|Metropolitan city status||31 March 2009|
|Sylhet City Corporation||9 April 2001|
|• Body||Sylhet City Corporation|
|• City Mayor||Ariful Haque Chowdhury|
|• Total||26.50 km2 (10.23 sq mi)|
|Elevation||35 m (115 ft)|
|• Density||17,479/km2 (45,270/sq mi)|
|• Ethnicity||94% Bangladeshi
1% Bishnupriya Manipuri, Khasi and others
|• Languages||Sylheti Bengali, Standard Bengali|
|• Literacy rate||71.84%|
|Time zone||BST (UTC+6)|
Sylhet (Bengali: সিলেট Silet pronounced: [sɪlet]), also known as Jalalabad and "City of Hazrat Shah Jalal"; is a major urban center in north-east Bangladesh. It is one of the richest cities of Bangladesh. It is the principal city and administrative capital of Sylhet Division. The city is located on the banks of Surma River in the Surma Valley and has a population of 2,500,000 people, making it the third largest city in Bangladesh. The city is home to the mausoleums and mosques of Shah Jalal and Shah Farhan, revered Sufis of Bengal and the Indian subcontinent. Every year, Sylhet receives hundreds and thousands of pilgrims to the Dargahs of Shah Jalal and Shah Farhan. Sylhet is important to the global Hindu believers also because the ancestral homes of Krishna incarnation Chaitanya's father and mother in Golapganj and Habiganj. Sylhet is also where body parts of Sati (another form of Goddess Durga) fell on Earth. Hindu devotees from across the world visit these important landmarks in Sylhet.
Sylhet is also famed for its natural setting, amidst rainforests, waterfalls, hills and river valleys. Located in the heart of Bangladesh’s tea country, Sylhet is a hub of the tea industry. Many Sylhetis (local people of Sylhet) have emigrated abroad over the years, and the city receives some of the highest annual remittance inflows in Bangladesh, particularly from the British Bangladeshi community. These remittances have fuelled a real estate and construction boom. Sylhet is also a center of the Bangladeshi oil and gas sector, with the country’s largest natural gas reserves located in Sylhet Division. Historically, Sylhet was part of various kingdoms and sultanates in Bengal and Assam. Under British rule, it was a strategically important hill station in the north-east India.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography and climate
- 3 Civic administration
- 4 Economy
- 5 Demographics
- 6 Culture
- 7 Sports
- 8 Transport
- 9 Education
- 10 Sister cities
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Sylhet was an expanded commercial center from the ancient period, which explains its original namesake. During this time, Sylhet was inhabited by local tribes though ethnically the population would also have traces of Assamese, Arabs, Persians and Turks. It has also been suggested that the capital cities of the ancient kingdoms of Harikela, Gaur, Srihatta and port city of Kamarupa were situated in modern Sylhet.
In the ancient and early medieval period, Sylhet was ruled primarily by local chieftains as viceroy of the kings of Pragjyotishpur. There is evidence to suggest that the Maharaja Sri Chandra , of northern Bengal, conquered Bengal in the 10th century, although this is a much disputed topic amongst Bangladeshi historians and archaeologists. This was a period of relative prosperity and there is little evidence to suggest this was marred by wars or feuds. Sylhet was certainly known by the rest of India, and is even referred to in the ancient Nath sacred Tantric text, the Shakti Sangama Tantra, as 'Silhatta'. The last chieftain to reign in Sylhet was Govinda of Gaur. Sylhet was previously a kingdom of Nath Shampraday, controlled by the rajas. Nath kingdoms of ancient Sylhet declined and tribal people of mongoloid origin established their chiefdoms in most parts of Sylhet. One of such chieftains was Gobindo of Gaur, commonly known as Gor Gobindo, who was defeated in 1303 by Hazrat Shah Jala Yamani and his 360 Sufi disciples.
The 14th century marked the beginning of Islamic influence in Sylhet, with the arrivals of Sufi disciples to the region. In 1301, Sylhet was conquered by Shamsu'd-Din Firuz, a Bengali enterprising governor. Sikander Shah rallied his army against Raja Gaur Gobind, because the Raja ordered a man to be killed for sacrificing a cow for his son. But Sikander Shah was defeated by the Raja. A messianic Muslim saint, Shah Jalal, arrived in Sylhet in 1303 from Mecca via Delhi and Dhaka with the instructions for aiding Sikhander Khan Ghazi in defeating Govinda of Gaur. Ghazi was the direct nephew of Sultan Firoz Shah of Delhi. Under the spiritual leadership of Shah Jalal and his 360 companions, many people converted to Islam and began spreading the religion to other parts of the country. Shah Jalal died in Sylhet in or around the year 1350. His shrine is located in the north of the city, inside the perimeter of the mosque complex known as Dargah-e-Shah Jalal. Even today Shah Jalal remains revered and visitors arrive from all over Bangladesh and beyond to pay homage. Saints such as Shah Jalal Shah Farhan and Shah Kamal Quhafa were responsible for the conversion of most of the populace from the native religion of Hinduism or Buddhism to Islam. Shortly thereafter, Sylhet became a center of Islam in Bengal. In the official documents and historical papers, Sylhet was often referred to as Jalalabad during the era of the Muslim rule.
Sylhet continues to have the largest concentration of the Hindu believers with a number of important shrines. It is the ancestral home of 16th century Krishna Chaitanya in what is now Golapganj upazilla of the district. According to Hindu beliefs, Chaitanya walked the Earth as another incarnation of Krishna and will reappear at the end of time; this belief is consistent with the monotheistic beliefs of Christianity and Muslims that Christ and Imam Mehdi will appear at the end of time. Chaitanya's earthly father hailed from Golapganj and mother from Habiganj, both of the Sylhet Division. Besides, Sylhet has two of the seven places in Bangladesh where Sati's body parts are believed to have fallen on Earth from a total of fifty-one. Sati is another form of Goddess Durga. The locations of these fallen body parts are Jainpur village, near Gotatikar in south Surma and Kalajore Baurbhag village in Jaintia upazilla. The associated mandirs attract thousands of visitors from across Bangladesh and abroad. Some of these mandirs, upgraded with public and private partnerships, also have limited accommodations for out of area visitors.
British rule in the Indian subcontinent began in the 18th century. During the period the British East India Company employed Indian lascars which included Sylhetis. In the late 18th century, the British East India Company became interested in Sylhet and saw it as an area of strategic importance in the war against Burma. Sylhet was gradually absorbed into British control and administration and was governed as a part of Bengal. In 1778, the East India Company appointed Robert Lindsay[disambiguation needed] of Sylhet, who started trading and governing the region, making fortune. He was disregarded by the local Sylhetis and other Muslims. In 1781, a devastating flood struck the region which wiped out crops and killing a third of the population. The locals blamed the British for not preventing the greatness of the event, which led to an uprising, led by Syed Hadi and Syed Mahdi (known as the Pirzada). Lindsay's army was defiant and defeated the Piraza in battle in Sylhet. The numbers of lascars grew during the wars, some ending up on the docks of London and Liverpool temporary, other however established themselves in the communities and married English women. In the next few years during the World War II, many fought in the war and some were serving in ships in poor conditions, which led to many escaping and settling in London, opening Indian curry cafes and restaurants.
After the British administrative reorganisation of India, Sylhet was eventually incorporated into Assam. Eastern Bengal and Assam was a single province after the 1905 Partition of Bengal (from 1905 to 1911). In 1947, following a referendum, almost all of erstwhile district of Sylhet became a part of the new Pakistani province of East Bengal, barring the Karimganj sub-division which was incorporated into the Indian state of Assam. The referendum was held on 6 July 1947, 239,619 people voted to join Pakistan and 184,041 voted to remain part of India. The referendum was acknowledged by Article 3 of the India Independence Act of 18 July 1947. In 1971, Sylhet became part of the newly formed independent country of Bangladesh.
Geography and climate
Sylhet is located at humid subtropical with a predominantly hot and humid summer and a relatively cool winter. The city is within the monsoon climatic zone, with annual average highest temperatures of 23 °C (Aug–Oct) and average lowest temperature of 7 °C (Jan). Nearly 80% of the annual average rainfall of 3,334 mm occurs between May and September., in the north eastern region of Bangladesh within the Sylhet Division, within the Sylhet District and Sylhet Sadar Upazila. The climate of Sylhet is
The city is located within the region where there are hills and basins which constitute one of the most distinctive regions in Bangladesh. The physiography of Sylhet consists mainly of hill soils, encompassing a few large depressions known locally as "beels" which can be mainly classified as oxbow lakes, caused by tectonic subsidence primarily during the earthquake of 1762. It is flanked by the Indian states of the Meghalaya in the north, Assam in the east, Tripura in the south and the Bangladesh districts of Netrokona, Kishoregonj and Brahmanbaria in the west. The area covered by Sylhet Division is 12,569 km², which is about 8% of the total land area of Bangladesh.
Geologically, the region is complex having diverse sacrificial geomorphology; high topography of Plio-Miocene age such as Khasi and Jaintia hills and small hillocks along the border. At the centre there is a vast low laying flood plain of recent origin with saucer shaped depressions, locally called Haors. Available limestone deposits in different parts of the region suggest that the whole area was under the ocean in the Oligo-Miocene. In the last 150 years three major earthquakes hit the city, at a magnitude of at least 7.5 on the Richter Scale, the last one took place in 1918, although many people are unaware that Sylhet lies on the earthquake prone zone of Bangladesh.
|Climate data for Sylhet, Bangladesh|
|Average high °F (°C)||73
|Average low °F (°C)||50
|Precipitation inches (mm)||0.4
Sylhet consists of 27 wards and 210 mahallas, it is a small city with an area of 26.50 km². The rapid growth and expansion of Sylhet occurred during the colonial period. Sylhet Municipality was established in 1878. A devastating earthquake demolished almost the entire town on 12 June 1897 following which a modern and European model new town was built on the wreckage. Many new roads were constructed in the late 1890s and Sylhet became really connected to the other parts of the country with the establishment of an extension line of Assam–Bengal Railway in 1912–15. From the very beginning of the 20th century, the importance of Sylhet increased with the establishment of the tea industry. In the 1950s and 1960s, rapid urbanisation took place in the town, fostered by the expatriate Sylhetis and the process is still ongoing.
On 10 April 2001, Sylhet was changed to a city corporation from a municipal board, and currently the city is administrated by the Sylhet City Corporation. At present, Sylhet is the district-headquarters as well as the divisional headquarters of the districts of Sunamganj, Habiganj, Maulvi Bazar and Sylhet District. The Sylhet City Corporation is responsible for the services that are provided within the city which includes traffic, roads, garbage collection, water supply, registrations and many others. The corporation consists of the Mayor and 22 other Commissioners, and focuses on the development of the city.
Remittance has been the key element of the economic growth of the city and also the region. The money is mainly sent by expatriates of Sylhet living abroad, particularly the United Kingdom, where the majority of the diaspora Bangladeshi community originate from Sylhet. These foreign Bangladeshis are now looking to invest in the city. During the fiscal year of 2005–06, the flow of remittances increased by 25% to $4.8 billion, mostly from expatriates of Sylheti origin living in the United Kingdom with significant contributions from expatriates in the United States. That amount was expected to increase to $5.5 billion in 2007, with the government's attention toward supervising and monitoring banks. The amount of idle money lying with the commercial banks in Sylhet as deposits is about 4,000 kuti taka, which is not common in the rest of Bangladesh.
Although Sylhet is a small city in comparison to the capital, it has been transformed drastically over the years. The construction industry in Sylhet is currently booming, with many shopping centres and apartments being built to luxurious standards. It has been described as one of the wealthiest cities in the country . The skyline of the city is mainly dominated by large buildings of western-style shopping malls, which has been the largest investments made by the expatriates. There are many new restaurants and stores, often themed on those found in London, which have been established to cater to the visiting Sylheti expatriate population and the growing Sylheti middle classes. These include, Garden Tower in Uposhohor, the London Mansion, Sylhet Millennium, Blue Water (named after Bluewater Shopping Complex in the UK), London Fried Chicken (from Perfect Fried Chicken) and Tessco (misspelt from the original Tesco). New hotels have been established, the Rose View Hotel, Grand Sylhet, Excelsior Sylhet are the five-star hotels in the city. Large multinational companies have also started to invest in Sylhet, one of these being HSBC Bank, which started its service in 2006 with 6,000 customers, and opened a Customer Service Center in 2008 in the Upashahar area. The Sylhet area contains several important natural gas fields, which make an important contribution to the energy balance of Bangladesh.
The government has taken steps to create a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Sylhet. It is the first SEZ to be created in Bangladesh, after research conducted showed that the region is the best place, which will protect the human and natural resources, including the infrastructure of foreign investment, and to create strong economic development with domestic and international markets. The new zone only allows public-private partnership, without the interference of government finance. The SEZ was created due to the demands of the British-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce, which is an economic forum of British Bangladeshis. The plan comes as an initiative toward stimulating the ongoing investment that has already taken place in Sylhet as well as providing a basis towards long-term investment to turn Sylhet into a major economic hub. Investments by British Bangladeshis led the way for two additional privately owned airlines, Royal Bengal Airlines and United Airways, to launch services in 2007. The investment is regarded to serve the Sylheti population living in the UK.
However with the growth of new businesses being based in the city, there are criticisms for the lack of sustainability of the economy of the city. There are relatively few industries developed and is also lacking the levels of agricultural production, which is very low in comparison to other districts due to lack of interest in agriculture. Large numbers of remittance and investment is being spent in the city, but the first and second generation British Bangladeshis have not considered whether these investments will create new jobs for the people in order to create a sustainable developing economy. It has created a prosperity type of society, where school children believe that London will only provide success. Studies have shown that 70% of the community rely on remittance sent from relatives abroad, shopping malls are mainly created because it is recognised as being safe, and these investments may have reached to the point of saturation.
Business and commerce
There are large shopping malls in the city, cosmetics and confectionery is mainly available in Bondor Bazar, handicrafts and textiles stores can be found in Zinda Bazar, these include the Al-Hamra Shopping City, Bluewater, Sylhet Millenium, Sylhet Plaza, Shukria Market and many others. These malls sell many items in particular from a wide range of sarees. Majority of these shoppers are from the middle-class and visiting expatriates.
Restaurants from different types of cuisines are available, such as the Agra Restaurant, Chinese and Thai food is also sold in Hamadan Restaurant or Royal Chef. The cuisine in Sylhet is quite similar to that shared across the country which is rice with chicken or meat curry, it does however have different staples of fish such as the Pabda fish, and the citrus fruit known as shatkora is used for flavour in curries, which is grown primarily in the Sylhet region.
The population of Sylhet within the city corporation, was approximately 427,265 as of 2007 and estimated 463,198 in 2008 (density population is 17,479 per km²). Together with the metropolitan area it has a population of 2,675,346 as of 2001, constituting 2.06% of the national population. The population growth rate of the city is 1.73%, which has reduced from 1.93% in 1991. As of 2001, It had average literacy rate of 69.73%. The highest literacy rate was 84.24% in Ward 22 and the lowest was 48.15% in Ward 10 (2001). The total number of households in the city was 55,514.
There are four major languages spoken in Sylhet and they are (i) Standard Bengali, which is the administrative language and thus mainly spoken in academia and offices; (ii) Marginalised Bengali, which is a cocktail language of Eastern Bengali dialects spoken by migrant workers such as domestic servants, rickshaw peddlers and other menial labourers from different parts of Bangladesh living and working in Sylhet; (iii) English, which is held in high esteem and is spoken by educated elite; and (iv) Sylheti, which is commonly spoken by almost all the native peoples of Greater Sylhet (Surma Valley and Barak Valley).
The Sylheti language is the main language spoken in the city as well as throughout the division, and is erroneously considered as a dialect of Bengali, which contains a separate written form that is not widely known, where in this case Bengali is written, and sometimes spoken. It is often accepted that Sylheti is a separate language on its own right and is more close to Hindi than Bengali, however it has not been given an official status by the government. There is much debate to whether it should be recognized, for example there is greater differences of Sylheti to Bengali, than Assamese to Bengali, which is recognised as separate. Most Sylhetis are at least bilingual to some degree, as they are taught Bengali at all levels of education in Bangladesh.
The majority of Sylhetis are Muslims (85%), other religious groups include Hindus (15%), and very few numbers of other religions, mainly Buddhists and Christians (less than 0.1%). The majority of the Muslims are mainly Sunni Hanafi; and there are significant numbers of people who also follow Sufi ideals, the most influential is the teachings of Maulana Abdul Latif who was from the village of Fultoli, Zakigang. He was a descendant of Hazrat Shah Kamal, one of the disciples of Shah Jalal. Research in Bangladesh found that 60% of Sylhetis pray daily as compared to 35% in the whole country.
Sylhet has high rates of power shortage, including water shortage. According to the Power Development Board, Sylhet is only receiving 50MW, which is half than the demand of 100MW. The city corporation is also supplying only 22,500 gallons of water, far less than the demand of about 65,000. The major sources of water to the city is the tube wells and the Surma River. There are also high levels of arsenic in the water in Sylhet than in most other regions, this is mainly due to the multiple depth screening in the tubewells. According to the World Health Organization in 1997, about 61% are highly contaminated by arsenic, however in 1999, the percentage of boreholes tested where arsenic levels are above 50 micrograms per litre, was under 25%. There are about 331 registered restaurants in the city, only 15% maintain sanitary facilities and 85% have unhygienic conditions that are unsafe for the public.
Thousands of foreigners have origins in Sylhet. The largest numbers of people from Sylhet living abroad is in the United Kingdom, with a population of about 300,000 (95% of the Bangladeshi population). Over 150,000 people are Bangladeshi-born, who have migrated to the UK. They are highly concentrated in the east London boroughs, having established themselves within the communities, notably in Brick Lane which has been dubbed as Banglatown. Sylheti foreigners are known as "Londoni" in Sylhet. Many have also immigrated to the United States—they are mainly spread out across the country, but have a large concentration in New York City and Hamtramck, Michigan. Tens of thousands of Sylhetis are also working as guest workers in the Middle Eastern Gulf states.
Sylhet has a "Friendship Link" with the city of St Albans in the United Kingdom. The link was established in 1988 when the District council supported a housing project in Sylhet as part of the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. Sylhet was chosen because it is the area of origin for the largest ethnic minority group in St Albans. In July 1996, the mayor of Sylhet, Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran, signed the Twinning accord between Sylhet and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (home to around 40,000 Sylhetis at the time), with the mayor of Tower Hamlets late Albert Jacobs in London. In March 2009, the Mayor of Sylhet, Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to form another Friendship Link between Sylhet and the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale (home to around 8,000 Sylhetis at present), with the Mayor of Rochdale Cllr Keith Swift at the Sylhet City Corporation
Given its unique cultural and economic development, and linguistic differences (Greater Sylhet region was a part of Assam and Surma Valley State for much of the British Raj in comparison to the rest of Bangladesh), and given that Sylhet has, for most of its recent history, been a region of a larger entity. As so many Sylhetis are resident abroad, Sylhet has a major flow of foreign currency from non-resident Bangladeshis. The major holidays celebrated in Sylhet include traditional and religious celebrations, Muslim festivals of Ramadan and then after, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. Cultural or nationalistic celebrations include the Language Movement Day, this is where wreaths are laid at the Shaheed Minar paying tribute to the martyrs, the Bangladeshi Independence Day, Victory Day celebrated with parades by school and academies, and the Pohela Baishakh—celebration of the Bengali New Year. Marriages are practised in a traditional Bengali Muslim style, with the gaaye halud, mehendi art and holy prayers.
All Bangladeshi television channels are available as in throughout the country via cable or satellite, such as Channel i, NTV, ETV in the Bengali language including many other Indian channels. There are no national television stations based in Sylhet or broadcasting programs in Sylheti, however the British-owned Channel S has a team, correspondents and reporters based in the city and the region mostly with Sylheti programs. The main newspapers produced in the city includes Sylheter Dak, Daily Uttorpurbo, Jalalabad, Manchitra, Probasha Protidin, Daily Sylhet Sanglap, and Aajker Sylhet. The first Grameenphone Centre opened in Sylhet on 20 May 2007, which was the first telecommunication centre in the city. The most celebrated personalities in Sylhet include Shah Jalal, who was one of the greatest saints in the region, credited for the conversion of people in the Bengal region. His tomb lies in the Shah Jalal Dargah Mazar Sharif in the north, which is still as used as a place of pilgrimage, M. A. G. Osmani was the commander-in-chief of the Bangladesh Forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War, and Abdus Samad Azad, was the first politician from Sylhet to be a member of the cabinet in the government. Sylhet has also influenced much of the music in Bangladesh, notable legends include Hason Raja, Durbin Shah, Arkum Shah, Shitalan Shah, Syed Shahnoor, Radha Romon and Shah Abdul Karim who have produced Bangladeshi folk music.
Sylheti attachment to their regional identity also continues in the efforts of many Sylhetis to keep marital relationships within the same regional cultural background. Sylheti people are considered as a distinct ethnic group in Bangladesh; this is mainly because of language differences between the standard Bengali and Sylheti, and they are fiercely protective of their language. There are also many cultural and customary differences between Bengalis and Sylhetis. Many Sylhetis only marry within the Sylheti-speaking community, and not people from other regions of Bangladesh. They are also more family-orientated and follow a community type of culture, and are more conservative Muslims. These stereotypes have led to some rivalry between non-Sylhetis and Sylhetis, due to differences of cultural customs.
Football and cricket are the most popular Sport in Sylhet. Bangladesh Premier League franchise Sylhet Royals are based in Sylhet Stadium (M.A.G. Osmani Stadium), which was built in 1965 and has a capacity of 15,000 spectators. It is mainly used sporting events. A new Sylhet Divisional Stadium is especially built to host matches of ICC T20 World Cup in 2014. It is situated near lush green tea gardens on the city fringe. In the National Cricket League it has not won any titles however did win in the One-Day Cricket League in 2001–02 season. Notable players from Sylhet who have played for the national team include Rajin Saleh, Enamul Haque Jr, Tapash Baisya, and Alok Kapali. Chess player Rani Hamid was awarded the FIDE Women's International Master (WIM) title in 1985.
The main transport systems used in the city are Cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws (mainly known as baby-taxis or CNGs), buses, mini-buses and cars. There are about 80,000 rickshaws running each day. Bus service prices have increased as of 2008, up to 30% higher, prices ranges from Tk4 to 15.95. The Sylhet Railway Station is the main railway station providing trains on national routes operated by the state-run Bangladesh Railway.
The city of Sylhet is served by Osmani International Airport, located at the north of the city. It is Bangladesh's third busiest airport and became an international airport due to the demand of expatriate Bangladeshis and their descendants from the United Kingdom and the United States. The main frequent airlines of the airport are, Biman Bangladesh Airlines,United Airways (BD) Ltd. and domestic flights with GMG Airlines. The airport received its first international arrival on 3 November 2002, with Biman arriving from Kuwait via Abu Dhabi en route to Dhaka. Work started in 2006 to upgrade the airport to international standards, including a new terminal building, a jetway, a taxiway, and expansion of the runway to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft. It was confirmed that in May 2007, Biman will be operating Hajj flights directly from the airport later in 2007.
There are two public universities in Sylhet, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology and Sylhet Agricultural University. Shahjalal University of Science and Technology is considered one of the best universities in Bangladesh. There are some prominent colleges in Sylhet such as MAG Osmani Medical College, Sylhet, Sylhet Engineering College, Sylhet Cadet College, Murari Chand College, and Sylhet Polytechnic Institute. Sylhet city is served by Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Sylhet. The notable educational institutions are Jalalabad Cantonment Public School & College, Sylhet Cadet College, Madan Mohan College, Women's College Sylhet, Government College Sylhet, Blue Bird High School & College Sylhet, Sylhet Government Pilot School and College, Scholarshome, Ananda Niketon, Amberkhana Girls School and College, The Aided High School and College, Shahjalal Jameya School and College, Sylhet Law College' IMPT Medical Technology College' etc.
There are also four private universities in Sylhet, namely Metropolitan University, Sylhet, Leading University, Sylhet International University and North East University Bangladesh. In Sylhet, there are also four private medical colleges, which are Jalalabad Ragib-Rabeya Medical College and Hospital, North East Medical College Hospital, Sylhet Women's Medical College and Durre Samad Red Crescent Medical College.
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