R. C. Majumdar

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Ramesh Chandra Majumdar (1960)

Ramesh Chandra Majumdar (4 December 188411 February 1980) was an Indian historian and professor of Indian history at the Banaras Hindu University.

See also The History and Culture of the Indian People

Quotes

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  • Unfortunately some archaeologists seem to have no eyes to see anything but what the spade digs up from the bowels of the earth, and no ears to hear anything that is not echoed from excavated ruins.
    • (Majumdar 1959, 11). 1959. "Rgvedic Civilization in the Light of Archaeology." Annals of the Bhandarfcar Oriental Research Institute 40:1-15. in Bryant, E. F. (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture : the Indo-Aryan migration debate. Oxford University Press. chapter 9

The History and Culture of the Indian People

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  • This world tendency to make history the vehicle of certain definite political, social and economic ideas, which reign supreme in each country for the time being, is like a cloud, at present no bigger than a man’s hand, but which may soon grow in volume, and overcast the sky, covering the light of the world by an impenetrable gloom. The question is therefore of paramount importance, and it is the bounden duty of every historian to guard himself against the tendency, and fight it by the only weapon available to him, namely by holding fast to truth in all his writings irrespective of all consequences. A historian should not trim his sail according to the prevailing wind, but ever go straight, keeping in view the only goal of his voyage—the discovery of truth.

Ancient India

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  • Indians of old were keenly alive to the expansion of dominions, acquisition of wealth, and the development of trade, industry and commerce. The material prosperity they gained in these various ways was reflected in the luxury and elegance that characterized the society... The adventurous spirit of the Indians carried them even as far as the North Sea, while their caravans traveled from one end of Asia to the other.
    • R. C. Majumdar, Ancient India, 1977, p. 210-216.
  • There can be no doubt that the architects who planned and built the Ananda temple were Indians. Everything in this temple from Sikhara to the basement as well as the numerous stone sculptures found in its corridors and the terra-cotta...adorning its basement and terraces, bear the indubitable stamp of Indian genius and craftsmanship...In this sense, we may take it, therefore, that the Ananda, though built in the Burmese capital, is an Indian temple."
    • ' R. C. Majumdar, Ancient India, 1977, p. 497.

History Of The Freedom Movement In India

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Volume I

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  • I have approached the subject from a strictly historical point of view. It is an ominous sign of the time that Indian history is being viewed in official circles in the perspective of recent politics. (xxii-xxiii)
  • The official history of the freedom movement starts with the premises that India lost independence only in the eighteenth century and had thus an experience of subjection to a foreign power for only two centuries. Real history, on the other hand, teaches us that the major part of India lost independence about five centuries before, and merely changed masters in the eighteenth century. (xxii-xxiii)
    • History Of The Freedom Movement In India Vol. 1 [1] quoted also in Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 310-311
  • There are some obvious difficulties in writing a history of the movement for freedom in India only fifteen years after it was achieved, and by one who has himself passed through the most! eventful period in it, covering the third and fourth phases mentioned above. We are all too near the events to view them in their true perspective. I have been a witness to the grim struggle from 1905 to 1947, and do not pretend to be merely a dispassionate or disinterested spectator ; I would have been more or less than a human being if I were so. My views and judgments of men and things may, therefore, have been influenced by passions and prejudices. Without denying this possibility, I may claim that I have tried my best to take a detached view. On the other hand, I possess certain advantages also#in having a first-hand knowledge of the important events and the fleeting impressions and sentiments they left behind on the minds of the people. It is difficult to form a proper idea of these by one who, living at a later period, has only to rely on the record of the past in order to re- construct its history. Although these reflections do not directly, concern the present Volume, indirect influence cannot altogether be ruled out. I have therefore tried to place before the reader all the relevant facts, leaving them to form their own conclusions. As the feelings and impressions of a class or community, whether justified by facts and events and reasonable or not, are of great significance in history, I have, wherever available, quoted at some length views of representative persons whose names carry some weight. (xv-xvi)
  • For, in any discussion of the question whether the revolt of 1857 was the first national war of independence or not, the real character of> the outbreaks of the civil population must be the decisive factor. A detailed statement of actual, facts, based on authentic sources, is calculated to give a more accurate and definite idea on the subject than any amount of abstract theory or argument. The officially Sponsored Centenary Volume of the Mutiny doe9 not contain sufficient details of this nature, and hence I thought it necessary to add them to counteract the current view that the outbreak of 1857 was the first national war of independence. I have tried, to show, with the help of the details given, that it was neither 'first', nor 'national,' nor 'a war of independence. (xvii)
  • After all, history is no respecter of the feelings of persons and communities, and one cannot alter the facts of history. (xviii)
  • The mere fact that the author of this book happens to be a Bengali should not stand in the way of expressing this truth out of a false sense of modesty. It is a truism that parochialism should not influence an author’s judgment. What it really means is that parochial feeling must not lead him either to exaggerate or to minimize the value or importance of the part played by the narrow geographical region to which he might belong. Both are equally wrong. His views and statements should be judged by the normal canons of criticism and must not be discredited off-hand on the gratuitous assumption of partiality for his own people or province. I leave it to the readers to judge for themselves whether the role attributed to Bengal is right or not. I may be wrong, due to ignorance, particularly of the language and literature of other parts of India, or error in judgment, and I shall be the first to admit it if I am convinced by facts and arguments ; but I shall fail in my duty as a historian' if I desist from stating what I believe to be true, simply out of the fear that it will be set down to parochialism. If I have laid an undue stress or emphasis on any point or aspect, I shall welcome a challenge which, if supported by facts and arguments, is bound to advance or correct our knowledge of history, and there- by do a great deal of good. (xviii - xix)
  • But such an attempt was never made in India, as the existence of two such fundamentally different political units was never fully realized by the Hindu leaders. Even today the Indian leaders would not face the historical truth, failure to recognize which has cost them dear. They still live in the realm of»a fancied fraternity and are as sensitive to any expression that jars against the slogan of Hindu- Muslim bhai bhai , as they were at the beginning of this century. Verily the Bourbons are not the only people who ever forgot the past and never learnt any lesson even from their own history. I yield to none in a genuine desire to promote communal harmony and amity. If I have violated the political convention of the day by revealing the very unpleasant but historical truth about the relations between the Hindus and Muslims, I have done so in order to elucidate and explain the course of events in the past, not unmingled with the hope that our leaders would draw some useful lessons for the future. In any case, I may assure my readers that I have done so with good will to both the communities and malice to none, being convinced that the solid structure of mutual amity and understanding cannot be built on the quicksands of false history and political expediency. Real understanding can only be arrived at by a frank recognition of the facts of history and not by suppressing and distorting them. These considerations have prompted me to discuss Hindu-Muslim relations in a correct historical perspective. Be it also remembered that such a discussion is indispensable in order to offer a rational explanation of the birth of Pakistan. (xix-xx)
  • There is hardly any doubt that the net result of Syed Ahmad’s policy was to widen the cleavage between the two great communities in India, but perhaps it would be more correct to say that he was not so much anti-Hindu as pro-Muslim. He might well say, like the great Roman, Brutus, that it was not that he loved the Hindus less but that he loved the Muslims more. The one aim of his lie was to promote the Muslim interests, come what may. (436)
  • The differences between the Hindus and the Muslims were undoubtedly accentuated by the policy of 'Divide and Rule systematically pursued by the British throughout the 19th century. As far back as 1821 a British officer wrote in the Asiatic Journal : “Divide et Impera should be the motto of our administration,” and the policy was supported by high British officers. At first the policy was to favour the Hindus at the expense of the Muslims, for, as Lord Ellenborough put it. “that race is fundamentally hostile to us and therefore our true policy is to conciliate the Hindus.” It was not till the seventies when the Hindus had developed advanced political ideas and a sense of nationalism that the British scented danger and began to favour the Muslims, now turned docile, at the expense of the Hindus. From about the eighties it became the settled policy of the British to play the Muslims against the Hindus and break the solidarity of the people. Since then the British argument against conceding the political demands of the Congress has always been 'that it would be impossible for England to hand over the Indian Muslims to the tender mercies of a hostile numerical majority.’ (436ff)
  • These communal riots may be justly regarded as an outward manifestation of that communal spirit which grew in intensity throughout the nineteenth century and at last drove the Hindus- and Muslims into two opposite camps in politics. The ground, was prepared by the frankly communal outlook of the Muslims, typified by the Wahabi Movement and the Aligarh Movement. The situation was rendered worse by the policy of Divide and Rule adopted by the British Government with the definite object’ of playing one community against the other. The spectre of communalism which haunted Indian politics even at the close of the nineteenth century was destined to grow in size and volume as years rolled by. The cloud that was no bigger than a man's, hand in 1900 soon overcast the whole sky and brought rain, thunder and storm which drenched the whole country with blood and tears in less than half a century. (440)

Volume II

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  • The four-fold ramification of the Swadeshi movement industrial, educational, cultural and political—and its spread all over India unnerved the Government of India. It was not long before they realized that a local movement for removing a local grievance was being slowly, but steadily, developed into an all-India national movement against British rule. Lord Minto found it difficult to kill the hydra-headed monster let out of the basket of his predecessor. Lord Curzon.
  • When the Nawab was being taken in a procession through the public streets, there occurred a case of assault on Hindus, and looting of a few Hindu, particularly Hindu Swadeshi, shops. These incidents were a signal for a general outbreak of hooliganism involving assault, looting, destruction of properties and arson… On the other hand, the Government officials were full of praise for the Muhammadans…The Comilla riot was followed by various other outbreaks of a similar nature….Consider able bodies of Muhammadans, armed with lathis mustered from time to time and molested the Hindus. As a result there was wide-spread panic among the Hindu minority population in East Bengal…
  • The most serious disturbance .broke out at Jamalpur in the District of Mymensingh. In addition to the troubles in the town started by the Muslims in the course of which hundreds of Hindus—men and women—had to take shelter in a temple throughout the night, the riot spread to outside area. There were indiscriminate looting and molestation of Hindus in a large number of localities.
  • The accused, Habil Sircar had read over a notice to a crowd of Musalmans and had told them that the Government and the Nawab Bahadur of Dacca had passed orders to the effect that nobody, would be punished for plundering and oppressing the Hindus. Soon after, the image of Kali (Hindu goddess) was broken by the Musalmans and the shops of the Hindu traders were also plundered.
    • R.C. Majumdar (2002). THE PARTITION OF BENGAL. History of the Indian Freedom Movement Vol 2, p 3. [2]
  • The Partition of Bengal and the foundation of the Muslim League widened the cleavage between the Hindus and the Muslims. The passionate outburst against the Partition which was noticed not only all over Bengal, but more or less all over India, was in striking contrast to the delight with which the Muslim League welcomed the measure. It undoubtedly gave great offence to the Hindus to see that the way in which Government practically disregarded the wishes of the entire Bengali community found support in u section of the population. The Partition was not merely an administrative measure ; it was a deliberate outrage upon public sentiment. But even more than this, it brought to the forefront a great political issue namely, whether India was to be governed autocratically without any regard to the sentiments and opinions of the people, or on the enlightened principles professed by the British rulers. Looked at from this point of view, the Partition invited a trial of strength between the people and the bureaucracy. It was a momentous issue far transcending the mere wishes and opinions or even the interests of once community or another. It was a national issue of vital importance and the attitude of the Muslims naturally constituted one of the greatest shocks to the national sentiments in India. 227ff

Volume III

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  • Generally communal riots were confined to the British territory, and the Indian States were free from them. A serious riot in 1924 in Gulburga, in the Nizam's territory, formed an exception. The Muhammadan mobs attacked all the Hindu temples in jthe city, numbering about fifteen, and broke the idols. They also raided the Sharan Vish- veshwar Temple and attempted to set fiie to the Temple car. The Police were eventually obliged to fiie, with the result that three Muhammadans, including the Police Superintendent Mr. Azizullah, were killed and about a dozen persons injured. Next morning the streets were again in the hands of Muhammadan mobs and considerable damage was done to Hindu houses and shops. On the arrival of Police reinforcements, order was restored. On the 14th August the Muslim mob fury was at its height and almost all the temples within the range of the mob, some fifty in number, were desecrated, their sanctum sanctorum entered into, their idols broken, and their buildings damaged.
    • also in Balakrishna, S., Lessons from Hindu History in 10 Episodes (2020)
  • A mystic or saint — such as Gandhi undoubtedly was is beyond the purview of political history, but in dealing with Gandhi as the great leader of the Indian National Congress, a purely political organization fighting for freedom from British yoke, history must apply to him the same standards of judgment and criticism as have been applied to all other personalities, great or small, who have played any role in political affairs. Sober history must subject the public life of Gandhi to a critical and rational review without passion or prejudice, uninfluenced in the least by personal feelings of admiration or devotion, and, above all, by a disposition or proneness to believe as right and proper whatever he might have chosen to do or say. Such history must begin by discounting the halo of semi-divinity — and therefore also of infallibility — which was cast round Gandhi during his life and continues to a large extent even now, thanks to the propaganda to exploit his name for political purposes.
    I yield to none in my profound respect for Gandhi, the saint and the humanitarian. But as the author of this volume, I am only concerned with the part he played in the struggle for India's freedom from the British yoke. I have necessarily to view his life and activities, thoughts, and feelings primarily from a narrow angle, namely as a politician and statesman leading a great political organization which was not intended to be a humanitarian association or World Peace Society, but had been formed for a definite political object, namely, to achieve India's freedom from political bondage. It has been my painful duty to show that, looked at strictly from this point of view, the popular image of Gandhi cannot be reconciled with what he actually was. A historian must uphold the great ideal of truth which was so dear to Gandhi himself, and if we delineate the political life of Gandhi with strict adherence to truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, it will, I believe, be patent to all that Gandhi was lacking in both political wisdom and political strategy — as we commonly understand these terms — and far from being infallible, committed serious blunders, one after another, in pursuit of some Utopian ideals and methods which had no basis in reality. It will also be seen that the current estimate of the degree or extent of his success bears no relation to actual facts.
    I am not unaware of the rude shock that such treatment would give to a large section of Indians and the great probability that they would curse or at least denounce the author without perhaps even going through the book itself. But I am sustained by two considerations. In the first place, I have sincerely tried to uphold the dignity of history by telling the truth as it has appeared to me in the light of such judgment or intellect as God has vouchsafed to me. I have done no less — I could do no more. Secondly, the adverse criticisms I have made against Gandhi — and the most serious ones at that — have almost all been upheld by one or more of his most admiring devotees, perhaps in some unguarded moments of their lives or when they were free from the magic influence of their political Guru. (xviii ff)
  • That Gandhi played a very great role in rousing the political consciousness of the masses nobody can possibly deny. But it would be a travesty of truth to give him the sole credit for the freedom of India, and sheer nonsense to look -upon Satyagraha (or Charka, according to some) as the unique weapon by which it was achieved. As mentioned above, Gandhi’s followers could not wield this weapon forged by him and therefore * it never came into play. A successful Satyagraha, as conceived by Gandhi, would necessarily mean that the British had given up their hold on India in a mood of repentance or penitence for their past sinful acts in India. But of this we have no evidence whatsoever. (xxiii)
  • Jinnah, at least in is a er life put up a brave fight. It was, however, a fight not for the’ freedom of India, except in a very qualified sense, but for the freedom of the Muslims from the tyrannical yoke of the Hindus, as he put it. He won the fight  ; the cult of violence decided the issue. To what extent Gandhi s cult of non-violence may claim credit for the freedom of India is a matter of opinion. But there is no doubt that the creation of Pakistan was the triumph of violence— in its naked and most brutal form-and of the leadership of Jinnah. Nobody can reasonably doubt that India would have surely attained independence, sooner or later, even without Gandhi, but it is extremely doubtful whether there would have been a Pakistan without Jinnah. So, if we are to judge by the result alone, the events of 1946-7 testify to the superiority of violence to non-violence in practical politics, and of Jinnah to the leaders of the Congress. But this affords an illustration of the blunder that is often committed by hasty inference drawn from the immediate result, apparently flowing from a certain course of action, without weighing the force of other circumstances. It ought to serve as a corrective to those who look upon Gandhi as having wrested independence from the British by waving his magic wand of Satyagraha. In any case Jinnah stands out as the most successful political leader of the period. Whatever the Hindus might think of Jinnah, he has secured a high place in the history of the Muslim nation, a term at which we can hardly cavil after the foundation of Pakistan. He carried to its logical consummation the work that was begun by Sir Syed Ahmad. (xxviii ff)
  • It is, therefore, not unlikely that the views I have expressed may not commend themselves to any, and perhaps a large section of my countrymen would bitterly resent some of them. But I find consolation in the wise saying of one of the greatest Sanskrit poets to the effect, that ‘there may be somewhere, at some time, somebody who worild agree with my views and appreciate them  ; for time is eternal and the world is wide and large’. I may assure my readers that it has been a very painful task to have to comment adversely on the views and actions of some of our great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who are held in the highest veneration. I shall not be surprised if what I have said about them hurts the feelings of many. My only excuse is that it is impossible to avoid all such comments in writing on a subject such as is treated in this book. I may, however, assure my readers that I have always tried to tell the truth, and in doing so followed no other guide than the light of my own judgment, sincerely formed, with malice to none and goodwill to all, and without any personal or ulterior motive of any kind. xxxiii
  • It is hardly necessary to say that August 15 was hailed with joy all over India, and no words can adequately describe the tumultuous scenes of wild rejoicings witnessed in every city and every village. Lord and Lady Mountbatten, driving in state, were greeted with resounding cheers by the enthusiastic crowds that lined the streets. This heralded a new era of goodwill between India and Britain. Stories of many hard and bitter struggles between India and Britain, and of animosities between the Indians and the British fill the pages of this work. Let it end with a note of goodwill, trust, and confidence which manifested itself on the streets of Delhi on 15 August, 1947.
    How the author wishes that he could have closed this volume with a similar note in respect of the relation between India and Pakistan. But that was not to be. Instead of an era of goodwill, the independence ushered in one of communal hatred and cruelty of which there is perhaps no parallel in the recorded history of India. It is unnecessary to recount that story of shame and barbarity as it falls beyond the period under review. (819 ff)

Quotes about R.C. Majumdar

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  • No doubt, every generation will produce a host of historians, but it will take decades to produce one of Dr. Majumdar's calibre.
    • Prabha Dixit, Obituary. RC Majumdar. , quoted in Devahuti, D., & Indian History and Culture Society. (1980). Bias in Indian historiography. Delhi: D.K. Publications. p. 402
  • But then, R.C. Majumdar was made of the stuff of Bharatavarasha’s Modern Renaissance. He was undeterred in his quest to author the most authentic history of the freedom struggle of his own countrymen: to keep their hopes, pains, sacrifices, spirit, struggles and tears ever-fresh, and to preserve the vast woodland of their heroic memories watered and evergreen. For this proud son of Bengal, this noble endeavor was not merely a project: it was akin to working towards the same goal with the same spirit that fuelled our freedom struggle: Majumdar had after all, lived during that entire era. It was National Service in the truest sense of the word. And so, with meagre resources, he worked alone and completed the majestic three-volume work in just seven years. It still remains the most comprehensive, authoritative and unchallenged work on India’s freedom struggle. This point has an immense bearing on what will follow.
    • S. Balakrishna, Seventy years of secularism. 2018.
  • Most of us worshipped at this altar of ‘progress’. We denigrated historians like R.C. Majumdar who spent their lives in understanding the Indian historical sources. We sang hymns in praise of the bullies who could neither read an original ancient text nor decipher an inscription. We were given sermons on the glory of the Marxist approach and the value of diverse sociological and anthropological models. Dissidents were quickly dubbed rightist reactionaries.
    • Dilip K. Chakrabarti - Archaeology in the Third World, A History of Indian Archaeology Since 1947. (2003)
  • The only voice which was heard against this nation-wide exercise in suppressio veri suggestio falsi in the field of medieval Indian history, was that of the veteran historian, R.C. Majumdar. For him, this “national integration” based on a wilful blindness to recorded history of the havoc wrought by Islam in India, could lead only to national suicide. He tried his best to arrest the trend by presenting Islamic imperialism in medieval India as it was, and not as the politicians in league with Stalinist and Muslim historians were tailoring it to become. .... But his voice remained a voice in the wilderness. Fourteen years later, he [R.C. Majumdar] had to return to the theme and give specific instances of falsification.
    • Sita Ram Goel, The Calcutta Quran Petition (1986)
  • To sum up this subject of synthesis, assimilation, and composite culture, I would better quote Dr. R.C. Majumdar, one of the best and certainly the most versatile historian which modern India has known.
    • Goel, S. R. (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India.
  • The tale contains an institutional warning also: for this is not the first time that the project to write the history of the freedom movement has been hijacked, and eventually derailed. In the Introduction and Appendix to his three-volume History of the Freedom Movement in India, Dr R.C. Majumdar recorded what happened to the original project – how at his instance the Indian Historical Records Commission passed a resolution in February 1948 that a history of the country’s struggle for freedom ought to be prepared; how the education ministry headed by Maulana Azad sat over the matter till Dr Rajendra Prasad, the then president of the country, nudged it ahead; how an Editorial Board was set up; how Majumdar was appointed director for the project; how the first volume was prepared; how it met with the approval of the Editorial Board; how the government, having stated in one breath that the volumes were well on their way to getting ready, alleged in the next that there had been some differences in the Board about the content of the first volume which had been circulated; how suddenly the Board was dissolved; and the project handed over to a previous secretary of the education ministry; how some of the members become turncoats. The result? Mediocre volumes which no one reads, volumes which further what was then the official line… By contrast the British produced their version …. There was the Indian side to the events. This was available at the time in the recollections of those who had led the movement against the British – for many of them were still alive; it was available in their private papers. The Towards Freedom Project was to garner this record. As control over institutions passed to the Leftists, the entire project was yoked to advancing their Line and Theses.
    • Shourie, Arun (2014). Eminent historians: Their technology, their line, their fraud. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers.
  • What was Majumdar’s crime? He refused to bend history to suit the interest of the Congress.
    • ICHR: Are they ‘eminent historians’ or ordinary criminals in scholars’ robes?:Dr. N.S. Rajaram, FOLKS Mag, June 2012
  • [In 1948, R.C. Majumdar submitted a proposal to the Government to write an official history of the freedom struggle, a fact that he records in detail in the Appendix of Volume One of the History of the Freedom Movement in India. This first-ever proposal on this much-needed endeavour was accepted by the Government. What happened next is best narrated by Dr. B.N. Pandey...:] In 1952 the Ministry of Education appointed a Board of Editors for the compilation of the history. Professor Majumdar was appointed by the Board as the Director and entrusted with the work of sifting and collecting materials and preparing the draft of the history. However, the Board as consisting of politicians and scholars, was least likely to function harmoniously. Perhaps this was the reason why it was dissolved at the end of 1955. ...
    In [the first] volume the distinguished author has shown ample courage and sound scholarship in approaching some very controversial and delicate questions. On the question of Hindu- Muslim relationship in pre-British India he refutes the commonly held view that the Hindus and Muslims lived in harmony before the advent of the British and that the Hindu-Muslim tension was the outcome of the British policy to divide and rule. These two communities, the author holds, lived as "two separate communities with distinct cultures and different mental, and moral characteristics" (p. 33). He argues that the Hindu leaders, including Gandhi and Nehru, deliberately ignored the fundamental differences between the Hindus and Muslims and made no serious efforts "to tackle the real problem that faced India, namely how to make it possible for two such distinct units to live together as members of one State.
    • The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, No. 1/2: [Apr 1966]: B.N. Pandey, pp 86-87. quoted in S. Balakrishna, Seventy years of secularism. 2018.
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