15 Apr 2019

Challenging the Ashram Trust’s Stand on Relics

[The Notice below has been issued in the name of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust in the January 2017 issue of the Oriya monthly magazine “Navaprakash”, published by Navajyoti Karyalaya, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Below is an English translation of the original Notice in Oriya.]

Facts One Should Urgently Know About Relics
(Notice on Relics published in Navaprakash)
Words are insufficient to express the spiritual significance of the sacred Relics of Sri Aurobindo. It can only be realised through profound faith, devotion and sadhana.
Usually, as per the arrangement of The Mother, the Relics are given in Sri Aurobindo Ashram from Sri Aurobindo’s Room. They are well-kept in a series of containers specially prepared and provided by the Ashram. The approval of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust is indispensable regarding the details of the institutions that take them, the places of their installation, the persons who receive them from the Ashram and those who remain in charge, the way in which they are taken and the persons who install them.
It is especially noteworthy that Mother herself has not given the Relics to any individual. She has also not given the right to anybody to hand over or distribute the Relics. If anybody claims that he or she has got the Relics, it means that they are intended for him or her only. If he or she hands them over to any person or institution, it amounts to an unauthorised act. If he wants to hand it over to anybody, it is better to offer it to the Ashram Trust.
It is natural on our part to hope that the true followers of Sri Aurobindo would sportaneously feel the importance and profundity of the enshrinement of this most sacred thing.
When this procedure is broken and the sacred Relics are declared to be enshrined in any place, it means the minimum discipline has not been observed. Therefore Sri Aurobindo Ashram will not be able to approve their authenticity and will not be responsible for them in any way.

 Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

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Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust’s Interference
Without any Right
(On the Notice in Navaprakash
Regarding the Sacred Relics of Sri Aurobindo)
[After reading in Navaprakash the above Notice, which was given in the name of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, we the devotees of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo in Odisha immediately sent the following letter to Shri Manoj Das Gupta, the Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Prof. Manoj Das, and the Manager of Navajyoti Karyalaya of the Ashram on 20 January 2017. Because Prof. Manoj Das had drafted the notice on behalf of the Ashram Trust, we requested him to reply to our letter and publish it along with our letter in the next issue of Navaprakash. As no reply was published in any of the succeeding issues of Navaprakash, we publish below our letter for everybody’s knowledge.]  

A Humble Question to Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust
On Behalf of The Mother’s Devotees in Odisha
We the brothers and sisters of Sri Aurobindo Study Circles in Odisha have been reading Navaprakash since many years. This year (2017) on the inside page of its back cover under the title “Facts One Should Urgently Know About Relics”, we read that those who are enshrining Sri Aurobindo’s Relics taken from private people instead of the Ashram Trust, are not following the principles of the Ashram and not observing the minimum discipline. “Therefore Sri Aurobindo Ashram will not be able to approve their authenticity and will not be responsible for them in any way.” This notice is written by Prof. Manoj Das, an Ashram inmate, on behalf of the Ashram Trust, having been instructed by the so called leaders of The Mother’s work in Odisha and published in the Odia monthly Navaprakash that comes out from Navajyoti Karyalaya of the Ashram. The content of the Notice is not inappropriate, but Prof. Manoj Das should know the two reasons for which the devotees of Odisha are taking the Sacred Relics from individual sources:
1. The Trustees of the Ashram are refusing to give any more Relics to Odisha as a lot of them have already been given.
2. The devotees of Odisha do not consider it wrong to follow the footsteps of the illustrious Shri Manoj Das Gupta, the Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Prof. Manoj Das and Gadadhar Mishra of Cuttack, Matrubhaban. To elaborate a little, in December 2009 Gadadhar Mishra had come to the Ashram to take Relics for eight places in Odisha. At that time Kumud-ben was in charge of The Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s Rooms and the Relics. When she refused to give any Relics to Odisha, Gadadhar Mishra put pressure on her through Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, the Director of Physical Education in Ashram, Managing Trustee Manoj Das Gupta, Prof. Manoj Das and several others. At last Kumud-ben agreed to give Relics for only one place. But as Gadadhar had collected money and given assurance to the organisers in 8 places, he threatened them that if the Relics are not given to all the eight places, he will start a hunger strike in front of the Ashram. To please Gadadhar, the Managing Trustee of the Ashram and Prof. Manoj Das managed to collect 7 Relics (5 from a person outside and 2 from Ashram inmates) and requested Kumud-ben to put those 7 Relics in boxes and keep them along with the one box she had kept ready in Sri Aurobindo’s Room. But Kumud-ben flatly refused to do it. So Manoj Das Gupta, the Managing Trustee, took the initiative and prepared 7 boxes for those 7 Relics and kept those boxes in his Ashram office. On 7 January 2010 when one box of Relics was brought from Sri Aurobindo’s Room to the staircase, the 7 boxes were added to the tray that contained only one box from Sri Aurobindo’s Room. When the tray was brought to the Ashram courtyard, people saw the 8 boxes of Relics on the tray. Immediately Gadadhar Mishra took them via Navajyoti Karyalaya to Odisha and himself installed the 8 Relics in their appointed places from 9 to 21 January 2010. After this the devotees felt free to collect Relics from individual sources and install them in the centres.
Do the gentlemen involved in this affair agree to this account or not? If they agree, then who are responsible for the present state of affairs – the Trustees of the Ashram, Prof. Manoj Das, Navajyoti Karyalaya and Gadadhar Mishra, or the simple, innocent devotees of Odisha? We want Prof. Manoj Das to answer our question as it is he who has drafted and published this strange notice in Navaprakash in the name of the Ashram Trust. The readers of Navaprakash who have read the notice must get a proper answer.
Faithfully yours
The Mother’s Devotees of Odisha

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More Questions Regarding the Notice on Relics
As the concerned persons have no courage to reply to our letter of 20 January 2017, we take for granted that their Notice on Relics in the January 2017 issue of Navaprakash is a false threat. We now raise more questions on some points mentioned in the Notice.
1. The Notice says:
“Words are insufficient to express the spiritual significance of the sacred Relics of Sri Aurobindo. It can only be realised through profound faith, devotion and sadhana.”
If this is true, why give such a Notice, advice, instructions and threats? It will be better to leave it to everybody’s faith, devotion and sadhana.
2. The Notice says:
“Usually, as per the arrangement of The Mother, the Relics are given in Sri Aurobindo Ashram from Sri Aurobindo’s Room. They are well-kept in a series of containers specially prepared and provided by the Ashram. The approval of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust is indispensable regarding the details of the institutions that take them, the places of their installation, the persons who receive them from the Ashram and those who remain in charge, the way in which they are taken and the persons who instal them.”
Here the question arises, have the Ashram Trustees themselves followed the procedure of The Mother in giving Relics when they gave Relics to the 8 places of Odisha on 7 January 2010? In spite of the Mother’s personal attendant Kumud-ben’s warning letter to them and the Ashram Physical Education Director Pranab-da’s written notice in the Ashram, did the Trustees refrain from doing what was not in the procedure before? The Trustees break without hesitation the prevailing arrangements of The Mother and exercise unhindered power, whereas they forbid the centres and devotees outside in the name of The Mother not to do the very things which they themselves have done.
3. The Notice says,
“The approval of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust is indispensable regarding the details of the institutions that take them, the places of their installation, the persons who receive them from the Ashram and those who remain in charge, the way in which they are taken and the persons who install them.”
This is applicable to those who take Relics from the Ashram Trust. But why is the approval of the Ashram Trust indispensable for those who take Relics from other sources? Sri Aurobindo Ashram is not a religious institution and the Trustees are not its Head Priests. The Relics do not become sacred because the Trustees touch and approve them. The Relics are like gold, the purity of which does not depend on who gives them or who takes them, how he takes them, where he installs them and what procedure he follows. It is a well-known fact that those who take Relics to Odisha, whatever sources they may come from, offer their utmost love and respect to them. They treat the Relics with the same respect that was given to them when the Mother was in Her physical body. This attitude and action does not depend on anybody’s approval. Moreover, do the Trustees really inspect how the Relics are taken, how they are enshrined and how the shrines are maintained? If they never do that, why do they put such restrictions and show their false concern?
The Ashram Trust has made four conditions to give Relics to a centre:
1. There must be a registered Trust and the properties of the centre must be in that Trust’s name.
2. The construction of the shrine must be completed.
3. There must be some other activities like a study circle or school running there.
4. At least one person should always be there to see the maintenance of the Relics centre.
The Trustees themselves have made these criterions. But do they follow it in practice in every case? One example can be given here: In August 2016, on Manoj Das’s insistence, the Ashram Trust gave Relics to Sri Aurobindo Pathmandir, Kolkata. Has that centre fulfilled a single condition of the above four?
4. The Notice says:
“It is especially noteworthy that Mother herself has not given the Relics to any individual. She has also not given the right to anybody to hand over or distribute the Relics.”
When The Mother was in her physical body, there was no question of these conditions. But after Mother left Her physical body, the Relics were with her personal attendants. Some inmates and devotees outside had the privilege of getting these precious objects from them. When the Trustees stopped giving Relics to Odisha, the devotees started collecting them from these privileged persons and installing them with due respect and care. Have not the Trustees done the same thing on 7 January 2010? Did those 7 Relics come from Sri Aurobindo’s Room? When people only follow the example of the Trustees, why do the Trustees get irritated?
5. The Notice says at the end:
“When this procedure is broken and the sacred Relics are declared to be enshrined in any place, it means the minimum discipline has not been observed. Therefore Sri Aurobindo Ashram will not be able to approve their authenticity and will not be responsible for them in any way.”
There is no justification for writing this as Sri Aurobindo Ashram is not a religious institution ruled by Head Priests with fixed rules and procedures which create also the possibility of breaking them. Those who take Relics from personal sources never seek the approval of the Trustees. They never make the Trustees responsible for the authenticity of the Relics, so the Trustees need not unnecessarily worry about it. As the Trustees feel that they can act freely, so too innumerable devotees in the centres are inspired by the Mother’s ideals and feel free to offer their services to Her in various ways.
Very recently we learnt that the imprudent Managing Trustee Manoj Das Gupta was persuaded by Manoj Das and Gadadhar Mishra to write an official letter on 10 September 2018 to the Secretary of the Home Department, Govt. of Odisha, in which he requested him not to offer the Police Guard of Honour to Sri Aurobindo’s Relics unless there is a certifying letter from the Ashram Trust. As the Home Department of the Govt. of Odisha did not pay any heed to such a foolish letter and continued to offer the Guard of Honor, Manoj Das Gupta, Manoj Das and Gadadhar Mishra got frustrated and instigated a mischievous person to file a case against the person who had installed Sri Aurobindo’s Relics in his centre on 18 January 2019 without referring it to the Ashram Trust or to the Cuttack centre, Matrubhaban. The case has been accepted by the High Court of Odisha on 7 February 2019.
It is very strange how the Trustees act like Head Priests in matters like Sri Aurobindo’s Relics when they declare themselves secular in matters where Sri Aurobindo’s own prestige is concerned! When the question came up to stop the publication of the derogatory book on Sri Aurobindo written by Peter Heehs (an Ashramite), the Managing Trustee wrote proudly, “We neither prescribe nor proscribe!” This statement clearly shows that any disciple residing in the Ashram can disrespect Sri Aurobindo or the Mother in writing and the Trustees will have nothing to do or say about it. When the Trust is so liberal, generous and secular in the case of the blatant denigration of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs, why does it threaten and restrict the inoffensive and innocent actions of simple devotees in the matter of Relics? Is this not a mere changing of colour for political convenience? The Trustees of such character have no moral right to impose needless restrictions on devotees who are collecting the Relics from private sources and installing and maintaining them in their centres with utmost devotion and care.
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28 Nov 2017

Deconstructing Peter Heehs – by a Zombified Disciple

Peter Heehs was born & educated in USA (says his bio-data on the inside cover of his India’s Freedom Struggle, OUP, 1988). In 1971, at the age of 22, he settled in Pondicherry [=not in the ashram Aurobindo founded]. He is a research scholar [=not member of S.A Ashram] at the Sri Aurobindo [=not S.A Ashram’s] Archives & Research Library, specializing in the life & politics of Sri Aurobindo. In an earlier form the present book was awarded a State Prize in a competition sponsored by the Delhi administration.  Since then he has published many uninhibited books, booklets & ‘papers’ on Aurobindo in his native English-English for his type of non-disciples, & at least one in an inhibited Indian ungrezi for Aurobindo’s Indian disciples. [Click here to read full article.]
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14 Oct 2017

"Deliberate Distortions of Sri Aurobindo's Life and Yoga" – edited by Raman Reddy

The above book is available at:

Preface

This book is a counter to the vicious attack on Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual stature that came in the form of a hostile biography of him by Peter Heehs entitled The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, published by Columbia University Press in 2008. All the articles in this book are in defence of Sri Aurobindo and many of them have been written by well-known historians and academicians. Though the book is written in support of the disciples and followers of Sri Aurobindo and their spontaneous rejection of the gross distortions of their Master’s life and teachings, the refutations themselves are based on a scholarly study of Sri Aurobindo’s works and a thorough examination of the historical facts of his life. I hasten to make here a necessary clarification with regard to the study of great spiritual personalities such as Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

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2 Sep 2017

Manoj Das Gupta Interrogated by the Police ─ Anirjeet

On the 25th of August 2017 the Pondicherry Police whisked off Manoj Das Gupta in a Police jeep around 7 a.m. from the Ashram Dining Room, where he had gone to collect his breakfast. The Police took him to the station for questioning with regard to the rape of a minor girl by a minor boy committed in the premises of the Ashram School on 21 July, 2017. Manoj Das Gupta happens to be the Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the Registrar of the Ashram School, which is a powerful and influential position to hold in Pondicherry, so it is extremely surprising that the Police dared to treat him like a common citizen. He was even made to undergo the utter humiliation of waiting in the Police Station for two hours and told to come the next day for interrogation. The next day he was accompanied by Dr. Dilip Datta (Trustee and head of the Ashram Medical Services) and Matriprasad Satyamurthy (Secretary of the Ashram Trust) to the Police station. The same week writer Manoj Das (Sahitya Academy award winner and recipient of Padma Shri) was summoned to Chennai and interrogated by the Intelligence Bureau. All of a sudden the long delayed karmic hand has caught up with the actions of this nefarious group of the Ashram and the fortress of invincibility they had built up in the public domain over the last twenty years seemed to fall like a house of cards.
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19 Aug 2017

Relinquishing Responsibilities – Anirjeet

Our last post of 7th August, 2017 (Two Shocking Incidents – by Anirjeet) has set the alarm bells ringing, not in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, as much as in the Sri Aurobindo Centres closely connected with it. The inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram will naturally pretend ignorance and vehemently deny these incidents out of sheer fear of retribution from the Trustees, for whom it is a question of public shame and accountability. And even if the inmates reluctantly admit in private a watered-down version of the two incidents, they would gallantly come to the rescue of the Trustees by saying that these were after all isolated incidents in the otherwise island of peace and psychic growth of the children in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Centre of Education. But then if you look backwards, these kinds of incidents (relating to drugs, sex and alcohol) have happened before, and it is only recently that the skeletons are tumbling out of the musty and suppressed annals of Ashram history.
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7 Aug 2017

Two Shocking Incidents – Anirjeet

The following post, dated 6 August, 2017 on indiatoday.in with the title “SC rejects plea of woman ‘abused’ at Puducherry’s Aurobindo Ashram” is highly misleading, even going by the report that follows underneath. On 28 July 2017, Chief Justice Khehar dismissed the impleadment petition of Hemlata Prasad in the Writ Petition filed by Gayatri Satpathy & Others against the Ashram Trustees in August 2014 for a number of complaints, including sexual harassment of minors, death by medical negligence, shady land dealings and other financial irregularities. The Chief Justice however granted the liberty to Hemlata Prasad to “initiate proceedings if the applicant is so advised in her own right”.  In other words, the Chief Justice did not reject her plea of being abused but instructed her to file it separately on her own. So while the title gives the impression of the Ashram Trustees coming out clean in the eyes of the Supreme Court, the actual content of the story should hardly make them comfortable, especially when the Centre (MHA is a party to the Writ Petition) has “favoured an independent inquiry into the affairs of the Ashram”.

In the meanwhile two more shocking incidents have come to light in the Ashram, which should make the Ashram Trustees literally squirm in their seats and regret why they ever sat on them.
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4 Mar 2017

The Wrong Notion that Sri Aurobindo Rejected Hinduism – Raman Reddy

(With specific reference to The Clasp of Civilisations (2015) by Richard Hartz, published by Nalanda International, and Nationalism, Religion, and Beyond (2005), a compilation of Sri Aurobindo’s writings on Politics, Society and Culture, edited by Peter Heehs.)  

I was rather disappointed after reading The Clasp of Civilisations by Richard Hartz because I expected from him a better understanding of Hinduism than most Western scholars.[1] The book starts off well with a sense of universality in spiritual matters which justifies the title, but gets caught halfway through with the usual antipathy towards Hinduism that is so common among secular scholars of India. The chapter on Vivekananda’s famous address in the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in September 1893 is indeed well-written and the circumstances of the historic event depicted in a most interesting manner with an undercurrent of humour. But the chapter on Hinduism titled “Untold Potentialities: Jawaharlal Nehru, Sri Aurobindo and the Idea of India”, in which Nehru is elevated into a spiritual figure and Sri Aurobindo converted into a secular icon, shows the fundamental flaws of Richard’s scholarship. One immediately gets the impression of encountering one more Hinduphobic armchair scholar, who meticulously builds his arguments on the works of other Hinduphobic scholars who also have never empathised with Indian culture. Ironically, Richard Hartz has studied the Vedas and is an expert in Sanskrit, but this only shows that mere scholarship does not open the gates of spiritual comprehension. After all, Peter Heehs, his colleague, did the same, wasting forty years of research on Sri Aurobindo and producing such a hostile biography that the disciples of Sri Aurobindo had to go to the Court to take him to task. But let us come back to Richard Hartz who could have easily come to his own conclusions instead of following the path of Peter Heehs with regard to Hinduism, or what is in fact the path of leftist secular scholars of India and abroad which Peter Heehs himself follows faithfully for the sake of his academic career. After all, for him academic success is more important than stating the fundamental truth of Hinduism!   
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17 Oct 2016

Timeline of the Controversy

1978
Nirmal Singh’s rejoinder to Peter Heehs on the birthplace of Sri Aurobindo. According to Peter Heehs, Sri Aurobindo was wrong about where he was born.

12.02.1984
Appointment of Manoj Das Gupta as Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust after the passing away of Nolini Kanto Gupta. He was recommended as Trustee by Nolini Kanto Gupta through a dubious note signed (or made to sign) in his last days and left in the custody of Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya. We do not know why Nolini did not give the note to Padmanabhan Counouma, who was then the Managing Trustee of the Ashram, and why he did not recommend Manoj Das Gupta earlier through a formal meeting of the Board of Trustees. Manoj Das Gupta’s policy of not rocking the boat even when the boat is about to be wrecked, as in the controversy over the Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs, makes him undoubtedly the most vehemently criticised Trustee in the history of the Ashram. He is also known to protect the guilty and punish the victims or those who have raised the alarm.

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11 Sep 2016

Bagha Jatin: The Bengal Tiger Whom The British Feared – swarajyamag.com

Saswat Panigrahi - September 10, 2016, 11:45 am
 
Exactly 101 years ago, on this day, the nationalist-revolutionary succumbed to severe bullet injuries in Balasore hospital following a gallant battle with the British-controlled police.
 
Indian history has discounted the significant contributions of Bagha Jatin towards the freedom movement, thanks to the Left-leaning historiographers. This, despite the fact that there is no dearth of well documented historical records available on the vast revolution the great freedom fighter had conceived!
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4 Jul 2016

Dr. Hedgewar (founder of the R.S.S) met Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry

In January 1920, Dr. L.V. Paranjpe started the Bharat Swayamsevak Mandal. Doctorji [Dr. Hedgewar] was his chief colleague. Efforts began in the month of July that year to organise a corps of some 1000-1500 volunteers for the Congress session. Doctorji threw himself heart and soul into that task.

While such fervent efforts were afoot, the tragic news of the passing away of Lokmanya Tilak at Bombay on the night of 31st July came like a bolt from the blue. The entire nation was plunged in indescribable grief. And more so the people of Nagpur. With a heavy heart, Doctorji attended to the work for organising hartal, mourning and condolence meetings on the tenth day, and offered his tearful homage.

Consequent on Lokmanya’s demise, the organisers were faced with the task of finding another Extremist leader for the presidentship. It was decided that a deputation should go to Pondicherry and bring Babu Aurobindo Ghose for the session. Dr. Moonje accordingly set out for Pondicherry. Doctorji also accompanied him as a representative of the youth of Nagpur.
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12 Jun 2016

Sri Aurobindo's Response to K.R. Kripalani's Article on the Swadeshi Movement

Did you enjoy the article “Fifty Years of Growth” by K. R. Kripalani in the Visva-Bharati?[i] Fifty years of growth refers by the way to the Congress. About the Swadeshi period he writes: “Along time was to elapse before we were to appreciate the infinite possibilities of the muddy waters at hand. In the meantime something startlingly romantic happened. . . .

“The fountain [of undefiled water] was cut by the fiery shafts of Tilak, Vivekananda, and Aurobindo, among others. They gave to Indian Nationalism its fiery basis in India’s ancient cultural glory and its modern mission. . . . It is always more beautiful and more inspiring to contemplate the Idea  and be drunk with it than to face the actual facts and touch the running sores. . . .

“But this spirit, fiery and beautiful as it was, was fraught with grave dangers. The glory that it invoked and the passion that it aroused were so intensely Hindu that Muslims were automatically left out. Not that they were deliberately excluded. . . . However that may be, it seems now not unlikely that had the influence of Tilak and Aurobindo lasted in its original intensity, we might have had two Indias today— a Hindu-istan and a Pak-istan, both overlaying and undermining each other. . . .
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31 May 2016

Why India Is A Nation – Sankrant Sanu

Introduction
One of the oft-repeated urban myths that sometimes pops-up in conversation even among many educated, well meaning Indians is that India as a nation is a British creation. The argument goes roughly as follows – India is an artificial entity. There are only a few periods in history when it was unified under the same political entity. It was only the British that created the idea of India as a single nation and unified it into a political state. A related assumption, in our minds, is that the developed Western countries have a comparatively far greater continuity of nationhood, and legitimacy as states, than India.

This urban myth is not accidental. It was deliberately taught in the British established system of education. John Strachey, writing in `India: Its Administration and Progress’ in 1888, said “This is the first and most essential thing to remember about India – that there is not and never was an India, possessing … any sort of unity, physical, political, social or religious; no Indian nation.

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