Speak to us, not for us: students respond to media coverage of the St Xavier’s letter

On April 21st, 2014, Dr. Frazer Mascarenhas, S.J., Principal of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, posted a letter on the college’s official website. In it, Fr. Mascarenhas, who also teaches a course in Anthropology of Development, dissected the “Gujarat model of development”. He warned against the dangers posed by an “alliance of corporate capital and communal forces coming to power”, and stressing the importance of a strong welfare state, ended by informing students to “choose well.”

The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has lodged a complaint with the Election Commission, claiming this was “an attempt to influence the minds of students”, and that it “violated the Model Code of Conduct.” A simultaneous campaign on electronic and social media alleged Fr. Mascarenhas had overstepped his authority. Unfortunately, all this is being said on behalf of students of St Xavier’s, without considering their views on the same.

While we as alumni and students might not agree unanimously with Fr. Mascarenhas’ statement, or the method he chose to disseminate it, we strongly oppose the biased media reports and falsehoods propagated on social media, which are twisting this case beyond merit. Thus, we, students and alumni of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, wish to strongly bring home a few points:

First,the insinuation that due to his position of authority, Fr. Mascarenhas’ email “coerces” students to oppose a particular political party is patently false. For one, he only attempts to present his perspective on what is at stake in this election and cautions his students to “choose wisely.” He does not advise them to choose “X party” or “Y party”. Given the multi-faceted propaganda most political parties engage in via newspaper advertisements, TV and radio spots, and opinion polls, it is far-fetched to believe that Fr. Mascarenhas’s email would have an overbearing effect on the ability of young voters to distinguish between political options, and choose whom to vote for, by themselves. That, in itself, infantilises students.

Secondly, the reports carried by prominent dailies like the Mumbai Mirror and DNA  feed into an increasingly polarized rhetoric. As some students have stated on public forums, the Mumbai Mirror article quoted only those students who had an overly critical view of the institution and of Fr. Mascarenhas. The DNA article cites an unnamed professor stating that Milind Deora had donated Rs 10 crore to the college, something that Deora’s office categorically refuted when contacted. It also said “more than 1,000 students…were in for a rude shock” upon reading Fr Mascarenhas’s email. The journalist does not name any student sources, nor does she cite any empirical basis for her claims. How many statements of students did the journalist base her statement on? 500? 600? This sort of journalism has contributed to a vicious campaign against the institution, which has now been hijacked by overtly communal voices.

This brings us to our third point of concern, which is the distinctly communal overtones that this debate has taken, especially on social media, where it has transformed into a smear campaign. People have accused Fr. Mascarenhas of campaigning for a particular party and of serving an illicit Christian agenda.

As alumni and students of St. Xavier’s, we assert that these allegations are baseless, false and misleading. This college has also been markedly apolitical over the years, with no unions affiliated with political parties, nor any student elections or sloganeering—circumstances that have often caused violent clashes in other college campuses in the country. We have seen no evidence of any “Christian agenda” by the Jesuits either. Is it merely because this email comes from a priest that we must assume it to be “Christian propaganda”?

We refute the allegations above and condemn the propaganda that labels this issue as religious, sectarian and communal, for political gains. We ask: is a letter by the principal of a college exhorting students to “choose wisely” more biased than suspending one’s students for not attending a rally by a prominent national leader, as happened in Vadodara?

In a time where academics and activists are voicing their political opinions, we appreciate Fr Mascarenhas’ nuanced, argumentative email. We also feel it imperative to affirm our belief in the right of educational institutions to express themselves freely, particularly in a scenario where freedom of speech is increasingly threatened. The BJP has extended a tenuous link between a college funded by a non-political arm of the government and the model code of conduct. We urge the Election Commission to acknowledge this separation.

That said, one can, and indeed should, contest the arguments presented by Fr. Mascarenhas. His decision, far from “coercing” anyone, should foster debate and discussion,but definitely not censorship, and certainly not a media trial. What kind of elections are those where there are no public discussions about the relative merits of different agendas?

Finally, we urge other St Xavier’s alumni, as well as alumni of other institutions, our peers, friends, critics, and members of the public, to refrain from engaging in personal and vitriolic campaigns that malign St Xavier’s College and its students. We urge you to call out those misleading facts on social media and social networks that needlessly polarise opinions, and result in a general stagnation of public discourse.

We recognise that this issue can and should be dealt with in a reasoned, civil manner, through informed discussion and deliberation. We also understand that disagreement with viewpoints and support for the right to express them are not mutually exclusive. In fact, those are precisely the values we need to cultivate.

Thank you. 

You can support the statement on ipetitions.com here:


 Supported by:

1)   Pratik Ali, Class of 2011

2)  Proshant Chakraborty, Class of 2013

3)  Mridula Chari, Class of 2011

4)  Nachiket Joshi, Class of 2011

5)  Deepa Kumar, Class of 2012

6)  Usman Javed, Class of 2010

7)  Sivakami Sivakumar, Class of 2010

8)  Sasha John, Class of 2012

9)  Anurag Tagat, Class of 2011

10)           Meghnad Bose, Class of 2014

11)            Jordan Martin, Class of 2013

12)           Sumitra Badrinath, Class of 2014

13)           Antara Telang, Class of 2013

14)           Parineeta Banerjee, Class of 2014

15)           Nicolette D’Souza, Class of 2012

16)           Niharika Adukia, Class of 2012,

17)           Yash Thakoor, Class of 2013

18)           Rhea Dsilva, Class of 2008

19)           Yohann Benson, Class of 2013

20)          Anmol Soin, Class of 2011

21)           Shambhavi Priyam, Class of 2014

22)          Uttara Purandare, Class of 2013

23)          Kunal Gaikwad, Class of 2014

24)          Sneha Patil, Class of 2015

25)          Jai Subramanian, Class of 2015

26)          Khaliq Parkar, Class of 2006, former teacher, St Xavier’s College, 2011-12

27)           Fr Joseph MT, Dept. of Sociology, Mumbai University, & former teacher, St Xavier’s College, 2010-13

28)          Shilpa Phadke, TISS, Mumbai, & former teacher, St Xavier’s College, 1999-2000

29)          Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

30)          Hardik Panjwani, Class of 2005-2006, guest lecturer, St Xavier’s College, 2012-13

31)           Benny Monteiro, Class of 2013

32)          Nishita Bhattacharya, Class of 2014

33)          Stefan Fernandes, Class of 2013

34)          Aakansha Cheriyan, Class of 2013

35)          Niddhi Mehta, Class of 2013

36)          Nolina Minz, Class of 2013

37)           Karunika Kardak, Class of 2013

38)          Simone Salazar, Class of 2013

39)          Natasha Patel, Class of 2013

40)          Aamna Khan, Class of 2013

41)           Joanna Dawson, Class of 2013

42)          Jyayasi Kapadia, Class of 2013

43)          Aakanshi Javeri, Class of 2013

44)          Rachel Bali, Class of 2013

45)          Sanjay Deshpande, Class of 2013

46)          Riddhi Shah, Class of 2013

47)           Vivien D’costa, Class of 2013

48)          Shenoya Fernandes, Class of 2013

49)          Arjun Deka, Class of 2013

50)          Angeline Lewis, Class of 2013

51)           Pallavi Chatterjee, Class of 2013

52)          Lizann Fernandes, Class of 2013

53)          Wendy Serrao, Class of 2013

54)          Nikita Parikh, Class of 2013

55)          Radhika Dhuru, Class of 2013

56)          Aditi Kapur, Class of 2012

57)           Shruti Patil, Class of 2012

58)          Sonakshi Anand, Class of 2012

59)          Lee Anne, Class of 2005

60)          Lester Martis, Class of 2012

61)           Ketaki Haté, Class of 2009

62)          Shashank Kumar, Class of 2009

63)          Laya Maheshwari, Class of 2014

64)          Utsha Mitra, Class of 2014

65)          Neha Sethi, Class of 2014

66)          Daisy Alphonso, Class of 2014

67)           Aishwarya Pramod, Class of 2014

68)          Cynthia Lewis, Class of 2014

69)          Solomon Jeyaraj, Class of 2011

70)          Paroma Bhattacharya, Class of 2011

71)           Sinead D’Silva, Class of 2012

72)           Ruth Pinto, Class of 2011

73)           Priyanka Luis, Class of 2012

74)           Dwanye Gonzalves , Class of 2013

75)           Pragati Kulkarni, Class of 2013

76)           Trishita Khanderia, Class of 2011

77)           Elton Dmello, Class of 2012

78)          Soundarya Iyer, Class of 2006

79)           Pranati Bhalerao, 2006

80)          Akshita Mathur, Class of 2012

81)           Matthew George, Class of 2011

82)          Abhinay Bhasin, Class of 2014

83)          Shraddha Srikant, Class of 2014

84)          Antara Atrey, Class of 2014

85)          Mevil Anthony Wilson, Class of 2013

86)          Fatema Shaikhally, Class of 2010

87)          Habiba Insaf, Class of 2010

88)          Dina Rasquinha, Class of 2011

89)          Jenes Correia, Class of 2014

90)          Shachi Mohta, Class of 2012

91)           Pranita Pandurangi, Class of 2015

92)          Jochelle Mendonca, Class of 2008

93)          Neha Lakshman, Class of 2013

94)          Alexander Thomas, Class of 2013

95)          Ankur Sharma, Class of 2013

96)          Shakti Nambiar, Class of 2013

97)           Disha Sabharwal, Class of 2013

98)          Prachi Saxena, Class of 2013

99)          Tejaswini Pendse, Class of 2013

100)       Karenina Fernandes, Class of 2013

101)        Kartik Verma, Class of 2013

102)       Nishant Radhakrishnan, Class of 2013

103)       Indivar Jonnalgadda, Class of 2012

104)       Anzar Zaidi, Class of 2006

105)       Ashvin Chandrasekhar, Class of 2015

106)       Tasneem Sayani, Class of 2013

107)       Drushtee Shinde, Class of 2013

108)       Lizandra Pinto, Class of 2012

109)       Alreena Pinto class of 2014

110)        Shannon Fernandes, Class of 2014

111)         Vanessa Vaz, Class of 2016

112)        Divya Somakumar, Class of 2016

113)        Niraj Chitnis, Class of 2015

114)        Rashmita Sathyanarayan, Class of 2015

115)        Aishwarya Dongre, Class of 2015

116)        Zenia Daruvala, Class of 2015

117)        Sukriti Mishra, Class of 2015

118)        Vivan Coelho, Class of 2015

119)        Arathy Puthillam, Class of 2015

120)       Malvika Char, Class of 2016

121)        Aaheli Gupta, Class of 2016

122)       Saloni Bhatia, Class of 2015

123)       Sharon, Class of 2015

124)       Akshata Pai, Class of 2013

125)       Divya Ruth Jose, Class of 2013

126)       Shruti Bhagat, Class of 2012

127)        Rashna Irani, Class of 2014

128)       Lian Sonjem, Class of 2013

129)       Aruna Chandrasekhar, Class of 2007

130)       Farzeen Khan, Class of 2012

131)        Sanjana Kumari, Class of 2014

132)       Joanna Thomas, Class of 2015

133)       Saloni Dikshit, Class of 2013

134)       Gireeja Phadke, Class of 2010

135)       Ruchba Rai, Class of 2015

136)       Prthvir Solanki, Class of 2015

137)        Pritha Sengupta, Class of 2014

138)       Samoneh Khan, Class of 2014

139)       Daneilla Santimano, Class of 2013

140)       Erica Fernandes, Class of 2012

141)        Mehr Malhotra, Class of 2014

142)       Anisha George, Class of 2008

143)       Noor

144)       Kelly

145)       Elita Sequeira

146)       Sushman Choudhury

147)        Vaishnavi

148)       Suchi Talati,

149)       Tahseen Alam

150)       Suryanarayan Ganesh

151)        Jim Na

152)       Blythe Gonsalves

153)       Shajan

154)       Jincey Jacob

155)       Anurag

156)       Shishir Singh

157)        Natasha Vakil

158)       Poopathi S Manickam

159)       Badri

160)       Mohit Anand

161)        Anuja Ghosalkar

162)       Royd Tauro

163)       Lalina Vaz

164)       Preeti Rastogi

165)       Malathi Jogi

166)       Aisha

167)        Alisha Coehlo

168)       M D’Souza

169)       Vivia Sequeira

170)       Kimberly Noronha

171)        Yvette Gomes

172)        Shraddha Nair

173)        Dhruv de Souza

174)        Arathy Puthillam

175)        Samantha Saldhana

176)        Shahid Syed

177)        Aradhana Chand

178)       Sabeena Ahmed

179)        Neha Lamech

180)       Karishma Rodrigues

181)        Aureen

182)       Joyce D’Souza

183)       Nihav

184)       Wendy Chavez

185)       Debayana Sen

186)       Yohann Pereira

187)       Inir Pinheiro

188)       Anu Oommen

189)       Shama Shah

190)       Saurabh Mishra

191)        Sagar Sawant

192)       Parth

193)       Kritika

194)       Mish

195)       Kamal Darbary

196)       Deep

197)        Ruchi Chaturvedi

198)       Walter D’Souza

199)       Pervin Verma

200)      Shreya Ramesh

201)       Suzanne Furtado

202)      Jayashree Coutinho

203)      Sudipto Biswas

204)      Anubandh

205)      Malveela Rebello

206)      Michael Vaz

207)       Joe Eruppakkat

208)      Rashmita

209)      Bhavya P

210)       Deanne

211)        Pravin Kumar

212)       Ajay Chitnis

213)       Benaifar

214)       Nayanika Ghosh

215)       Huston Lopes

216)       Ashaita

217)        Alison

218)       Minhaz

219)       Smitha Menon

220)      Sharon

221)       Amrutha

222)       Murali Murti

223)       Savio D’Souza

224)       Antoine Lewis

225)       Steffi Dourado

226)       Charmene Dennis

227)       Soma Mitra

228)      Namrata Iyer

229)       Alia Abreo

230)      Trisha John

231)       Cinatra Fernandes

232)       Flavia Lewis

233)       Pallavi Bandodkar

234)       Avni Majithia-Sejpal

235)       Ananthakrishnan Aiyer

236)       Ritika D’Souza

237)       Teresa Bhengra

238)      Kinjal Dagli

239)       T J Ferns

240)      Lyndon Quadros

241)       Saumya Ancheri

242)       Vidon S Mazumdar

243)       Galdin Raphael

244)       Priyanka Navrekar

245)       Priya Khote

246)       Nisha Cardosco

247)       Shikha Kashyap

248)      Omar Iyer

249)       Nandita

250)      Nigel Britto

251)       Shivali

252)       Tanya

253)       Nisha S

254)       Sonali Peres

255)       Aniket Rao

256)       Abha Pratap Desai

257)       Rhea D’Souza

258)      Sneha Khanna

259)       Brian Kress

260)      Tania Tauro

261)       Vineet

262)       Lillian D

263)       Roseita D’Souza

264)       Dielle

265)       Prashant Chari

266)       Rivika Bisht

267)       Balthazar Castelino

268)      Rhea Gandhi

269)       Apoorva

270)       Kasturi

271)        Chrissie D’Costa

272)       Ahalya

273)       Sherilynn Tellis

274)       Cyrus 

Post-script: We have, to the best of our ability, included the names of all the students, alumni, and well-wishers, who have supported this statement on iPetition, Facebook, Twitter, and via email. If, however, some names have been missed out, we apologise for that, since we had to publish the updated list. We recognise, appreciate and value your support. And we encourage you to continue to register your support via comments, and continue the debate therein.

14 thoughts on “Speak to us, not for us: students respond to media coverage of the St Xavier’s letter”

  1. Good for you, students! Father Mascarenhas needed that defence in these vitriolic times, when most of the corporate media is waiting to make mincemeat out of anyone who dares to speak differently. It is really sad to learn about the misrepresentation by the journalist from the DNA newspaper. Isn’t it time for St. Xavier’s to take action against this smear campaign?


  2. How Ironic:
    The post say: BJP has lodged a complaint saying “an attempt to influence the minds of students”

    Then the post further goes on to say “Unfortunately, all this is being said on behalf of students of St Xavier’s,” How are both possible? It’s a general complaint not on our behalf.

    How is this on behalf of the students?

    And you are writing on behalf of the students, where most ex-students are signing like AMERICAN students : “class of 2008!” and who are ex-students writing on behalf of the students in the collage.

    I am a student of the college and no one in the college (at least most of us, who are not kids of a select few) knows about this.

    Please fight your own battle against BJP, don’s use us!


    1. I happen to be a student of the college as well. First of all, this is a signed letter which implies that it is one which has consent from part of the student body. In case you weren’t aware, that is how a statement/petition works. Please refrain from making a fool of yourself on social media.
      Secondly why are you highlight “American” as though it is something shameful? I’m no west propagandist ( far from it) but this kind of Xenophobia and discriminatory attitudes make for a rather petty debate, no?
      We (the students of the college) were all aware of this incident and the consequent letter.
      This isn’t a battle against BJP, it’s a battle against undemocratic methods of politics that threatens the right to free thought and speech. And yes, BJP seems to fall under that spectrum quite often. Do you wish for people to stop questioning unfair methods and fighting for their rights?


    2. “Speaking on behalf of the students” means that the media and the social media are using the complaints of a few students to represent the entire student community’s views. Which we are not in agreement with at all.

      I urge you to read the coverage of this in the media, and decide how many students actually represent this anger against Mascarenhas. Apart from that reiteration, it is utterly false that no students from the present batches in St. Xavier’s have signed this. It has been drafted by present students and alumni together, and I, myself an alumni, don’t see why I should give up my engagement with the college I studied in. I also urge you to actually try and find out if there really is “no one in the college” who knows about this. Also, you should try not to hide your prejudices behind phrases like “kids of a select few.” What do you mean by that?


      1. He means minorities when he says “select few”, let us not quibble about it :)) yes, you… too….


    3. Well , if it says an attempt is being made to influence minds of students , then its obviously speaking on behalf of the students – whats the contradiction here? – they are raising issues on behalf of students citing that students are being influenced! .
      Ex students writing on behalf of students are writing on behalf of ex students ! Nobody is speaking here on behalf of all students ( whether kids of others or not ) – they are signing in their individual capacities but they also happen to be students and Ex students of Xaviers – and nothing can take that away from them !where does the post say it speaks on behalf of ” All students of Xaviers ” since you’re talking about particularities ?
      And incidentally, nobody was fighting their battles ‘using anyone’, even fr frazer refrained from mentioning anyone, until the BJP came in and did what it did in an open public tamasha- it cant be all one sided , can it ? if it makes a hue and cry talking and concerned on behalf of students , it should be ready for responses too !


      1. The journalists havea purposely approached students on the condition that they criticize this move. And they claim based on those interviews that students are against this. Again, this letter was drafted by current studetns and alumni, please make the effort of confirming that by looking at the signatories.Our point that journalists have made a mountain out of a molehill, and also that a large chunk of students do not have a problem with what frazer has said.


  3. Given below is a list of students, alumni and other well-wishers who have supported the petition (updated as of 27th April, 2014)

    275) Ruby Pavri
    276) Rajendra Shinde
    277) Vinita Bhatia
    278) Natasha Cooper
    279) Madonna
    280) Aneri Jhaveri
    281) Shyamala
    282) Kristopher Noronha
    283) Dr Agnelo Menezes
    284) Pritha Chakrabarti
    285) Gina
    286) Blossom
    287) Mary Dominic
    288) Vanessa
    289) Rachana Agarwal
    290) Dr. Fleur D’Souza
    291) Kashmira
    292) Anita Fernandes
    293) Sukanya Sharma
    294) Jyoti
    295) Soli Cooper
    296) Suprabha
    297) Diago Fernandes
    298) Rohan Pinto
    299) Nilufer patel
    300) Venil
    301) John Ravi
    302) Smita
    303) Rishad Patell
    304) Rishaya Palkhivala
    305) Karishma Mhapadi
    306) Ankit Tripathi
    307) Arusha Basu
    308) Benoy
    309) Sneha Philip
    310) Vipin
    311) Andria Dsouza
    312) Shaaz Ahmed
    313) BARBOT Marie-Jose
    314) Mitali Damle
    315) Aniket Gupta
    316) Sanjive Rau
    317) Fiona D’souza
    318) Clint Lopez
    319) Fiona Pinto
    320) Lady Chinki
    321) Pawan
    322) Nikhil John
    323) Joanita Britto
    324) Hazel Correa
    325) Shalom Amanna
    326) Rochelle Vaz
    327) Charmaine mirza
    328) Josceline M
    329) Elle
    330) Raymond
    331) Kshiti Gala, Class of 2012
    332) Agantuk S
    333) Sudhir Mahadevan, Class of 1995
    334) Jatin Shah
    335) Jude Castelino
    336) Dr Vasumathi Badrinathan
    337) Verisha Remedios
    338) Vaishnavi Kukillaya
    339) Maurelle D’Sa
    340) Verisha Remedios
    341) Karsten Miranda
    342) Dalreen Ramos
    343) Richard D’Souza
    344) Aldrin D’Souza
    345) KAMAL
    346) Shreya
    347) Anwesha Ghosh
    348) Samuel Rebello
    349) Pankaja Balaji
    350) Pooja
    351) Joslyn
    352) Jennifer D’Souza
    353) Archana Fernandez
    354) Madhuri Raijada
    355) Shelton D’souza
    356) Ibrahim Rungla
    357) Mithila Rao
    358) Joanne Athaide
    359) Michael Fernandes
    360) Melina Gomes
    361) Dr. Nowshari
    362) Derick Gomes


  4. Let’s be clear that views expressed in the letter above aren’t representative of all Xavierities. I, for one, am quite critical of the way the issue was handled. Freedom of speech notwithstanding, the letter ought to have been more balanced or completely apolitical. And please don’t tell me it’s a question of personal opinion. People in positions of power and influence should be a tad more responsible.


    1. Really ? so people in positions of power have no right to express their opinions ? Then noone should ever open their mouths to speak against anything for that the only way to be completely apolitical – i hope you know ‘apolitical’ does not mean neutral – if you dont speak out against what you feel is a clear wrong, then you’re choosing to be complicit. Especially when others are clearly flouting such norms left and right.
      Dealing with power does not mean going ‘mum’ , it means stating clearly what your views are but presenting them as your views and leaving it to the students to decide, which he did . People in positions of power have a even bigger responsibility to take a call on progressive visions, ideas and principles and attempt to influence others through presenting facts, figures, analysis and views ! In its absence nothing great reformers or simply socially sensitive visionaries, men and women in the past who spoke from positions of power and privilege, ever had any validity ! For me being silent , is a bigger crime when you feel the material stakes for so many are so high ! These are moral fights which need to be fight . I think he was well within his rights to talk to his students about his views as long as he did not force them and left it to them to decide.


    2. Of course, they don’t represent all Xavierites. It largely represents issues with a) the way in which this issue was misrepresented by the certain papers that needlessly politicised it; and b) the smear campaign on social media, like twitter. Which is why students and alumni who support the statement did so. Additionally, another reason why we decided to put it on a public forum was to ensure that people who disagreed with Fr Frazer get to voice their opinion – including many of us who worked on the statement.

      As for the letter, I do think it wasn’t balanced: Fr Frazer missed out of crucial criticisms of the so-called Gujarat model, esp. recent developments against certain infrastructure projects, and the ramifications of extrapolating that logic of governance to other regions in India (e.g., hydro power and ecology); he also completely ignored the caste and gender question, choosing instead to focus on the red herring of communal-corporate interests.

      He was also mild in his criticism of the UPA and Congress’ disastrous development policies. He did critique the MoEF, but ignored how especially the Congress’ ally, the NCP, backs potentially disastrous projects, the irrigation scam, the Western Ghats issue, and so on.

      For me, his larger failure of responsibility would be that as professor of development anthropology, he missed out of issues that make a compelling case in debating the so-called Gujarat model.

      That said, besides the alleged impropriety of sending the email/post, I have hardly seen any constructive debate personally, amongst critics of Fr Frazer – and this is despite people wanting to debate the Gujarat model.

      Also, a note about academic autonomy: suddenly, no one is talking of larger issues that have continuity, like how the Mumbai University V-C is actually a prop by the Shiv Sena; we’re also not debating his excesses re: suspending Prof Hatekar last year, as being pertinent to the issue of political control over academic and institutional spaces. We’re not talking of how the Gujarat govt. itself spent tax payers’ money in sponsoring a study to rebuff a critical survey on caste.

      These are important issue we’re all missing out on.


  5. Well done.. In these times, when all the issues are considered only to be black & white, shrillness is considered to be an asset while being gentle & decent is treated as a liability, it is heartening to read such a well thought out article that manages to put across the idea that is central to the existence of this country – liberty, tolerance and respect.


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