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Copy of Official Letter to the President of India

September 18, 2017

To

Mr. Ram Nath Kovind
President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi

Sub:    Urgent Appeal not to give assent to the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Amendment Bill 2017 and the Jharkhand Religious Freedom Bill 2017 of Jharkhand Government.

Your Excellency President Kovind,

The National Council of Churches in India, which represents around 14 million members of the Protestant and Orthodox Church Traditions in India, and which includes significant numbers of dalits and tribals/adivasis present the following urgent appeal to you. This is regarding Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Amendment Bill 2017 and the Jharkhand Religious Freedom Bill 2017 of Jharkhand Government.

As you are already aware, the State of Jharkhand was created for the Adivasis and has Fifth Schedule Areas of which the President is the direct Constitutional custodian.

Along with the adivasis of Jharkhand the NCCI is very much concerned by the situation in the State in the recent days. We have total trust and confidence in your Excellency’s disposition towards the concerns of the State. With full respect to the elected Head of the State, we wish to bring to your Excellency’s kind notice, the objectionable and unconstitutional statements made by him against the Christian community in different government and social programs held in Ranchi, Gumla, Khunti and Dumka prior to the framing of the Religious Freedom Bill 2017.

The most obnoxious act is the Advertisement found in the front pages of the News Papers in the State published on 11.08.2017 misusing Mahatma Gandhi and Public Funds to fuel anti-Christian hate. Indeed, the Advertisement is erroneous, misleading and inflammatory.

The government has used tax payers’ money against tax payers which is a gross violation of democratic ethics and values fundamental to our Constitution. The democratically elected government is expected to safeguard and protect the rights of all citizens irrespective of their affiliations. On the other hand, this government has shown by publishing this Advertisement that it cannot be trusted and stands exposed of its criminal intentions. It is not there to bring about harmony and peace but put one tribal against another. The matter of great concern is the audacity displayed by the government by putting distorted words into the mouth of Mahatma Gandhi to mislead people. The Father of the Nation is used to attack a community and fuel communal disharmony.

This Ad is also a blatant attack on the Adivasis and Dalits. No proof can be brought to the defence that Mahatma Gandhi called the Adivasis ‘Vanvasis’ and presenting it as a quote of Mahatma Gandhi is dishonest and even criminal; the government should apologise to the Adivasi communities. As per the quote, the Adivasis along with the Dalits are, ‘…. mute and simple, like cows” implying that they have no mind of their own to make a decision and are seen as eternal juveniles. It is a direct attack on their very identity, on their great Adivasi leaders like Birsa Munda and Kartik Oraon whose photos adorn the Advertisement and on their valuable contribution to nation building! It is a humiliation to the great Adivasi heroes who spearheaded the freedom movement in this part of the country like Tilka Manjhi, Sido Kanhu, Birsa Munda and many others. It also shames Late Lance Naik Albert Ekka, the war hero and the posthumous recipient of India’s highest gallantry decoration, the Param Vir Chakra for his valour; Jaipal Singh Munda, one of the stalwarts who spearheaded the movement for a separate Jharkhand State and a tall parliamentarian; Mr. Michael Kindo, Sylvanus Dungdung, and Jaipal Singh, some of the best names in Indian hockey, and the list can be very long. It also belittles the constitutional heads of our nation who hail from Dalit and Adivasi Communities. It is also very disrespectful to the legislators who come from Adivasi and Dalit communities. The government has indeed humiliated all the Adivasis in the country, especially the Adivasis of Jharkhand who have been shamelessly disgraced by this government through this Advertisement and therewith the Adivasis deserve an apology from the government.

The real intention of the government is to put tribal people against one another thereby grabbing tribal land. The Advertisement is a clear indicator that the Jharkhand Government will stoop to any level to achieve its sole purpose of grabbing Adivasi land. The government is propagating ‘divide and rule’ strategy to take away tribal land and to give it to the corporate sector and leave the poor Adivasis in misery, fear and helplessness.

It is a matter for consideration here that the two bills passed in the Assembly on 12.08.2017, one of land acquisition and the other of anti-conversion, too have the same purpose. The government seems to believe that the Christians led the movement against the amendments proposed in the CNT/SPT Acts which is a baseless allegation. All the Adivasis whole heartedly opposed the amendments irrespective of their religious affiliations. The anti-conversion bill is passed with the view of avenging the Christians for no fault of theirs. The government is using this as a weapon to deal with the Christians if they make any move against the land acquisition bill passed in the Assembly.

The retrospective nature of the bill is very dangerous as the government can grab acres and acres of Adivasi land already deposited in the ‘Land Bank’ without their knowledge. The abolition of ‘Social Impact Analysis’ will give sweeping powers to the government to take away tribal land. They will be rendered landless. The evils of migration and trafficking will increase.

The sole purpose of the provisions of social impact assessment of the project in “The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resentment Act 2013” was to study the impact of the project on the project affected communities so that affected and displaced families are properly rehabilitated and resettled. The history of development-induced displacement is very dismal. In India 60 million people were displaced, which also includes 10 million Adivasis. In Jharkhand, 1.5 million people, mostly the Adivasis, were displaced but merely 25 percent have been somehow rehabilitated. The displaced Adivasis have lost their identity, culture, tradition, values and ethos precisely because, there was no such provision of the social impact assessment in the Land Acquisition Act 1894.  However, Jharkhand Government has amended the provisions made in the Land Acquisition Act 2013, which will have immense negative impact on the Adivasi community.

The government is misleadingly using the photos of Birsa Munda and KartikOraon to destabilize tribal unity. It is worth noting here that Kartik Oraon whose photo is used in the Advertisement wrote in his book Adivasi Hindu Nahi Hai (‘The Adivasis Are Not Hindu’): “Let it be known, there is no space for Hindu gods and goddesses in the Adivasi community. Hindus believe in God whereas the Adivasis worship nature and follow the Naga culture”. Therefore, the so called ‘Ghar Wapsi’ campaign is completely against the dream of Kartik Oraon and of course Birsa Munda. The government is spreading lies using Adivasi leaders to score a point. It has hurt Adivasi sentiments very deeply.

The government is busy making a non-issue into an issue in Jharkhand. The data available with the government is the proof. In India, as per the government census the percentage of Christian population in the country was 2.33 in 1951; 2.44 in 1961; 2.60 in 1971; 2.44 in 1981; 2.32 in 1991; 2.34 in 2001 and 2.30 in 2011. The growth rate is almost static. Jharkhand has a similar Christian demographic scenario. Though the State was formed in 2000, yet for a larger picture the percentage of Christian population was 4.12 in 1951; 4.17 in 1961; 4.35 in 1971; 3.99 in 1981; 3.72 in 1991; 4.10 in 2001 and 4.30 in 2011. Here too the growth rate is almost stagnant.

A close examination of the tribal population reveals that 14.5% are Christians and 39.7% are Hindus as per the 2011 census. The very sad thing is that a large percentage of Adivasis who have accepted Hindu Religion, or its sanskritized version, have changed, or were forced to change their title to ‘Kumar’ ‘Kumari’ ‘Devi’ and thus have lost their ethnic, social and cultural identity. It is almost a planned murder of the Adivasi community. The government should come out with a law to protect the identity of Adivasi communities if they have genuine concern for them.

Jharkhand has many issues to address, beginning with that of law and order. Cow vigilantes are moving around freely, lynching innocent people in the name of cow protection. The recent incident in Ramgarh shocked the consciousness of the nation. Jharkhand has the highest number of children dying of malnourishment and most of them belong to poor tribal communities living in the rural areas. The number of stunted children too is growing rapidly making children who are considered a ‘National Asset’ into a future liability. The Adivasis have been demanding ‘Sarna Code’ for the last many years and nothing has happened so far. The government has passed the law on conversion and land acquisition even after sufficient opposition from the Opposition Parties, to cover up all the ills of the State and keep people

engaged in divisive activities while it can grab tribal land to pass onto the corporate sector.  The government is scared of Adivasi unity and this law is a weapon which will be used to break the unity of the people and give licence to the fringe elements to attack anyone in the name of conversion especially those who dare to oppose the irresponsible policies of the government. Moreover, there is no provision built into the bill to deal with cases of false accusation and misuse of the bill. The intention of the bills is anti-people, anti-constitutional, and anti-peace.

The Constitution of India guarantees fundamental right to the freedom of religion under articles 25-28.  Therefore, all persons in India are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion of one’s choice without converting anyone from one religion to another by force, allurement, or threat. The State of Jharkhand should release a white paper presenting the data of such cases of conversion by force, allurement, or threat in Jharkhand in the last 17 years. It is unfair even to think of such anti-conversion law when there are no issues on the ground.  Besides, the Indian Penal Code 295 (a) is already very strong to deal with cases of conversion by force, or coercion, or allurement.

It has been categorically stated in the Indian Constitution, Article 13(2) that ‘any law made by any legislature or other authority after commencement of the Constitution, which contravenes any of the fundamental rights included in Part III of the Constitution shall, to the extent of the contravention, be declared void. Indeed, the bill is unconstitutional and is a super imposition on the existing law. The bill has no purpose except political and ideological. The timing of the bill clearly reveals that it is politically motivated to break the unity of the Adivasis. The bill proposes to seek permission as well as inform the district collector on matters concerning one’s freedom of conscience which is a fundamental right guaranteed in the Constitution (Art. 25). The choice, or decision to embrace any religion is based on the freedom of conscience of a person and it cannot be dappled with as it is a direct violation of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right of freedom of conscience. The question of conversion does not arise here as it is the matter of the freedom of conscience of a person. Therefore, the anti-conversion bill is ultravirus.

Therefore, we humbly pray to your Excellency,

That these bills are not given assent as their purpose is anti-people and anti-Adivasis.

That the fundamental right to freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, and freedom to manage religious affairs guaranteed under the Article 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution is protected.

That the land of the Adivasis is safeguarded not only for the present but also for the future generations to come.

You, as the Constitutional Custodian of the Fifth Schedule Areas of Jharkhand comprising the adivasis of the land, are our hope for upholding justice and secularism in the country.

Yours Sincerely

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad,

General Secretary, NCCI

Democracy: Debate, Dissent, Discussion and Decision

Rt. Rev. Dr. P. C. Singh – President, NCCI.

In the life of States, organizations and movements decision making is an ongoing life process. History has witnessed many forms of governance and decision making. Kingship, autocracy, oligarchy, and democracy are some of them. The world has suffered from tyrant kings and reckless autocrats. Kingship has disappeared from many nations though many of the Middle Eastern countries are even now ruled by Kings and Sheikhs. For that matter, our own country emerged as a union of many small kingdoms.

Of all the forms of governance, democracy has been tested and found the best form of government. Democracy is government of the people by the people for the people. Our country is world’s largest democracy.

However, early church had a much simpler form of governance. They gathered together spent time in prayer and made decisions in one mind, probably guided by the elders. Their appointments and nominations were by casting lots. As the church grew up most of the mainline churches adopted democracy as their form of governance. Now CNI, CSI, MarThoma and many other churches are fully democratic. Yet, we cannot boast that our democratic process is without flaw. In many cases we fail to observe that salient features of democratic decision making process.

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A Moment of Introspection and Reflection

Rt. Rev. Dr. P. C. Singh – President, NCCI.

Greetings

Introduction

We have come together for the annual meetings of NCCI and CSA. As President I take this time to greet you all and welcome you to these sessions of deliberations. This is also an occasion of our mutual accountability. This responsibility will be carried out officially through the reports of the General Secretary, Treasurer and the secretaries and directors who are in charge of various activities of our great ecumenical movement. What I wish to do is to take a moment to introspect and reflect on our work during the past year. This, as you know, is a spiritual exercise which will provide a focus to our deliberations.

I wish to place before you a question around which we can do our introspection. How faithful and effective were we in fulfilling our quadrennial commitment of building up just and inclusive communities? We have completed sixteen months since the quadrennial meeting in Jabalpur. After observing and participating in many meetings, consultations and conversations since then, with appreciation I can say that we have made good progress in enhancing inclusivity.

Let us have a look at the development of our understanding of inclusivity. About two decades ago, NCCI’s agenda of inclusivity was very traditional. NCCI itself has been an umbrella of ecumenism for its member churches. Slowly the umbrella became larger to accommodate Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelicals with a new name NUCF. Side by side we had also occasions of dialogue with people of other faiths. Our understanding of gender equality was limited to giving equal status to men and women. Even for that, we did not succeed in giving equal status to men and women in all the member churches of NCCI.

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Supreme Court gives India a Private Life

A landmark decision was made by the Supreme Court on 24th August 2017. Here is a report from The Times of India, Ranchi Edition of 25th August 2017: 

 SC GIVES INDIA A PRIVATE LIFE

63-Yr-Old Judgement Overturned

by Dhananjay Mahapatra & Amit Anand Choudhary TNN

New Delhi: Propelling India into the ranks of progressive societies that ensure privacy of their citizens, a nine-judge Supreme Court bench unanimously ruled on Thursday that privacy is a fundamental right, protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty and as part of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. In a historic judgment, the bench headed by CJI J S Khehar — which included Justices J Chelameswar, S A Bobde, R K Agrawal, R F Nariman, A M Sapre, D Y Chandrachud, Sanjay K Kaul and S Abdul Nazeer — upturned a 63-year-old ruling of an eight-judge bench that had refused to recognise privacy as a fundamental right. The 547-page ruling set up many landmarks to outline what constitutes a dignified life and the obligation of the state to help its citizens lead one.

It emphasised the value of dissent and tolerance, besides the rights of minorities, including sexual minorities, clearing the way for the possible voiding of the SC’s controversial order to reverse the decriminalisation of consensual gay sex by the Delhi high court. It also boldly delineated the limits to the state’s intervention in the lives of citizens. (emphasis added)

However, the bench was alive to the challenges thrown up by technology and recognised that a balance needs to be maintained between the right to privacy and the right of the state to impose reasonable restrictions on it for legitimate aims such as national security, prevention and investigation of crimes and distribution of welfare resources.

What stood out was privacy being declared intrinsic to right to life and that it formed part of the sacrosanct chapter on fundamental rights in the Constitution, which has been regarded since 1973 as part of the basic structure, immune from Parliament’s interference. The unanimous verdict was “Right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as part of the freedoms granted by Part III

The NCCI is committed to work towards just and inclusive communities. In the spirit of the Constitution of India, we affirm the fundamental rights of all, and in the context of the above SC ruling, the right to dignity of life for all.

Jharkhand Church and Civil Society Leaders condemn Advertisement of Government

12th August 2017, Saturday

Press Statement

Issued by Jharkhand Solidarity Forum, Religious Organisations and Civil Society Organisations

We the members of Jharkhand Solidarity Forum, Religious Organisations, and Civil Society Organisations, protest and condemn the advertisement issued by the Information and Public Relations department of the Jharkhand government, published on 11th August 2017, on the front pages of Prabhat Khabar, Hindustan, Dainik Bhaskar and other newspapers.

This advertisement is an attempt to disrupt and damage the religious harmony and brotherhood between various communities and the Adivasi community by accusing the Christian community of conversions and using the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, without understanding the context.

Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, believed in all religions and was strictly against dividing people on the basis of religion. Using his name to divide people is an insult of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Along with this, it is also a conspiracy by the state government to divide the people on the basis of religion. Together, we warn the state government that we will not let any such attempt by the state, to be successful.

We are against forcible conversions and we believe that the state government should not indulge in the politics of dividing people using forcible conversions as an excuse. We believe that religion is a matter of a person’s individual faith and belief and that the state should not unnecessarily intervene into that domain. Secondly, we also believe that all citizens have the right to profess, practice and propagate their religion according to their conscience as provided by the constitution.

This is a first incident of its kind where a state government is dividing people on the basis of religion especially Christians and minorities. Whereas it is the duty of the state to unite people, this government is misusing government machinery and public money to divide people. We strongly protest and condemn this step taken by the government, which is a hindrance in obtaining a peaceful and democratic society.

Released in Public Interest by Jharkhand Solidarity Forum, Religious Organisations and other Civil Society Organisations.

 

Kendriya Sarna Samiti Jamiatul Ulema e Hind Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum
All Churches Committee Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas Adivasi Mahasabha
Jharkhand Solidarity Forum Sikh Fedration Jharkhand Dahar Womens Front
Sajha Kadam Sajha Manch Youth Revolution Ulgulan
Adivasi Youth organisation Lok Seva Samiti United Mili Forum
Farmers Struggle Front Aadivasi Intellectual Forum Sarv Dharm Samanvay Parishad, Ramgarh
Association for Protection of Civil Rights and other religious and social organizations

NCCI Interns’ orientation 2017

A two-day orientation programme for the interns of National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) was held on 15th -16th June 2017. Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary, along with the Executive Secretaries and the interns attended the programme. Six sessions were conducted all together where the Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad took up the first session. The second session was taken up by all  the Executive Secretaries together, third session by Rev. Caesar David, fourth session by Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, fifth session by Mr. Ashish Mane, Finance Officer-NCCI and Mr. Vijayan Pillai, Programme Coordinator-ESHA Inclusive, and the last session was an interactive session moderated by the General Secretary.

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Christmas message from NCCI General Secretary: “LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS!”

We live in a loveless world

We live in a loveless world. Our systems and structures are unjust: the caste system oppresses scheduled castes (dalits) and backward classes;  globalization favours the rich at the cost of the poor; development programmes displace the tribals and adivasis from their homelands; ceaseless wars and terrorist activities exterminate hundreds of innocent lives and render several thousand as refugees; expressions of fundamentalism suppress minorities;  the patriarchal system victimizes women and children; a competitive world frustrates several struggling  youth; our busy life leaves no time for families to care for one another ; consumerism depletes the earth’s resources and pollute nature; … indeed the list is unending.

 A lyric, entitled “A World without Love,” expresses utter disappointment with such a world:

Please lock me away, And don’t allow the day,
Here inside where I hide, With my loneliness
I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay  In a world without love

 Love given to a loveless world

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NCCI’s new website

ncci1914.com

bishoppcs

NCCI’s new website ncci1914.com was inaugurated by NCCI President, Honourable Bishop Dr. P. C. Singh on August 11, 2016 in the course of the General Body meeting in Chennai. Bishop Dr. P. C. Singh appreciated NCCI’s Commission on Communications and Relations for the upgrade, and wished the website to be a channel for more effective accomplishment of ecumenical objectives as communicating communities seeking to synergize efforts in service of the Church and Society.

NCCI’s new website is aimed at incorporating newer strategies and website components towards optimizing available technology to the various ways people currently use it, and its new domain name brings into focus the historic standing and commitment of the Council. The website will serve as a repository for reference and relevant data as well as a portal for news from NCCI, its member bodies and ecumenical concerns in general. With a responsive web design and integrated cross-platform content sharing (eg. in addition to email, facebook, twitter and other online social media, news posts viewed on mobile devices can now be shared on whatsapp as well), NCCI has responded practically to changing trends of accessing and sharing data across multiple platforms, including smart phones. The NCCI news app for AndroidTM devices that complements the news components of the website, continues to be freely available on Google PlayTM

 

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Black Day Observance at NCCI Campus, Nagpur

Black day PicAll NCCI Staff members observed “Black Day” on August 10, 2016 at the NCCI Campus, Nagpur to  protest about the continual negligence of the government to the cry for the rights of Dalit Christians and Muslims in the country.  In his address, Mr. Pradip Bansrior, Executive Secretary- Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns,  highlighted the injustice related to the issue and lamented that the Civil Writ Petition 180/2004 in the Honorable Supreme Court of India praying for the deletion of paragraph 3 of the Presidential Order 1950 has been pending in the Supreme Court of India for the past 12 years, since the Government has not yet replied to the Supreme court.

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NCCI welcomes new interns for 2016-2017. Interns Orientation Workshop conducted.

The National Council of Churches in India welcomes new interns for 2016 – 17. These young people have come from different regions and backgrounds. During their time at NCCI, it is hoped that they would explore various concerns, learn and contribute to the strengthening of the ecumenical movement in India.

atonNgalaton Ningsen

Ngalaton is from Nagaland and is an intern for Tribal and Adivasi concerns. She has done her B.D. from Bishop’s College, Kolkata in 2016. She has earlier worked as a secretary in Evangelical Union ministry at Patkai, Sunday school staff in Senakeithei village, Manipur, and has been a member of Nagaland Singing Ambassadors Choir. She is seeking for an opportunity from NCCI to explore herself in the best possible way, to have a wider picture of Tribal and Adivasi concerns beyond North East India which she believes will be of great benefit and help for her future M.Th. studies.

shitoviShitovi Sema

Shitovi is intern for  Youth concerns. He is from Dimapur, Nagaland and has done his M.Th. in Missiology  from Aizawl Theological College in 2016 and B.D.  from Easter Theological College in 2013. He served Dimapur Sumi Baptist Church as a Youth Coordinator (Voluntary service) in 2013-2014. He is a worship leader of his church. He want to improve his skills in programme strategies, social analysis, communication, inter-personal mission and evangelism,  and leadership.

manas Manas Raj

Manas is serving NCCI as an intern for concerns of Unity, Mission and Evangelism. He has done his B.D. from Bethel Bible College, Andhra Pradesh in year 2016. He is from Adarshapara C.N.I. Church, Sambalpur Diocese and has worked as a Secretary of the Youth Fellowship in his church and was engaged in social works like cleaning the surroundings, Plantation, Rally against Gender Discrimination and Environmental Degradation, and has attended programs on social work in the church.

ahonHungreiphy Zas

Hungreiphy Zas hails from Manipur. She belongs to the Tangkhul Baptist Church, which is a member of Manipur Baptist Convention. She has graduated recently in Bachelor of Divinity (BD)  from Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur. She is an intern for All India Council of Christian Women- Women’s Wing NCCI. She wants   to be a part of NCCI to get experience and skills in various fields especially improvement  in communication skills, as well as to expose herself in a wider ministerial area.

jyotiJyotirmaya Tandi

Jyotirmaya is intern for  Dalit concerns. He is from Titlagarh, Odisha and has done his B.D. from Bethel Bible College in year 2016. He was a youth leader of his church and served Christian Endeavor as a treasurer. He is looking forward to learn leadership qualities and to bring justice and equality for Dalits.

 

davidDavid Jadhav

David is working with All India Sunday School Association as an intern. He is from Nagpur.  He has done his Bachelor’s degree from Science stream in 2016.  He is member of Harvest Church, Nagpur and is actively participating in church activities such as organizing youth events, operating sound system etc. His objective to join NCCI is to bring unity among all denominations and churches.

 

hrudayHrudhay Addurwar

Hrudhay is assisting the Administration Department of NCCI. He is from Nagpur and completed his Mechanical Engineering course in 2013. He is CNI Nagpur Diocese Youth President for the 2015-2018 session. He is very active in church and social activities and is a very good football player. He is looking forward to serve the society and ecumenism through his internship

 

avinaArina Murrian

Arina is from Nagpur and has done her graduation in Commerce in 2016. She is a member of  St. Francis De Sales Cathedral, Nagpur. She is a part-time intern for IDEA Forum of NCCI. She is very active in her church and a part of the Youth Choir. She is looking forward to learn more about missionary activities through NCCI.

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