Faculty Statement on Narendra Modi's Upcoming Visit to Silicon Valley: A Preliminary Response to Some of Our Critics

September 1, 2015: When we released our letter on August 27, 2015 we had 125 signers. Despite the intimidation and harassment we have received at this blog site and elsewhere, more faculty have written to us asking that their names be included in the list of signatories–we now number 135. We are heartened by our colleagues’ willingness to share the burden of unpopular opinion when ad hominem attacks have eclipsed rational discussion. The threats  and ugly tone in the comments section of this blog and elsewhere illustrate exactly how academic freedom, and freedom of expression in general, is compromised by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist followers. It is some of these same followers who issued death threats against the eminent Kannada scholar and former Vice Chancellor of Kannada University, M.M. Kalburgi, who was murdered the day before yesterday. We are saddened by Dr. Kalburgi’s death and by those who celebrated his murder on social media.

The chilling effect of these attacks makes it difficult to address either the substance of our claims or any legitimate points of contention with our letter. For now, we wish simply to clarify a few points about the letter that have been erroneously reported.

1) We did not send our statement to Silicon Valley CEOs. The statement is addressed to Mr. Modi’s audiences in Silicon Valley, which includes Silicon Valley industries. We did not ask Silicon Valley companies not to invest in India; we asked them to consider carefully the terms of partnership with India. The objective of our letter is to raise awareness and debate in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, of Mr. Modi’s record on key issues related to “Digital India”.

2) We are a diverse group of South Asia and other faculty that includes professional fields, the social sciences, and humanities: anthropologists, sociologists, economists, political scientists, psychologists, historians, and philosophers; literature, law, communications and business/management faculty; as well as scholars in interdisciplinary programs such as science studies, international studies, religious studies, ethnic studies, feminist, gender and queer studies, and film/media studies. Most universities recognize that the problem-solving required for deep social and political issues requires interdisciplinary and collaborative work, and many of us are members of such interdisciplinary programs. We are surprised at the presumption that only science and technology experts pay attention to the effects of technology on society, since the questions of digital society and freedom require attention by scholars in other fields as well. Digital Humanities initiatives, for instance, illustrate the ways some of us actively think about the relationship between technology and society.   Historically all technology has social, political, and ethical effects–precisely because technology is so powerful and far-reaching.  Perspectives from our varied fields of scholarship offer crucial insights into the nature of this impact.

3) We believe that technology can unleash potent changes in society, many of them positive.  Digital initiatives can provide transparency, access to information, and efficiency to communities in need, and indeed have done so.  At the same time, such initiatives empower both corporations and governments in many unforeseen ways, and allow them to reach into people’s private lives with ever new and, from our perspective, perilous methods.  WikiLeaks, for example, has helped to expose the pervasive nature of government spying at the international level.  This threat to privacy applies everywhere, including the United States, and is certainly not unique to India.  We caution any Digital India plan to be cognizant of these risks, and to take effective, transparent steps to protect against them.

Our initial statement represents a relative and not absolute consensus. There is healthy disagreement among us on the merits of Universal ID (UID) or “Aadhaar,” and e-governance generally. For our critics to act as if the recent Supreme Court of India ruling on UID resolves the issues surrounding privacy and constitutional rights in India is dangerous and misleading. These issues are unresolved in the U.S. and other parts of the globe, and we are surprised that commenters highlight the poor record on these issues in the U.S. as a rationale for not critiquing the Modi administration’s record. We do not believe India as a democracy needs to be limited in its protection of rights by the failure of such protection in other states. The general discussion around the performance of the Modi government is one where technological achievement or economic development and other rights (human rights, labor rights, free speech rights, minority rights, and religious rights) are posed as mutually exclusive choices. Our point is that they do not have to be, and can in fact, coexist. Our question is this: What does “Digital India” look like given the Modi administration’s intolerance of dissent, its poor record on freedom of expression in general, and on freedom of religion in particular?

FURTHER READING

The Murder of M.M. Kalburgi

http://thewire.in/2015/08/30/kannada-scholar-kalburgi-shot-dead-third-rationalist-to-be-killed-in-three-years-9586/

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-mm-kalburgi-murder-bajrang-dal-leader-arrested-for-threatening-tweet-2120476

http://thewire.in/2015/08/30/yesterday-basavanna-today-kalburgi-9597/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-34105187

http://www.bangaloremirror.com/columns/views/The-importance-of-Professor-Kalburgi/articleshow/48818922.cms

Supreme Court Ruling on UID

http://indianexpress.com/article/blogs/decoding-the-aadhar-judgment-no-more-seeding-not-till-the-privacy-issue-is-settled-by-the-court/

http://www.sacw.net/IMG/pdf/uid_sc_orders_11.08.2015.pdf

Fast-tracking of Central Monitoring System

PART 1: As Modi government puts the Central Monitoring System on fast track, former Minister Milind Deora says that without a strong privacy bill, it could be misused. http://scroll.in/article/729701/upa-minister-who-put-in-place-spying-system-warns-against-its-lawful-but-malicious-use

PART 2: By allowing the government to directly access phone and internet communications without the restriction of a privacy law, the system could put citizen rights in jeopardy. http://scroll.in/article/729809/why-indians-must-resist-the-modi-governments-planned-surveillance-system

Critiques of Digitalization

Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything And Why We Should Worry (University of California Press, 2011)

Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger and Kenneth Cukier. Big Data. (Mariner Books, 2013).

Religious Freedom

http://www.pewforum.org/2015/02/26/religious-hostilities/

http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/India%202015.pdf

http://wilsonquarterly.com/stories/modi-hindu-politics-caste-india/

Academic Freedom

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/british-academic-denied-entry-into-india/article6134355.ece

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/aug/13/india-stormy-revival-nalanda-university/

http://scroll.in/article/753501/how-the-humanities-can-protect-india-against-the-attacks-on-its-freedoms

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/7/indian-governments-worrying-push-into-cultural-institutions.html

http://www.thenational.ae/world/south-asia/protests-over-modis-choice-at-renowned-india-film-school
Crackdown on NGOs

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/greenpeace-indias-fcra-registration-cancelled-govt/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/08/opinion/indias-chilling-crackdown.html?_r=0

http://thewire.in/2015/06/19/new-draft-rules-tighten-the-noose-around-foreign-funded-ngos-in-india-4332/

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/government-cancels-licence-of-4470-ngos/

http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/04/28/india-charities-funding-idINKBN0NJ15J20150428

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Foreign-funded-NGOs-stalling-development-IB-report/articleshow/36411169.cms

Case against Modi

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-34105194

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/world/asia/teesta-setalvad-modi-india.html

http://humanrightsclinic.law.stanford.edu/project/the-quest-for-justice/

http://www.outlookindia.com/article/dont-ask-dont-tell/289455

20 thoughts on “Faculty Statement on Narendra Modi's Upcoming Visit to Silicon Valley: A Preliminary Response to Some of Our Critics

  1. I wonder if we research each of the names listed above how many of them campaign against the treatment of Snowdon or the activities of the NSA. If the answer is “not many” then the motivations of the remainder should be questioned. Digital India is a far reaching scheme that builds a modern digital infrastructure in a future India that will benefit all Indian citizens. By making this statement this website and organisation and participants on an individual bases are all clearly against the progress of the Indian people & nation. Shame on you all living the high life in the West, condemning the less fortunate to a substandard future. You all make me sick to the core.

    • These retards don’t India, forget about Digital India. And, American Govt must be snooping on each American, including these super human geniuses. After all they routinely snoop even on foreign govt like Germany. But then who cares. They want to hurt Mr Modi, even if it impacts India. But, if such trash were to hurt Mr Modi, he would not be Prime Minister of India. For the benefit of these professors, 1 min video http://youtu.be/ude5nx8HpWY

    • The conclusion and the premise surrounding your argument is in itself very flawed and illogical. Attributing Kalburgi’s Murder to Modi’s followers is totally unjustified. It was an act by a few people who were narrow minded and couldn’t accept some rationalist views of other people. Nowhere has it been mentioned that it was because of any Modi / BJP supporters. It is as if you are saying that because an incident of random shooting happened in the U.S, all the people under the U.S govt. are likely to kill other people, which I consider a very flawed argument.
      I would also like to bring to your notice that the case on Modi in the Gujarat riots has acquited him of all charges, inspite of the Govt. at that time being the Opposition Party, the Congress.
      It is beneath the level of such academics and Dignified personalities to bring Kalburgi’s murder as an argument to support your claim, which is totally baseless.
      Modi has been unanimously elected by a Muslim Majority as well as by other religious minorities which shows that most people believe in his innocence and his vision of a greater India. Being an Indian who lives in India I experience no such restrictions on speech or practice and find India a very tolerant country with a population of 1.25 billion Indians of all castes / religions living in Harmony.
      A vision of a Digital India is beneficial not just to India but to the world since India is the world’s largest Democracy and thus represents the views of a whole lot of people who have been contributing to all classes, professions, countries in taking them forward. Investing in such an initiative is not just monetarily beneficial but benefits humanity and encourages such development and the advancement of mankind and technology hand in hand as a whole. Criticism of such an initiative is of course everyone’s right to the freedom of speech but misleading arguments are not.
      As for cautioning the officials to be well aware of the privacy risks Digital India might bring I support it 100 %. But I dont believe there is religious intolerance, restriction on freedom of speech in India. There might have been an incident or two such as the Kalburgi incident but they are extreme and rare cases. The gujarat riots were unfortunate, but I do not believe they have been propogated with malic in mind by any officials, nor has there been any evidence of the same except baseless allegations. Such freedom is what has led to the Aam Aadmi party, Lokpal protests, RTI acts, etc. These are my personal views as an Indian and a person free to express, and I do not advocate any specific party or person.

  2. Again these Dumb a*** came up with another stupidity. You f**ls are claiming like Professors by Copying some urls and says “be careful dealing with India”

    You only see these violence in India. There are hundreds of people killed in India on a daily basis because of the Islamic extremists. Don’t you see that

    Do you think your voice is important that the Modi audiance will listen and boycott him?

    Then beware, your students are going to boycott you for these stupidities. IF you are satisfying your masters like “Ford foundation or some stupid organizations” you could go ahead.

    OfCourse, you are from India and you guys might have applied in Science and Technology streams for studies and would have been rejected because there were other bright students and you finally ended up in your stream. ie Language and Humanities..

    In India there is no competition in Humanities and any brain dead can apply and get an admission and then later on get into some research in some foreign universities. You guys are well aware of this we are very clear about this. And with that knowledge we are telling you “Your opinion is crap” and “very retarded”

    Yes we try to prevent “retarded opinions” on Modern India and its dynamic elected leader. If you have a problem with that go get some medicine for Constipation and stay at your loo ..waiting ..

    India under Modi is shredding all these craps and getting ready to lead the world.
    You be comfortable what you do and don’t try to put your opinion to an Intelligent forum like this

  3. Pingback: SiliconBeat – Google will host Indian prime minister on controversial Silicon Valley visit

  4. I note that most other Blogs at this site have an author’s name. Here the author appears to be “We” as in the Royal Pronoun, or is this the Politburo of FOIL? Your allusion to the death of someone in India (my condolences to his family) as evidence of the “threats” that you are under, proves, in my opinion, the serious delusions that appear to guide your gang. It reminds me of the “Death Threats” that suddenly appeared on a Petition by students back in 2003, drawing public attention to the blatant child p0rnography that passed for “scholarship” by Emory University’s Paul Courtright. Those threats appeared, apparently seconds before Emory’s Public Relations Department (not security, not the President’s office, but the Public Relations Office) called in the FBI – get the Petition shut down. These are the people who whine about “freedom of expression”?
    You list a bunch of urls. So can I, a hundred times that many, listing the other side of each story which you never mention. For instance the “crackdown on NGOs”. Read the book “NGOS, Activists and Foreign Funding: Anti-Nation Industry” (free download) from back in 2006 for an introduction to the scope of the problem. http://www.vigilonline.com/index.php?task=view&id=843&Itemid=109
    No nation (of course you don’t recognize the concept of a Nation either, per your Comrade Vijay Prashad) can afford to allow massive inflows of money and organized insurgents to overthrow democracy. The Indian government has the legitimacy of 600 million voters who voted in the election – again a concept that you anarchists do not recognize since it does not exist in your Model Paradises. The government rightly enforced the laws ALREADY EXISTING on the books (i.e., laws that existed under the prior government). Reading the articles, it is clear that the ONLY NGOs that are squealing or hiding are those that were blatantly illegal, corrupt or already underground after having misspent the money. This is just one example of the falsehood of your writeup.
    Now it is clear why your authors who are so keen to list their Commodeships and Stoolships on every Petition, are so shy about ‘coming out’ on the website of the American Association of University Professors: blatant lying constitutes fraud. Done under your real names, that is clear Academic Fraud. Your ONE long-standing area of expertise.
    But PLEASE! Keep up the entertainment and keep posting those lists. I am too poor and too busy to go to the Circus.

  5. Oh, wait!! This is why I say the FOIL is the most hilarious entertainment around. One of those Informative Links on Religious freedom is an AL JAZEERA report!!! :ROTFL

    Hello people, you forgot to cite your usual top source: The People’s War Weekly. Official Organ of the Communist Party (Marxist/Leninist/Maoist). The one that had the Death Sentences handed out to the elected Chief MInisters of several Indian States. Slipping?

    By the way, VOX POPULI (see, I done larned me some Italian too!) has comprehensively trashed your exclusionist VOX POMPOUSI.

    It took your gang over a month to clank out a 500-word load of poorly-written, rambling Marxist propaganda. And get 125 of your “signatures”. In the time it took for TEN more to convey their support to you, over ONE THOUSAND AND FIFTY (1050) humans signed this: Some have given their credentials, most of us prefer do not feel the need to do that for social chit-chat. Enjoy! Of course, any honest debunking of your propaganda comes under what you whine about above as “intimidation and harassment”, “ugly tone”, “ad hominem attacks” etc.

    https://www.change.org/p/members-and-alumnae-of-american-universities-oppose-prejudice-and-fear-mongering-in-the-faculty-statement-on-narendra-modi-s-visit?source_location=petitions_share_skip

    Enjoy!

  6. It appears that one or more of the misguided group of signatories had a nightmare about their earlier comments and now writing a response in a slightly “softer” tone. As an academic with about 40 years experience I have tremendous respect for “academic freedom” but having read some of the baseless statements, I am beginning to question the essence of academic freedom. I ask my colleagues, who chose to sign the petition just because a colleague said so or just because they like to blindly follow other’s point of view, to wake up and be realist about the country called India and those who proudly call themselves Indian. India is on the move under a dynamic leader and 135 signatories- India haters- are simply wasting their time, energy, and academic talent. India with over 1.2 billion brains and its growing youth bulge is a force to be respected and not intimidated and harassed anymore.

  7. Commies of Kerala and Bengal and low lives of India, first thing in your blog you say that you were intimidated and harassed, I don’t see one single comment which is harassing. So where is the intimidation? If you write something despicable and untrue what other side suppose to do? Let it go, and not contest your dietribe? I know all of you have “modi” virus and which is causing you to lose your sleep. But don’t worry we are going to “wipe out” the 67 years of “pseudo secular” establishment of apathy, nepotism, corruption, babuism and give a fresh look of India to young Indians. We will do whatever is necessary to “wipe you out” the cancer of commie and khangressi inferiors in the high echelon of media, journalism, culture, education, research, humanities, socio economic corridors,culture, art, music will be “bleached thoroughly and discarded” with no regard. Just wait and watch, we are coming and we will take care of you in very democratic way.

  8. There are those who live on earth and there are those who live in their own (fool’s) paradise. The truth that these bloggers avoid in the name of Freedom of Expression is that they themselves are willing to smother that freedom of someone else. Not only are they suppressing Freedom of Expression of one individual but they are also running away from conflicting viewpoints to their own.

    In their dismal pursuit of knowledge at various educational institutes, an endeavor which has failed, these bloggers have failed to learn and are scared of the reality that India really is – that Indians (Citizens or the Diaspora) do not think like the ‘commies’ is something these bloggers never accepted and will never be able to face up to. This is the fundamental disconnect of people with disdain for Modi’s nationalism and since their own appeal and arguments are mere rhetoric, they work overtime to ensure counter views are not even presented.

    May you fail again!

  9. Pingback: The Nastiness in the Weeds: Reactions to the Statement on Modi’s Upcoming Visit to Silicon Valley | The Academe Blog

  10. Hi,

    let me rebut these people point by point regarding the various inks they have attached.

    1. Kalburgi’s murder is really painful, but no one is guilty until proven. where is the involvement of right-wing proven here? just mere threats are enough?
    2. regarding the crackdowns on NGOs, they did not file their returns as per the rule of the law. can these hon. professors stay even a day in US without filing their annual returns? In fact, these actions were taken way back in 2012 itself. where were these morons at that time?
    3. Regarding the gujarat riots, even the highest supreme court has not been able to find any evidence with respect to PM. why dont these ark-chair critics take it up with the courts if they have any proof?
    4. Regarding teesta setalvad, she has misappropriated money and has lived a lavish life and the complainant has been one of her former employees and the complaint was lodged a few years back and the investigation has reached its crescent. just because she criticised modiiji, should she not be punished for her misdemeanor?
    5. Another link is with respect to the aadhar card. LOL. these morons dont even know that it was brought by the previous govt and in fact it was a pet project of sonia. This govt. has tried to eliminate all the short-comings in that.
    6. see their references. one is from aljazeera. may be, you should try better by quoting from some pakistani newspapers too next time.
    7. can these authors explain, what is the context of the link ‘The Googlization of Everything’. just by providing more links, these morons thought that their audacious blog will get more credibility.
    8.The link about the http://www.pewforum.org talks about religious hostilities from 2007 till 2013. thse morons dont even know that the said BJP came to power only in 2014??
    9.The judgement on UIDAI is that it has been referred to a larger bench and the court has temporarily stopped the linking of aadhar to every welfacre scheme. this linking would be a good move and it willa ct like the SSN in US. can any of these professors explain whether they can shy away from using their SSN anywhere in the US and that they dont have a SSN.
    10.coming to the nalanda, every information about how Amartya sen has cheated the Indian Govt and what is the current shape of Nalanda is all there in the same public domain that these morons have attached the links from.

    It is very clear that these so called academicians are either so ignorant that they cannot identify truth from lies or they are so clouded by their hate for India and in particular Modi that they have stooped to such low levels.

    GOD, save the sutdents who are studying under these so called professors. If there are any students of these so called professors who read this blog, then they must objectively challenge the lies of these professors.

  11. The conclusion and the premise surrounding your argument is in itself very flawed and illogical. Attributing Kalburgi’s Murder to Modi’s followers is totally unjustified. It was an act by a few people who were narrow minded and couldn’t accept some rationalist views of other people. Nowhere has it been mentioned that it was because of any Modi / BJP supporters. It is as if you are saying that because an incident of random shooting happened in the U.S, all the people under the U.S govt. are likely to kill other people, which I consider a very flawed argument.
    I would also like to bring to your notice that the case on Modi in the Gujarat riots has acquited him of all charges, inspite of the Govt. at that time being the Opposition Party, the Congress.
    It is beneath the level of such academics and Dignified personalities to bring Kalburgi’s murder as an argument to support your claim, which is totally baseless.
    Modi has been unanimously elected by a Muslim Majority as well as by other religious minorities which shows that most people believe in his innocence and his vision of a greater India. Being an Indian who lives in India I experience no such restrictions on speech or practice and find India a very tolerant country with a population of 1.25 billion Indians of all castes / religions living in Harmony.
    A vision of a Digital India is beneficial not just to India but to the world since India is the world’s largest Democracy and thus represents the views of a whole lot of people who have been contributing to all classes, professions, countries in taking them forward. Investing in such an initiative is not just monetarily beneficial but benefits humanity and encourages such development and the advancement of mankind and technology hand in hand as a whole. Criticism of such an initiative is of course everyone’s right to the freedom of speech but misleading arguments are not.
    As for cautioning the officials to be well aware of the privacy risks Digital India might bring I support it 100 %. But I dont believe there is religious intolerance, restriction on freedom of speech in India. There might have been an incident or two such as the Kalburgi incident but they are extreme and rare cases. The gujarat riots were unfortunate, but I do not believe they have been propogated with malic in mind by any officials, nor has there been any evidence of the same except baseless allegations. Such freedom is what has led to the Aam Aadmi party, Lokpal protests, RTI acts, etc. These are my personal views as an Indian and a person free to express, and I do not advocate any specific party or person.

  12. 1573 supporters and counting for the counter petition, many of them from faculty and postgraduates from the hard sciences, engineering and technology fields. Once again Doniger, Pollock, and assorted Bengali/Keralite members of the Forum Of Indian Leftists (FOIL), and some Pakistani ‘academics’ who have the chutzpah to criticize democratic India which is in stark contrast to their rogue military-industrial-security state, have been thoroughly discredited. Time for Doniger to whip out the failed Freudian pyschosexual babble to explain away yet another shellacking of the PoCoMo ivory-towered elites by the not-silent-anymore subalterns.

  13. It’s good to see that folks from other side of the globe are quick to connect dots and foresee where all this is going. Modi is a right wing politician with all the bad things that come in the package. His method of coming to power by polarizing the Hindu majority population is similar to politicians and leaders who have been making a mess in the Middle East. Already, we are seeing freedom of expression being curbed in India. The Hindu Bhakts or Indian version of Taliban, are everywhere trying to stop people from expressing themselves. They are expressing themselves just like the extremists assert themselves in the Middle East and take up arguments just like the Republicans in US. All of this in India has the potential to become another dictatorship that the world will have to deal with later and dismantle, just like it has been done countless times in the past.

  14. Well, what sort of scholars are these who justify their diatribe against India and PM Modi on basis of couple of links from to articles written in biased newspapers by biased editors and professors hostile to anything remotely connected to Hindus. Is this kind of cheap low quality research you publish in International peer-reviewed journals ? Another thing which is not surprising is that nearly 40+ professors are Bengalis. No surprises here. The marxist Left destroyed story of Bengali’s in few decades and now their expatriates want to do the same to India. As someone said, you should be ashamed of being Indian because not only you are making false and unjustified accusations, but you are blatantly lying and telling half-truths, unverified claims and distorting the image of India. You are also causing deep harm to chances of India growth. You are thorns in our path to sustained growth. You donot deserve to be called Indian or Hindus. We donot welcome you in India and Bengal. Please stay there and revel in your inferiority complex and hatred against anything Hindus because that what keeps you in job, that boot-licking is what fetches you your roji roti.

    Coming to event in Cal, US, no one gives a heck about what these social studies anti-Hindu professors clamor about India and Hindus and PM Modi. India is on a path of stable, peaceful growth and good governance. We donot want to deal with hate-mongers and mudslingers anymore. Just ignore these pade-likhe gawar who can no longer fool the Indo-US public in India or US

  15. There are Hindu nationalists and there are Hindu nationalists. With the caveat that ultimately a single person cannot do much, PM Modi is the person most likely to enable India to give the 12 million new entrants into the labor market each year in India a chance at getting jobs, a decent living, and a future.

    Modi asked for a clear mandate — after bomb blasts at a Patna election rally, he told the people that they could either have Hindu-Muslim fights or they could have prosperity, and if they wanted prosperity, to vote for him — and he received that mandate.

    Modi asked his followers to behave themselves on social media. See this July 1st story: “Modi meets Social Media Influencers, stresses on use of “positive language” even when facing abuse”

    http://www.opindia.com/2015/07/modi-meets-social-media-influencers-stresses-on-use-of-positive-language-even-when-facing-abuse/

    That some of the people who support Modi have not got the message does not reflect on Modi, only on those people. The argument that Modi has somehow enabled bad behavior is spurious. That Modi presents a threat to Indian democracy is slander (e.g., by Richard Falk).

    I would recommend American-based academics to worry more about the state of American democracy, after Citizens United, where for instance, the Republican Presidential primaries have reduced to a fight between billionaires and people backed by billionaires; where for instance, in the last seven years, state legislatures and the US Supreme Court have attacked the voting rights of minorities; and where the government has actually, not potentially, been snooping on everyone’s phone calls and emails. Unless you academics have signed petitions or otherwise campaigned on the behalf of American democracy, your attack on PM Modi smacks of hypocrisy.

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