP, and a movement for rehabilitation of people affected by the Tehri dam project in what is now Uttarakhand. He had arrived in this region in 1993 and worked till 2000 as a journalist with a local newspaper. What raised suspicion that he was a Maoist sympathiser were his efforts to provide legal help to people arrested for spreading the Maoist ideology.

“Police got information in 2004 about the presence of Maoists in the forest areas near Saufutia. They found evidence suggesting training camps,” an intelligence officer said. This led to a watch on suspected sympathisers and Rahi was arrested from Nanakmata in December 2007. He was charged under the IPC sections for waging or abetting war against the state, sedition and other offences, and under UAPA for being a member of a terrorist organisation or gang.

Police claimed to have recovered copies of a magazine, Aamukh, with articles relating to the CPI (Maoist)’s expansion to Uttarakhand and suggesting it had set up a zonal committee.

His daughter Shikha, then 24, had fought a long legal battle for his release. In 2011, after his release on bail, she had told The Indian Express that the police had accused her father of having conducted training camps in villages.

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Mumbai Top Cop – Impose curfew, fine on villagers for helping Naxals, who are ‘ snakes ‘ #WTFnews

Impose curfew, fine on villagers for helping Naxals: Satyapal Singh

Mumbai police commissioner says the Naxals need to be searched, driven out or neutralised by putting ‘collective responsibility’ on villagers
Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh says it is time to admit that the locals are not with the administration despite building roads, bridges and other infrastructure and it has led to little improvement in their quality of life. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh says it is time to admit that the locals are not with the administration despite building roads, bridges and other infrastructure and it has led to little improvement in their quality of life. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
New Delhi: Imposing curfew, slapping collective fine and taking to task Sarpanch and elders in villages found to be giving food and shelter to Naxals are some of the measures suggested by Mumbai commissioner of police Satyapal Singh to cripple the Naxal menace.
Calling Naxals ‘snakes’ for declaring a war against the state, he said, “They (Naxals) need to be searched, driven out or neutralised” by putting “collective responsibility” on villagers as even “passive neutrality” of locals is advantageous to the Maoists and an obstacle for security agencies.
In the latest issue of the Indian Police Journal (IPJ), a compendium of thoughts and comments of senior police and intelligence community officers brought out by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), the 1980-batch Maharashtra cadre police officer was critical about the state of affairs in dealing with Naxal violence, termed as the biggest threat to the internal security of the country.
He wrote that as far as anti-Maoist strategy in the country is concerned, the coordination among government agencies exists “mainly on paper”. He said it was time to admit that the locals are not with the administration despite building roads, bridges and other infrastructure and it has led to little improvement in their quality of life.
The commissioner, in the topic Fire in forest: Tackling Maoist menace, said the Maoist movement needs to be restricted “both physically and psychologically from the general population”.
“To further this, extremist and public movements should be regulated through the institution of collective responsibility meaning thereby that hosting the extremists by one in the village, attending the meeting of extremists, providing them food, etc., blocking the roads by felling trees should hold the entire village responsible. A collective fine for all village residents or curfew for two days may be thought of. Alternatively, the village Sarpanch, police patil and other village-elders should be punished.”
He said every member of a village, above 12 years of age, must be registered with the district administration and be issued an identity card.
“For all regulatory measures, government should consider the enactment of an appropriate law,” Singh wrote in his 20-page piece.
The BPRD, a department for development on policing subjects under the ministry of home affairs, brings out the publication every three months.
The IPS officer stated that while the notions of a ‘red corridor’ swamping large tracts of the country are “exaggerated”, Naxals have enlarged their base and areas of militancy.
“Not a day passes without any Naxal incident in the country. The problem is quite serious. What we see on the surface is the tip of the iceberg,” he said. Singh, who had dealt with the Naxal issue in his earlier stints, said, “The security forces are fighting a dynamic unconventional war against a very intelligent enemy in jungles, hills and sparsely populated terrains-mostly inhabited by tribal and other marginalised sections of society.”
The police officer said he would reply with a “big no” if someone asks that if pumping in huge amounts of funds has resulted in lessening of the Naxal problem or the locals becoming friends of the administration?
“The message is simple and straight. The locals are not with the administration and we should admit it. Even their passive neutrality is advantageous to the Maoist militants and an obstacle for security agencies. Building up roads, bridges and the electrification of villages, where our 70-80% of budget is being spent, has shown little improvement in the quality of life of the locals. We, in administration, perceive roads, bridges, electrification and telephone as symbols of development but the tribal and locals feel otherwise,” he wrote.
Singh, writing at length about the Naxal ideology of snatching power by the barrel of the gun, said this is an unconventional problem which cannot be solved through “usual bureaucratic approach and means”.
“We have to demolish the pillars of strength of the Maoist movement. Many may not agree, but it requires the same strategy that is being employed by the extremists themselves, with only one difference that we have to put the gears of their strategy in reverse order,” he wrote.
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#India – Wrongful acquisition spurs Naxalism: SC

 

Nov 5,2012, DNA

The Supreme Court has slammed the Maharashtra government for denying compensation to a landowner whose plot it acquired in 1981, and it has taken strong objection to a related Bombay high court judgement, warning that such “pro-state” verdicts helped the spread of Naxalism in the country.

On Friday, the apex court scrapped the Bombay high court judgement of November last year which had found fault with the landowner Tukaram Kana Joshi for not filing a petition for compensation from the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC).
The SC directed the MIDC and the Maharashtra state government to pay compensation to Joshi at the prevailing market rate.

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court observed that it was also because of such “pro-state” judgements that the country faced an increase in Naxalism in the industrial and mineral belts.

Justice SB Chauhan and justice Jagdish Singh Khehar said the attitude of some courts in matters of land acquisition had been pro-state till the Nandigram events when they realised that the people would not accept such “anti-poor” judgements.

The judges also ruled that matters relating to land compensation to farmers or landowners squarely fell within the “purview of human rights”.

Earlier, the court had examined the affidavit filed by the Maharashtra chief secretary, explaining the circumstances due to which Joshi was not paid compensation.

In its judgement, the high court had noted that in 1981, there was no legal requirement for issuing notice under section 4 of the land acquisition law and that it was only in 1984 that the amended law made it mandatory to pay compensation.

The HC had also pointed out that Joshi didn’t file any petition or application making a claim, but filed a law suit only in 2009.

“The petitioner (Joshi) is guilty of unexplained laches and therefore, in the extraordinary jurisdiction of this court, under article 226 of the Constitution, he cannot be granted any relief,” justice DK Deshmukh and justice Anoop V Mohta had ruled.
(‘Laches‘ is the legal term for an unreasonable delay in pursuing legal remedy.)

 

 

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