Indic Academy conducted a webinar Ayodhya Verdict: An Inflexion Point for Civilizational Revival on 2nd August 2020 with stellar panelists including Smt. Meenakshi Jain, Professor of History, Delhi University, Shri P. S. Narasimha, Former Additional Solicitor General, Senior Counsel at Supreme Court of India, Sh. Ashok Chowgule, Working President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
In this article, we attempt to give historicity to the five hundred years-long struggle to re-build Sri Ram Temple after its destruction. This excerpt is to be read along with the Hon’ble Supreme Court Judgment dated 9th November 2019 which can be found here in the Supreme Court of India Civil Appellate Jurisdiction (hereafter referred as “the Order or Order”) and references from various news sites as mentioned in the article as links.
The article primarily focuses on the major historical evidence that was presented to the Honorable Supreme Court which was pointed out by Ms. Jain in the said webinar.
The Ayodhya Temple Dispute or the Ram-Janma Bhoomi Land Dispute centers around a dispute between two religious communities; the Hindus & the Muslims, both of whom claim ownership over a piece of land admeasuring 2.77 acres in the town of Ayodhya (hereafter referred as “the Site”).
The events associated with the dispute have spanned the Mughal empire, Colonial rule, and the present Constitutional regime.
While the Hindus assert that there existed at the site, an ancient temple dedicated to Shri Ram, which was demolished upon the conquest of the Indian sub-continent by Mughal Emperor Babur, the Muslims, on the other hand, contend that the mosque was built by/ or at the behest of Babur on vacant land.
Claims by the Defendants
It would be pertinent to point out the claims of the Muslim Community in this case. A few defendants (Muslim residents of Ayodhya) in their written statements submitted to the Honorable Courts state that:
- The property with respect to which this case has been instituted is not Janmabhoomi, but a mosque constructed by Babur. The said mosque was built in 1528 on Babur’s instructions by Mir Baqi, who was the Commander of Babur‘s forces, following the conquest of the Indian subcontinent by the Mughal.
- The property known as ‘Babri Masjid’ has been used as a mosque for the purpose of worship by Muslims for a long period and has not been used as a temple of Shri Ram.
- The mosque was dedicated as a waqf for Muslims, who have a right to worship there.
- Muslims have always been in possession of the mosque. This possession began in 1528 and continued thereafter, and consequently, Muslims are in possession of that property by way of adverse possession.
- Muslims alone had remained in possession of the mosque from 1528 up to the date of the attachment of the mosque under Section 145 on 29th December 1949. They have regularly offered prayers up to 21st December 1949, and Friday prayers up to 16th December 1949.
According to the written statement of the Sunni Central Waqf Board submitted to Honorable Courts:
- The mosque was not constructed on the site of an existing temple or upon its destruction. During the regime of Babur, the land belonged to the State and the mosque was constructed on vacant land which did not belong to any person.
- The possession of Muslims was uninterrupted, and continuous since the construction of the mosque, until 22 December 1949.
- Archaeological experts seem to indicate that there appears to be no sign of human habitation predating 700 B.C. nor is there any evidence of a fort, palace, or old temple that might have existed at the site of Babri Masjid.
In view of the above, Historian Smt. Meenakshi Jain highlighted the following points with respect to the claims of the defendants, based on the following classifications:
A. Historical Accounts
B. Eye-Witness Accounts
C. Colonial Reports
D. Other Important Historical Evidence
E. Revenue Records
F. Excavation by Archaeological Survey of India under the direction of Supreme Court
A. Historical Accounts
- The 16th-century book Ain-e-Akbari, a detailed account of the life and times of the Mughal King Akbar, is the work of Akbar’s court historian Abul Fazal and is a part of his Akbarnama – the definitive biography of the King. Abu Fazal in Akbarnama does not mention the mosque built by Babar that lies at the heart of the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, this fact was observed by the SC.
- There is also documentary evidence that mentions that a Mughal King donated 6 bighas of land to Hanuman Tilla. When the said contract was renewed in 1723, it clearly mentions Ram Janma Bhoomi Temple at the disputed site as worshiped by Hindus.
- The presence of Ram Temple at the site has also been acknowledged by the Honorable Supreme Court in the addendum of its Order. The addendum mentions Bala Kanda of Goswami Tulasi Das, which not only refers to the birth of Shri Ram but also points out the place where he will take human form, which is clearly depicted in the words tinha ke grha (in their house of Dasaratha and Kausalya).
- In the said addendum of its Order, SC also mentions, Ain-i-Akbari, the 16th-century document which deals with the administration of Akbar, which states the time of the birth of Shri Ram in the Treta Yuga in the city of Ayodhya.
- The first concrete evidence of the identification of the site with Shri Ram and the erection of Babri Masjid comes from an 1822 document in the Persian language submitted to the Faizabad court by “darogha-i-adalat” Hafizullah. It says “the Jama Masjid”, constructed by Emperor Babur at the janma asthan, is at the site of the birth of Ram, son of Raja Dasrat, and is adjacent to the rasoi (kitchen) of Sita, wife of the aforesaid Ram”. Though the said document doesn’t mention any temple at the site, it clearly acknowledges that the site being referred to as the birthplace of Shri Ram.
- Reports filed by Superintendent of Faizabad Court dated 30/10/1858, and a subsequent report in 1870, both referred to the Site as “Masjid-e-Janam-asthan”
- In Tuzuk-i-Baburi (or Baburnama) there is no document available to show that previously (prior to the 19th century) the mosque at the site was known as Babri Masjid. When this point was discussed in the SC, the counsel for the Muslim Party couldn’t provide any evidence, and instead said that the ‘Baburnama’ mentions Babur crossing the river towards Ayodhya and that some of its pages are missing.
Apart from the above, there is numerous other official documentary evidence that refers to the site as the birthplace of Shri Ram.
B. Eye- Witness Accounts
- In 1858, the Muazzin of the Babri mosque said in a petition to the British government, that the courtyard had been used by Hindus for hundreds of years (Petition by Muhammed Asghar dated 30.11.1858 in Case No.884 to the British Government).
- On 18th March 1886, the Faizabad District Judge passed an order in which he wrote: “I visited the land in dispute yesterday in the presence of all parties. I found that the Masjid built by Emperor Babar stands on the border of Ayodhya, that is to say, to the west and south. It is clear of habitats. It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but as that event occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to agree with the grievances.” (Court verdict by Col. F.E.A. Chamier, District Judge, Faizabad (1886)).
- English merchant William Finch, who visited India in 1608-1611, recorded in his travelogue “Early Travels to India”, that there was a fort in Ayodhya where Hindus believed Shri Ram was born.
- Yet another eyewitness account is that of Jesuit missionary Joseph Tiefenthaler, who has mentioned in his book “History and Geography of India” (in French, published in 1740) the alleged demolition of the temple, and the building of a mosque on the site, which the Hindus believe to be the birthplace of Shri Ram.
- In the Book “History, Antiquities, Topography, and Statistics of Eastern India” written by Robert Montgomery Martin, an Anglo-Irish author in the year 1838, travel accounts referring to the destruction of temples and building of mosques may be found.
C. Colonial Era Reports
- ‘Historical Sketch of Faizabad With Old Capitals Ajodhia and Fyzabad’ was published in 1870, and was written by P. Carnegy, who was posted as the Faizabad officiating commissioner and settlement officer. In his book he has attributed the construction of the mosque to Babur in 1528, and in his opinion, many of the columns of an erstwhile temple were used in the construction of the Babri mosque.
- Somewhere in 1856-57, the British colonial government attempted to raise a buffer between the two communities to maintain law and order by setting up a grill-brick wall having a height of six or seven feet. This was meant to divide the premises into two parts: the inner portion which would be used by the Muslim community, and the outer portion or courtyard would be used by the Hindu community. The outer courtyard has several structures of religious significance for the Hindus, such as the Sita Rasoi and a platform called the Ram Chabutra. In 1877, another door was opened on the northern side of the outer courtyard by the Colonial government, which was given to the Hindus to control and manage. The bifurcation, as the record shows, did not resolve the conflict and there were numerous attempts by one or other of the parties to exclude the other.
- German Indologist Alois Anton Führer who worked for the Archaeological Survey of India conducted a survey of Ayodhya in 1890-91. Führer wrote that Ayodhya had three Hindu temples at the time of Muslim conquest: Janmasthanam (where Rama was born), Svargadvaram (where Rama was cremated), and Treta-ke-Thakur (where Rama performed a sacrifice). According to Führer, Mir Khan built the Babri mosque after demolishing the ‘Janmasthanam’ temple in 1523.
- Scholars like Hans Bakker and Peter van der Veer note that the Babri Masjid itself is believed to stand on the site of an 11th century Hindu shrine that was demolished and converted into a mosque by a Mughal general. Van der Veer notes furthermore, that some pillars from an old temple were said to have survived.
D. Other Important Historical Evidence: showing Hindus trying to reclaim Ayodhya
- The attempt to reclaim Ayodhya by the Marathas is found in a letter to Dattaji Shinde by Peshwa Balaji Rao in 1759. The message was conveyed through Ramaji Anant, the ‘manager’ of the Scindias. He says in the letter, “There are two or three undertakings to be achieved in connection with Shuja-ud-Daulah. Take Benaras, Ayodhya, and Allahabad bad from him. He had promised to Dada, the Peshwas (in 1757) to cede Banaras and Ayodhya but the case of Allahabad is still under discussion. If a settlement on the last question can be easily reached, make it”.
- Maratha Plans to take control of Ayodhya, Prayag, and Banaras – During Safdar Jung’s second war against the Pathans in 1751-52, the Marathas had cooperated with him, and after his victory at Fatehgarh, Holkar had requested that the three holy sites be handed over to the Peshwa. But at that time, the request could not be granted in its entirety.
- Malhar Rao Holkar, one of the generals under the Peshwa, reached Kashi with a significant army during this time. Once there, he wanted to demolish the Gyanvapi Mosque built by Aurangzeb and reconstruct the ancient Temple at the site. However, he was dissuaded from doing so by the people of Kashi who argued that the Islamic strength was too strong in that region, and once the Marathas left, they would be massacred.
- Renowned historian R Nath in his work ‘A Historical Critique on the Ayodhya Mandir-Masjid Dispute’ states that it was Raja Jaisingh who purchased the land of Ramkot at Ayodhya in 1717 AD, and established a Jaisinghpura there. There are several related documents including pattas, parwanas, chak-namas, and letters to substantiate these claims. Records include one of the oldest Ram Temple related documents, dated 1717 CE and written in Persian, which states that a plot measuring 983 square yards was granted to Maharaja Sawai Jaisingh Kachhwaha in Ayodhya for the construction of a haveli, katla and pura by the then Nawab of Awadh. The title of the land was Jagir-i-Muafi, which was a partially rent-free land grant. There are maps of Ayodhya with the Ram Temple distinctly marked which are also available.
- On 28 November 1858, a report was submitted by Sheetal Dubey who was the Thanedar of Oudh. The report spoke of an incident during which Hawan and Puja were organized inside the mosque by a Nihang Sikh who had also erected a religious symbol. The report states: Today Mr. Nihang Singh Faqir Khalsa, resident of Punjab, organized Hawan and Puja of Guru Gobind Singh, and erected a symbol of Sri Bhagwan, within the premises of the Masjid. At the time of pitching the symbol, 25 Sikhs were posted there for security.
- In 1854, Gazetteer Edward Thornton records Hindus as celebrating Ram Navami at the site of the mosque (Gazetteer of the Territories, under the Government of East India Company, pp 739-40). It also mentions that there was a dispute between the shopkeepers, and the revenue collector on the revenue sharing pattern, as quite a large number of Hindus had attended the Mela or religious gathering in the Kartik Month and on Ram Navami.
- On 29 January 1885 Mahant Raghubar Das, describing himself as the Mahant of Janmasthan at Ayodhya, requested that the construction of a temple over the Chabutra measuring 17×21 feet be allowed. The District Judge by a judgment dated 18/26 March 1886 dismissed the appeal of the plaintiff. The District Judge held that it was most unfortunate that the Masjid should have been built on the land especially held sacred by the Hindus, but since the construction had been made 358 years earlier, it was too late in the day to reverse the process.
- The Amin Commission Report of 1885 mentions a sunken area all around the periphery of the Ayodhya Temple Complex, indicating that Hindus since ages have been doing the Holy Parikrama (Circumambulation) of the sacred site, believing it to be the birthplace of Shri Rama.
- According to an early 20th-century text by Maulvi Abdul Ghaffar and the surrounding historical sources examined by the historian Harsh Narain; young Babur came from Kabul to Awadh (Ayodhya) in disguise, dressed as a Qalandar (Sufi ascetic), probably as part of a fact-finding mission. Here he met the Sufi saint’s Shah Jalal and Sayyid Musa Ashiqan and took a pledge in return for their blessings for conquering Hindustan. The pledge is not spelled out in the 1981 edition of Ghaffar’s book. Lala Sita Ram, who had access to the older edition of the book dated 1932 wrote, “The faqirs answered that they would bless him if he promised to build a mosque after demolishing the Janmasthan temple. Babur accepted the faqirs’ offer and returned to his homeland”.
- Records clearly indicate that Hindus never parted with the claim of the Site. In 1934, a riot took place in Ayodhya, and Hindus demolished a portion of the structure of the disputed site. The portion was rebuilt by the Britishers.
- On the intervening night of 22 and 23rd December of 1949, idols were found inside the central dome of the mosque. The then Faizabad District Magistrate KK Nayar on December 23rd morning informed the UP chief minister Govind Ballabh Pant about a group of Hindus entering the site when it was deserted, and placing the idol. An FIR was filed, and the gates were locked the same day. On December 29, the City Magistrate passed an order under Section 145 CrPC to attach the entire property.
E. Revenue Records
- In the course of the hearing of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, the Allahabad High Court examined the Land Revenue Records pertaining to Village Ram Kot, Haveli Awadh, Faizabad, which had been systematically maintained by the British administration, to ascertain the ownership rights of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site. The Revenue Reports consisted of various revenue documents recording data like survey, bandobast (settlement), kishtwar khasras, abadi, khewat, khasra khatauni, maps, and so on, and were revised every 10-15 years.
- The first Regular Settlement Report for Kot Ram Chandra was done in 1861, and showed the Janmasthan site as Nazul (Government) property. Importantly, this status had not been challenged by anyone. Prepared after an on-the-spot survey and measurement of the khasras, and duly attested by the local patidars, revenue officials and witnesses, etc., as was the practice of the time, the report declared the superior ownership of the land in the name of Sarkar Bahadur Nazul (Government), and also declared the Mahants as the under-proprietors (malikan-i-matahit) of the entire Janmasthan complex. There was no mention of Babri Masjid at all in the Report.
- Interestingly, the subsequent Settlement Report of 1893 specifically referred to the sub-plot on which the Masjid was located as Sita Ki Rasoi. The following Settlement Reports of 1936-37, and 1989-90 also mentioned the sub-plot as Sita Ki Rasoi. “There was no record of the Babri Masjid in the documents preserved by the Revenue Department of the Government at the Collectorate and Tehsil at Faizabad (Grover 1994: 343-49).”
- Another important piece of evidence found in the Revenue Records was that from 1858 to 1991, no Waqf land had been allocated to the Babri Masjid. The UP Gazette published on 26 February 1944 included a list of all Waqf properties i.e. mosques that had a Waqf created against them for allocating funds for maintenance. The list named each mosque building, the year it was constructed, the name of the person who constructed it, and the Waqf created for its maintenance.
- In the entry made against Babri Masjid, the column with the Waqf details was left vacant. The name of the ruler who constructed it was given as Babur; the year it was constructed was given as 1528, but nothing was mentioned under the Waqf column. There was no documented evidence for any Waqf created for Babri Masjid. The fact is that; “Revenue documents from 1858-61 to 1991 revealed that no Waqf land had ever been associated with Babri Masjid (Grover 2015: 171-84),”.
F. Excavation by Archaeological Survey of India under the direction of Supreme Court
- The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) excavated the mosque site in the direction of the Allahabad Bench of the Uttar Pradesh High Court in 2003. The archaeologists reported evidence of a large 10th-century structure similar to a Hindu temple having pre-existed the Babri Masjid. A team of 131 laborers, including 29 Muslims was engaged in the excavations. On August 25, 2003, ASI handed a 574-page report to the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court.
- The said report was upheld & referred to by the Supreme Court stating that it formed a crucial piece of conclusive evidence in the matter.
- The ASI report of August 25, 2003 stated that there was evidence of a large Hindu temple having pre-existed the Babri mosque. The ASI report mentions a huge structure (11-12th century) on which a massive edifice having a large pillared hall (or two halls) was constructed, with at least three structural phases, and three successive floors attached which were constructed later on. The report also stated that “there is sufficient proof of the existence of a massive and monumental structure having a minimum of 50 x 30 meters in north-south, and east-west directions respectively just below the disputed structure”.
- The ASI report indicated “that the pre-existing underlying structure has large dimensions, evident from the fact that there were 85 pillar bases, comprising 17 rows each of five pillar bases”.
- Among the excavation yields, the ASI reportedly found the stone and decorated bricks, a mutilated sculpture of a divine couple, carved architectural members including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali, doorjamb with semi-circular shrine plaster, broken octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranjala (watershute) in the north, and 50 pillar bases in association with a huge structure.
- In the winter of 2002-2003, Canadian geophysicist Claude Robillard performed a search with a ground-penetrating radar by the company Tojo Vikas International Ltd. It concluded that “there is some structure under the mosque”. Robillard stated that “there are some anomalies found underneath the site relating to some archaeological features. You might associate them (the anomalies) with pillars, or floors, or concrete floors, wall foundation, or something. These anomalies could be associated with archaeological features but until we dig, I can’t say for sure what the construction is under the mosque”.
The Court in its Order on the matter observed that the archaeological evidence from the Archaeological Survey of India shows that the Babri Masjid was constructed on a “structure”, whose architecture was distinctly indigenous and non-Islamic.
Attempts by Marxist Historians to Misguide
- On May 13, 1991, four historians — RS Sharma, M Athar Ali, DN Jha, and Suraj Bhan — wrote a letter to the then Union Minister of Home Affairs, attaching their report titled, ‘Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid: A Historians’ Report to the Nation’. These historians had earlier participated in unsuccessful negotiations to resolve the matter, on behalf of the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC). Bhan later confessed that the grandly titled Historians’ Report to the Nation was written under “pressure” in six weeks and “without going through the record of the excavation by BB Lal”.
- The four historians then proceeded to offer their opinion camouflaged as evidence. They first contended that there was no evidence of the existence of a temple and that the VHP had failed to demonstrate such an existence. They added that the Hindu party had not been able to cite any passage from ancient texts to back their claim and that the Skanda Purana, which was the only text it had quoted, was full of interpolations and hardly authoritative in deciding on the existence of a temple.
- During the hearing of the Ayodhya dispute, the five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court dismissed a report of the Left-leaning historians, which the Sunni Waqf Board had cited to fortify its arguments. The court said, “At the highest, this report can be taken as an opinion.” It is strange that the Board relied on a material that had earlier been emphatically rejected by the Allahabad High Court for nearly the same reason that the apex court gave”.
- The Muslim Parties to the case had presented a few ‘experts’ to oppose the ASI findings, including D. Mandal, Shireen Musavi, Shireen Bhatnagar, Suvira Jaiswal, and Supria Verma, who were left exposed during the cross-examination.
- D. Mandal, a retired professor of Allahabad University, and author of ‘Ayodhya: Archaeology After Demolition’, dismissed the pillar bases found by ASI as being remnant portions of walls. During cross-examination, he revealed to the Courts, “I have never visited Ayodhya. I do not have any specific knowledge of the history of Babur’s design.” He also admitted that he did not know the meaning of ‘Yagya’ or ‘vedi’. The Court was sufficiently moved to say about Mandal that “the statements made by him during the cross-examination show the shallowness of his knowledge on the subject”.
- Dr. Shireen Bhatnagar who wrote an introduction to the said book also admitted to the Court that she had not done any digging and excavation “on my own”, and that she had based her thoughts on the sole photograph provided by Mr. Lal, and that some of the sketches which formed part of the Introduction were “hypothetical”.
- Shireen Musavi, a left historian presented as an expert to the Court by the Muslim Party, suggested that “the legend of Ayodhya being the birthplace of Rama is found from the 17th century, prior to which there is no legend about Rama’s birthplace in medieval history”. However, during cross-examination, Musavi admitted: “It is correct that in Sikh literature there is evidence that Guru Nanak visited Ayodhya, and had darshan of Ram Janmasthan, and also bathed in the River Saryu.”
- Another leftist historian Supriya Verma who challenged the excavations done by the ASI had not read the radar survey report on ground penetration that led to the court order for excavation. Verma and Jaya Menon both were not present at the time of the actual excavations but alleged that the pillar bases at the excavated sites were planted.
- Meanwhile, Suvira Jaiswal revealed: “Whatever knowledge I have gained with respect to the disputed site is based on newspaper reports, or on what others have said.” She also confessed that she had “prepared a report on the Babri dispute after reading newspaper reports and on the basis of discussions with my medieval history expert in my department”.
Jaiswal made an important clarification: “I am not giving (my) statement on oath regarding the Babri Mosque without any probe, and my statement is not on the basis of my knowledge, rather I am giving a statement on the basis of my opinion.”
- Yet another person with a Ph.D. degree, Sushil Srivastava of Allahabad University, maintained during his cross-examination that there was no evidence to suggest that the Mosque was built after demolishing a temple, even though he could not read or write Persian, could not read Arabic, and had no sound knowledge of Sanskrit either. In his efforts, he was ‘helped’ by his father-in-law S.R. Farooqui.
- Leftist historian Irfan Habib made some sensational claims, regarding the Vishnu Hari Inscriptions found in the rubble of the Babri Masjid after its demolition, which were later debunked. When the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, an inscription 5 feet by 2 feet fell to the ground from the walls of the Masjid. This was called the Vishnu Hari inscription, which gives the history of the temple, the king who built it, and the date it was built. This inscription gives all the details regarding the temple at Janmasthaan. The Allahabad High Court asked the epigraphy department of ASI (Archeological Survey of India) to decipher this inscription, and to present the reading at the court. Accordingly, it was deciphered by K V Ramesh, who was the chief epigraphist of ASI at that time. He provided the court with the reading of the inscription verse by verse.
- Left historians & the Muslim Parties involved had been saying that the Babri Masjid was built on vacant land, but this inscription coming out of the walls of the Masjid proved otherwise. Soon a campaign was mounted against this Vishnu Hari inscription which was lead by Irfan Habib who claimed that the inscription did not fall from the structure, but was planted there at the time of the demolition of Babri Masjid. How would it be possible to plant such a big inscription there, when there were lakhs of people along with media, both national and international in full force at the site is difficult to understand. Irfan Habib later made another sensational claim that this inscription was stolen from the Lucknow Museum.
- Now, the inscription that he said was stolen from the Lucknow Museum is called the Treta-Ka-Thakur inscription, which is very similar to the Vishnu Hari inscription. There was another temple in Ayodhya which was destroyed by Aurangzeb called the Treta-Ka-Thakur temple.
That temple also had an inscription which was recovered by the British and kept first in Faizabad Museum, and later sent to the Lucknow museum. On inspection of the Lucknow Museum, it was found that the Treta Ka Thakur inscription marked as Inscription No. 53.4 was very much in the Museum’s possession, and once again Irfan Habib’s claim was proven to be false.
Numerous such historians with no real knowledge about Babri Masjid tried to discredit ASI’s findings in front of the Allahabad HC, and mislead an entire nation for decades.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a grand Hindu temple in Ayodhya, whose groundbreaking ceremony will be conducted on 5th August 2020, it is extremely pertinent that we discuss the overwhelming evidence presented on this matter before the Honorable Courts.
Smt. Meenakshi Jain along with Shri. P. S. Narasimha has said that it is very important for all of us to know the arguments, and counter-arguments exactly as they were. We also need to know that despite the presence of so much material & documentary evidence, efforts were being made by vested parties to ensure that millions of Hindus would never be able to reclaim the title to this sacred site which they hold very dear. But as they say, Satyamev Jayate! Truth Alone Shall Prevail!
A humble attempt was made by Indic Academy to let the readers know the facts of this case in detail, so that we may all learn and benefit from it.
Jai Shri Ram!
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