Kashmir is known as Land of syncretism. Often portrayed as Paradise on earth, though this popular imagination is relentlessly used to subvert the cause of political violence on Kashmiris . Paradoxically, this paradise is subjected to unimaginable securitisation .Kashmir represents an ideal case of thought crimes and bio politics. It is less admired & more envied today whether on the streets or in the deliberations of civil society, in media galleries or in policy circles. Dialogues and deliberations pertinent to Kashmir issue seem elusive. Is Kashmir a Frankenstein’s monster, so intimidating or a pseudo paradise where deaths and killings are legitimised? For the agency of a suppressed self to speak for itself needs both courage and space. The language of silence exhibits how structures of power are ruthlessly regulative. Both the language and the discourses on Kashmir are highly securitised, impervious to critical refutation. In the theatrics of securitisation in Kashmir, the current state of affairs warrants deep analyses. Applying three levels of analyses i.e., man, the state and war, aptly describes the current dynamics of Kashmir.
Citing security issues as a rationale for invoking clampdown is mundane to Kashmir. This rationale appeared more convincing to the ruling dispensation at the centre when it abrogated article 370 & 35A on August 5, 2019 and subsequently bifurcated the state into two Union territories—Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh. Well this was celebrated across political spectrum, while some political parties expressed reservations over the modus operandi of its execution. The abrogation followed a communication blackout in Jammu and Kashmir earning for India the famously infamous title of the country with maximum number of blackouts in a year. Pakistan diplomatically manoeuvred Beijing to raise scrapping of autonomy at UNSC. However, amid this unabated clampdown and international condemnation, New Delhi has been largely unresponsive, failing to show any resolve to initiate any negotiation. Kashmir is sandwiched between India and Pakistan, two nuclear arch rival states. The ongoing escalated tensions have high probability of culminating into another war. The unresolved Kashmir issue provides enough payoff structure to both India and Pakistan to behave aggressively against each other. The recent move has escalated the hostility to a new peak between the two antagonist states. The brunt of excessive securitisation is deeply experienced on ground by common people in valley where threat to life is an imminent reality
People amid Conundrum
From its embryonic stage of formation to its absolute mandate in electoral politics in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP has traversed a long way. Domesticating its core electoral manifesto of abrogating article 370 from it being a populist electoral rhetoric to its pragmatic dilution, BJP has fundamentally altered the political imagination and the matrices of statecraft. Strangulating democratic edifice & silencing public articulation. Hindutva is a becoming a buzz word while media’s traction of the situation feigns optical illusion for masses. Narender Modi’s era will be characterized by his blitzkrieg policies from demonetisation to fiddling with federal structure.
Spatial brutalism in Kashmir is not a new discourse. Since 5 August, 2019 unarmed 8 million Kashmiri’s were excommunicated & put under siege by a million soldiers. By abrogating article 370 & 35A, the only constitutional link between Jammu & Kashmir with the union of India, history was twisted conveniently to justify this blatant act. Children of conflict are traumatized; normalization of travesty of justice, legitimacy crises is rampant and deep here. Structural violence is germane to conflict-ridden Kashmir and the docility is manufactured by repression, serving as instrumental rationality for state apparatus. State perpetuates masculinisation of war and feminization of violence since sovereign commands the absolute authority. From women to children, everyone is affected by this enduring conflict. Post February 14, 2019, Pulwama attack, the way Kashmiris were treated in different parts of country was both shocking and reprehensible. They were manhandled by mobs, threatened and intimated, ambushed in school and college premises. In fact, many colleges issued circulars and orders not to admit Kashmiri’s in their colleges. This multiplied their distress & alienated them further.
Cutting the umbilical cord of article 370 has opened up Pandora’s Box for the safety and stability of South Asian region in general & Kashmir in particular. At this moment life in Kashmir has been thrown into complete mess with no signs of recovery. Sudden deployment of security forces has paralysed normal life. Communication has been cut off. Rights are repressed, freedom curtailed, censorships privileged & democratically elected leaders are right now sparing in jails, preventive detention is a means used, abused and justified in the name of national security. Spaces of deliberations have been squeezed and dissenting voices are muzzled. What has transpired since August 5, 2019 is both reprehensible and warrants deep analysis .In West-Phalian order, state has come to occupy centre-stage in international politics.
State producing Statelessness
In his lecture “Politics as a Vocation” (1918), the German sociologist Max Weber defines the state as a “human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. State derives its legitimacy from people but when state abuses its authority and perpetrates violence against its own people then state loses moral credibility. Consent of the governed is quintessential in democracy. However, the current crisis is resultant of the Indian states apathy towards Jammu & Kashmir and its crude stance with Pakistan on this issue. India is reluctant to talk with Pakistan on Kashmir because of infiltration by the latter. India blamed Pakistan for spreading terror in the region by backing and funding the militants in Kashmir against Indian rule. On the other side, Pakistan conventionally argues that until India will not convene a meeting for meaningful dialogue on Kashmir issue with Pakistan, sub-conventional conflicts and funding to militants in Kashmir will continue. Pakistan wants UN resolution through plebiscite to settle the dispute; however, India is worried about the majority of Muslim population in the state that is why India has rejected the UN resolution on Kashmir by claiming that India and Pakistan in the historical Shimla agreement have affirmed to settle the Kashmir issue bilaterally. However, by scrapping the state autonomy on 05 August 2019, India had violated the Shimla agreement too.
The lack of space for dialogue is generated by the hard stance advocated by New Delhi and its coercive policies towards Kashmir. There has been a complete failure in the resumption of track-two diplomacy. Rather than applying the policies of engagement and resolving the Kashmir issue both states are busy in managing it. In the high and low politics, it is the common Kashmiris who are killed and silenced. The situation in valley can be gauged by the fact that public good like internet is blocked for the longest time in the history. Civil resistance movement has picked up in valley because of the flawed policies of New Delhi in valley. Instead of reaching out to them state has shown complete recklessness .Therefore, it won’t be wrong to argue that state has been chief architect in producing restlessness in valley. In the language of neo-classical realists, leaders and institutions have important role to play in shaping its domestic and foreign policy. Modi’s blitzkrieg policies in Kashmir since august 5, proves this hypothesis right. In fact, Policy of command and control from New Delhi has led to disillusionment of Kashmiris and accentuating alienation. So both the people of valley as well as Islamabad have been sidelined by New Delhi, escalating volatility has potential to transcend into a war.
War as Imminent Possibility
To quote Leon Trotsky, “you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you”. Deadlocks and stalemates are recurrent feature between New Delhi and Islamabad on Kashmir. Had it not been the case the enduring Kashmir issue would not have lurked between New Delhi and Islamabad for so long. Already Islamabad and New Delhi have fought four wars (in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1991) against each other. Therefore, unless and until both states show maturity and political willingness to resolve Kashmir issue, the possibility of another war looms large given the deteriorated relations between India and Pakistan. The high politics of conventional war beneath a nuclear umbrella by military and civilian leaders in both countries highlights the shifting dynamics. Imperfect people in imperfect organisations can lead to miscalculations. Both states did not trust each other’s nuclear doctrines. The first-use and no-first-use policy of nuclear weapons between New Delhi and Islamabad are blurry and that is precisely the reason why the theory of “rational” state action is seriously problematic in the context of these two states. Islamabad is aware of New Delhi’s missile defence system preparations and the BJP government’s scrapping of autonomy in Kashmir might provide incentives to the Pakistani military to feel that “war now is better than war later”. In the Peloponnesian war, the weak Sparta launched a preventive war to stop Athens from becoming too powerful. Similarly, Bismarck, who once called preventive war “committing suicide from fear of death,” said that “no government, if it regards war as inevitable even if it does not want it, would be so foolish as to leave to the enemy the choice of time and occasion and to wait for the moment which is most convenient for the enemy”.
Since 1947, Pakistan has behaved belligerently against India due to unresolved Kashmir dispute. Pakistani military disregarded crystal ball effect while conducting war. Nuclear deterrence failed and the Kargil War became a new piece of history between India and Pakistan in 1999. Also the situation is aggravated further with nuclear arms race between the two states. New Delhi’s emerging defence system leaves limited options for Islamabad to save its nuclear/deterrent force from a possible India’s preventive strike. The Balakot incident in February 2019 happened due to military biases from the Indian side that Pakistan might not trigger the nuclear button in response to India’s limited airstrikes on the Pakistani soil.
Pakistan will feel greater incentives to use increased missile alerts fearing that an Indian attack might destroy its forces. Expectedly, both states were ready to fire missiles against each other during the Balakot crisis. In fact, the Balakot incident was politically motivated; otherwise, a possible nuclear attack might have been witnessed. In such a dangerous situation, deterrence might fail because adversary’s decision-makers might doubt the credibility of deterrence.
To conclude, neither the history nor geography should be ignored .Blatantly
twisting the history and fiddling with the federal character will exacerbate
the already existing complexities in the region. Securitisation of Kashmir should
give way to de-securitisation, as conflict transformation mandates peace
building approach not hard-line militaristic postures. However, an enforced
silence must not be interpreted as normalcy & more importantly peace.
Procrastination should neither become a standard template nor a norm to guide
the policies of New Delhi and Islamabad towards Kashmir. Mobilisation of
domestic politics to intensify and fuel hatred for Kashmiris or Kashmir either for
electoral gains or national security needs to be eschewed. Otherwise, incidents
like Balakot will serve as precedent for many more such incidents to recur as
deterrence has failed under nuclear shadow.
 Robert Jervis, ‘Offense, Defense, and the Security Dilemma,’ in Robert J. Art and Robert Jervis, ed., International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues, Thirteen Edition, (New York: Pearson, 2017), p. 105.
Opposing Hindutava: US conference raises troubling questions
Controversy over a recent ‘Dismantling Global Hindutava’ conference that targeted a politically charged expression of Hindu nationalism raises questions that go far beyond the anti-Muslim discriminatory policies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and ruling party.
The conference and responses to it highlight a debilitating deterioration in the past two decades, especially since 9/11, of the standards of civility and etiquette that jeopardize civil, intelligent, and constructive debate and allow expressions of racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attitudes to become mainstream.
Organizers of the conference that was co-sponsored by 53 American universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers, insisted that they distinguish between Hinduism and Hindutava, Mr. Modi’s notion of Hindu nationalism that enables discrimination against and attacks on India’s 200 million Muslims.
The distinction failed to impress critics who accused the organizers of Hinduphobia. Some critics charged that the framing of the conference demonstrated a pervasiveness of groupthink in academia and an unwillingness to tackle similar phenomena in other major religions, particularly Islam.
The campaign against the conference appeared to have been organized predominantly by organizations in the United States with links to militant right-wing Hindu nationalist groups in India, including some with a history of violence. The conference’s most militant critics threatened violence against conference speakers and their families, prompting some participants to withdraw from the event.
Opponents of political Islam noted that Western academia has not organized a similar conference about the politicization of the faith even though powerful states like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt have lobbied Western capitals against the Muslim Brotherhood and its Turkish and Qatari supporters with notable successes in France, Austria, Belgium and Britain.
Academia was likely to have been hesitant to tackle political Islam because Islamophobia is far more prevalent than Hinduphobia.
Moreover, perceptions of political Islam, are far more complex and convoluted. Islam is frequently conflated with political expressions and interpretations of the faith run a gamut from supremacist and conservative to more liberal and tolerant. They also lump together groups that adhere and respect the election process and ones that advocate violent jihad.
Scholars and analysts declared an end to political Islam’s heyday with the military coup in Egypt in 2013 that toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother, who was elected president in Egypt’s first and only free and fair poll. Political Islam’s alleged swansong loomed even larger with this year’s setbacks for two of the most moderate Islamist political parties in Tunisia and Morocco as well as hints that Turkey may restrict activities of Islamists operating in exile from Istanbul.
A more fundamental criticism of the framing of the Hindutava conference is its failure to put Hindutava in a broader context.
That context involves the undermining of the social cohesion of societies made up of collections of diverse ethnic and religious communities since Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The attacks fueled the rise of ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism not only in the Hindu world but also in the worlds of other major religions.
These include politicized ultra-conservative Islam, politicized Evangelism and Buddhist nationalism. Right-wing religious nationalism in Israel, unlike Islamism and politicized Evangelism, is shaped by ultra-nationalism rather than religious ultra-conservatism.
The worlds of religious ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism are often mutually reinforcing.
Scholar Cynthia Miller-Idriss’s assessment of the impact of Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the United States is equally true for India or Europe.
“In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the rise of violent jihadism reshaped American politics in ways that created fertile ground for right-wing extremism. The attacks were a gift to peddlers of xenophobia, white supremacism, and Christian nationalism: as dark-skinned Muslim foreigners bent on murdering Americans, Al-Qaeda terrorists and their ilk seemed to have stepped out of a far-right fever dream,” Ms. Miller-Idriss said.
“Almost overnight, the United States and European countries abounded with precisely the fears that the far-right had been trying to stoke for decades,” she added.
The comparison of politically charged militant nationalist and ultra-conservative expressions of diverse religions takes on added significance in a world that has seen the emergence of civilizationalist leaders.
Scholar Sumantra Bose attributes the rise of religious nationalism in non-Western states like Turkey and India to the fact that they never adopted the Western principle of separation of state and church.
Instead, they based their secularism on the principle of state intervention and regulation of the religious sphere. As a result, the rejection of secularism in Turkey and India fits a global trend that conflates a dominant religious identity with national identity.
Sarah Kamali, the author of a recently published book that compares militant white nationalists to militant Islamists in the United States, notes similar patterns while drawing parallels between far-right xenophobes and militant Islamists.
Militant Islamists’ “sense of victimhood […] is similar to that of their White nationalist counterparts in that [it] is constructed and exploited to justify their violence… Both mutually – and exclusively – target America for the purpose of claiming the nation as theirs and theirs alone, either as a White ethno-state or as part of a global caliphate,” Ms. Kamali writes.
Similarly, the Taliban defeat of a superpower energized militant Islamists, as well as proponents of Hindutava, with Islamophobic narratives spun by Mr. Modi’s followers gaining new fodder with the assertion that India was being encircled by Muslim states hosting religious extremists.
“Modi is essentially helping the recruitment of…jihadist groups by taking such a hard, repressive line against the Islamic community in India, who are now being forced to see themselves being repressed,” said Douglas London, the CIA’s counter-terrorism chief for South and South-West Asia until 2019.
Panjshir – the last stronghold of democracy in Afghanistan
The Taliban’s rapid advance in Afghanistan has briefly stalled only in the face of strong resistance mounted by the people of the country’s recalcitrant mountainous province of Panjshir. Whoever controls the region’s passes controls the routes leading to China and Tajikistan, but to seize this mountain valley and, most importantly, to keep it permanently under control has always been a problem for all invaders. Eager to let the international community see for the first time in 40 years a united Afghanistan as a sign of their final victory, the radical Islamists were prepared to make any sacrifices, including filling the approaches to the Panjshir Valley up with dead bodies. Moreover, the Taliban’s longtime ally Pakistan, which, regardless of its status of an ally of the United States, has provided them with direct military support. In fact, Islamabad admitted its less than successful role when it proposed signing a truce to find and take out the bodies of its special Ops forces who had died during the attack on the valley. However, drones flown by Pakistani operators, professional commandos (possibly once trained by the Americans), air support and other pleasant gifts from the allies eventually bore fruit letting the Taliban be photographed in front of the mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Massoud Sr., the famous “Lion of Panjshir,” who controlled the valley from 1996 to 2001. The Islamists also took control of the province’s central city of Bazarak.
Having deprived the province much of its Internet access, the radicals, who control most of the Afghan territory, found it easier to wage an information war. Their claims of victories were now more difficult to contest, even though information about their retreat did reach the outside world. Reflective of the heavy losses suffered for the first time by the Taliban and their allies – the Haqqani Network and other remnants of al-Qaeda, as well as by the regular Pakistani army is the brief truce arranged by Islamabad. Looks like the mountain passes leading to Panjshir were literally filled up with corpses…
As for Massoud Jr., the young lion of Panjshir, and his supporters, they retreated to the mountains. In fact, they had nowhere to fall back to. The problem of Afghanistan is its ethnic diversity. Thus, the country is home to 23 percent of ethnic Tajiks, most of whom live in the Panjshir Valley. However, the Taliban rely mainly on the Pashtuns, who account for over 50 percent of the country’s population. As for the new masters of Afghanistan, they are ready to carry out ethnic cleansings and even commit outright genocide in order to bring the valley into submission. To make this happen they are going to resettle there their fellow Pashtun tribesmen. Local men aged between 12 and 50 are already being taken away and, according to the National Resistance Front, no one has seen them again. However, due to the information blockade, the Taliban will not hesitate to refute such facts. One thing is clear: Massoud’s Tajik fighters and the government troops that joined them are fighting for their lives, and there will be no honorable surrender!
The main question now is whether the young lion of Panjshir will receive the same support as his father once did, or will find himself without ammunition and food. After all, the Taliban leaders have reached certain agreements with the United States. Suffice it to mention the numerous remarks made, among others, by President Biden himself about the Taliban now being different from what they were 20 years ago.
But no, the Taliban`s remain the same – they have only hired new PR people. Meanwhile, hating to admit their defeat, Brussels and Washington will have to engage in a dialogue with those who are responsible for the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and for the numerous terrorist attacks in Europe. The Taliban are pretending to make minor cosmetic concessions. Minor indeed, since they are still depriving women of the opportunity to work and study, destroying higher and secondary education and brutally clamping down on people who simply do not want to live according to religious norms.
The United States is actually helping the “new-look” Taliban. Their potential opponents, including the famous Marshal Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, left the country under various guarantees, and Washington is trying to keep them from any further participation in the conflict. Democratic politicians naively believe that by creating an Islamic state and ending the protracted civil war in Afghanistan the Taliban will ensure stability in the region and will not move any further. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan do not think so and are strengthening their borders and preparing to protect their Afghan compatriots, because they know full well that the Taliban`s are not a national political party; they are a radical Islamist ideology.
It knows no borders and spreads like a cancerous tumor, destroying all pockets of Western culture. It can only be stopped by force. However, the two decades of US military presence in Afghanistan showed that Washington, which quickly took control of the country in 2001, simply had no strategy to keep it. The Afghans were given nothing that would appear to them more attractive than the ideas of radical Islam. As a result, the few Afghans who embrace European values are fleeing the country, and those who, like Massoud Jr., decided to fight for their freedom, now risk being left to face their enemy all by themselves.
Misjudgements in India’s Afghan policy
India’s Afghan policy has always been obsessed with the desire to deny Pakistan the “strategic depth” that Pakistan, according to India’s perception, yearns. If India had a pragmatic policy, it would not have found itself whimpering and whining like a rueful baby over spilt milk.
India supported the invasion of Afghanistan by both the former Soviet Union and the USA, both losers. President Trump mocked Modi for having built a library for the Afghan people. Trump expected India to contribute foot soldiers, and by corollary, body packs to the Afghan crisis. India played all the tricks up its sleeves to convince the USA to make India a party to the US-Taliban talks. But the USA ditched not only Modi but also Ashraf Ghani to sign the Doha peace deal with the Taliban.
India’s external affairs minister still calls the Taliban government “a dispensation”. Interestingly, the USA has reluctantly accepted that the Taliban government is a de facto government.
The United Nations’ Development Programme has portrayed a bleak situation in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is faced with multifarious challenges. These include prolonged drought and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, upheaval caused by the current political transition: frozen foreign reserves, and rising poverty.
About 47 per cent of its people live below the dollar-a-day poverty line. If the poverty line is pushed to $2 a day, 90 per cent of Afghans would be poor. About 55 per cent of Afghans are illiterate.
Ninety seven percent of the population is at risk of sinking below the poverty line, As such, Afghanistan teeters on the brink of universal poverty. Half of the population is already in need of humanitarian support. The UNDP has proposed to access the most vulnerable nine million people by focusing on essential services, local livelihoods, basic income and small infrastructure.
Currently, the gross national product of Afghanistan is around $190 billion, just a little more than the $160 billion economy of Dhaka city. The country’s legal exports of goods and services every year account for $1 billion. It imports$6 billion worth of goods and services every year.
About 80 per cent of world production of opium comes from Afghanistan. Every year, Afghanistan produces nearly 10,000 tons of opium and the revenue generated from it amounts to $7 billion approximately. About 87 per cent of the income of opium producing farmers comes exclusively from this single product. The illicit opium export by Afghanistan is worth $2 billion every year. The role of opium is significant.
About 80 per cent of public expenditure in this country is funded by grants. Since 2002, the World Bank has provided Afghanistan with a total of $5.3 billion as development and emergency relief assistance. The IMF earmarked for Afghanistan $400 million in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) for combating the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The United States has frozen about $10 billion worth of Afghan assets held at various banks in Afghanistan. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has withdrawn the $400 million worth of SDRs allocated earlier to Afghanistan for addressing the Covid-19 crisis. The World Bank has not said anything as of yet, but it may also put restrictions on its funding to Afghanistan.
India’s lip service to Afghanistan
India provided around $3 billion in aid to fallen U.S.-backed Afghan government. It trained the Afghan army and police. But now it is not willing to pay or pledge a penny to the Taliban government. Look at the following Times of India report:
“India did not pledge any money to the Taliban ruled Afghanistan probably for the first time in 20 years. That it has not done so as Jaishanker declared … (At UN, India offers support to Afghanistan but does not pledge money. The Times of India September 14, 2021).–The Hindu, September 11, 2021
India’s tirade against Afghanistan
Indian policymakers and experts say they see no guarantees that Afghanistan won’t become a haven for militants. “Afghanistan may be poised to become a bottomless hole for all shades of radical, extremist and jihadi outfits somewhat similar to Iraq and Syria, only closer to India,” said Gautam Mukhopadhaya, who was India’s ambassador in Kabul between 2010 to 2013. He added that the Taliban victory could have an “inspirational effect” not only for Kashmir’s rebels but wherever religiously-driven groups operate in the broader region… Lt. Gen Deependra Singh Hooda, former military commander for northern India between 2014-2016, said militant groups based across the border in Pakistan would “certainly try and push men” into Kashmir, following the Taliban victory in Afghanistan (With Taliban’s rise, India sees renewed threat in Kashmir, Star Tribune September 14, 2021). “Meanwhile, Rajnath Singh conveyed to Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton that the rise of the Taliban raises serious security concerns for India and the region. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for an injection of cash into Afghanistan to avoid an economic meltdown that would spark a “catastrophic” situation for the Afghan people and be a “gift for terrorist groups.”). Afghan economic meltdown would be ‘gift for terrorists,’ says U.N. chief” (The Hindu, September 11, 2021)
India’s former envoy to Kabul, Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhyay is skeptical of the conciliatory statements by the taliban government. He advises: “We should welcome recent statements by Stanekzai and Anas Haqqani that suggest some independence from the ISI. But we should also ask some hard questions and judge them by their actions and words, and not let down our guard, both with regard to our multiple security concerns such as whether they can protect us from the Ias and ISI, sever ties with other terror groups, especially those supported by the ISI against India, deny Pakistan strategic depth, and preserve and build on our historic P2P and trade ties; and a genuinely inclusive govt in Afghanistan that accommodates the majority of Afghans who want the rights and freedoms enshrined in the 2004 Afghan Constitution or at least acceptable to the Afghan people.” (Taliban move to form govt, Naya Afghanistan brings new challenge for India, September 2, 2021).
India wants a “central role’ to be given to the UN in Afghanistan. India’s mumbo jumbo implies that Afghanistan should be made a UN protectorate. Indian media is never tired of calling the Afghan government a bunch of terrorists. They have even launched video games about it.
India needs to rethink how it can mend fences with Afghanistan that it regards a hothouse of terrorists.
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