Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini
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|National Security Force |
জাতীয় রক্ষী বাহিনী
|Active||8 February 1972 to 15 August 1975|
|Allegiance||Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Awami League|
|Role||Counter-insurgency, Counter-terrorism Anti-Communism|
|Size||16000 in 1975|
|Headquarters||Sher-E-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka|
|Patron||Sheikh Mujibur Rahman|
|Mascot(s)||Index Finger of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman|
Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini (Bengali: জাতীয় রক্ষী বাহিনী Yātīy.a Rakṣī Bāhinī) (National Security Force) was an elite para-military force formed on 8 February 1972 by the government led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by an order commonly known as 'Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini Act, 1972" after the liberation war of Bangladesh.
Initially formed to curb the insurgency and maintain law and order the force became involved in numerous charges of human rights abuse including political killings, shooting by death squads, forced disappearances and rape. It was seen as the armed wing of the ruling Awami League and it swore an oath of loyalty to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The Rakkhi Bahini has been condemned by many academics and journalists, including Ghulam Murshid who compared it with the Gestapo, and Anthony Mascarenhas who said that it was a "gang of hoodlums little different from the Nazi Brown shirts." Human Rights Watch states that the institutionalized violence committed by the Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini, established the culture of impunity with which security forces in independent Bangladesh continue to abuse human rights. Pro Awami League commentators dismiss the charges as "myths".
- 1 History
- 2 Organization
- 3 Human rights abuses
- 3.1 1974 famine
- 3.2 Curbing of press freedom
- 3.3 Political democide
- 3.4 Forced disappearances and illegal detentions
- 4 Controversy
- 5 Indemnity
- 6 Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and aftermath
- 7 Legacy
- 8 References
- 9 External links
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During the Liberation War of Bangladesh numerous civilians joined the war after being trained by the Indian forces Tajuddin Ahmed felt these people should come under national service as they had arms and training. Tajuddin Ahmed asked Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to form a para-military force for them.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman primarily rejected the proposal but soon realized the necessity of an elite force, because many police officers died in the Bangladesh Liberation War. Whenever rebels attacked them in their office, they were outnumbered. Raw materials, machinery and goods of factories were being smuggled through the border to India which also became a headache for the newly formed government. Considering this situation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman decided to form this force.[dubious ]
Time remarked after independence that "Many of the more radical young guerrillas who fought with the Mukti Bahini may not be content with the moderate course charted by the middle-aged politicians of the Awami League. Moreover, the present Dacca government is a very remote power in country villages where the local cadres of the Mukti Bahini are highly visible." The article also quoted one of its commanders, Ali Ashraf Chowdhury: "We will never lay down our arms until our social ideals have been realized". he said. The article continues, "So far the Mujib Bahini has done a commendable job of protecting the Biharis, the non-Bengali Moslems who earned Bengali wrath by siding with the Pakistani army. But the government is anxious to disarm the Mujib Bahini, and has plans to organize it into a constabulary that would carry out both police and militia duties."
Masudul Haque in his book Bangladesher Swadhinota Juddho O CIA (Liberation War of Bangladesh and CIA), mentions Abdur Rajjak, a young leader and the chief of Bangladesh Swecchasebok League (Bangladesh Volunteer's League) that Mujib told them not to surrender all the guns.
Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini was actively deployed just after the Indian Army left Bangladesh on 17 March. The force was trained and brought up by Major General Sujan Singh Uban from Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) as per the request of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Moidul Hassan, confirmed this information in the book Muktijuddher Purbapor.
Analyzing the geo-political situation when United States started to recover their loss after the surrender of Pakistan Army on 16 December, Pakistan government had to release Sheikh Mujibur Rahman without any condition. Just after returning home Sheikh Mujibur Rahman realized to form a security force and he decided to form the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini only with the loyal part of Maujib Bahini. Without any discussion in the cabinet, which members were concerned about the stages of liberation war he himself gave the responsibility of forming the force to Major General S. S. Uban who was a recruit of CIA in 60s and now working as the IG of RAW.
On the other hand, Brigadier General M. Shakhawat Hossain claimed that an Indian commander named Major Reddy was the all in all of the Savar camp. The post and the activity of that Indian is still a mystery to all who knew it. In Savar camp there was three additional battalions who were called Recruit Battalion. These three battalions were directly supervised by Major Bala Reddy. Anwar-ul-Alam admits that there were many Junior Commissioned Officers of Indian Army were in the training camp of Savar.
On 3 January 1972, naming prime minister Tajuddin Ahmed as the chairman, the Bangladesh government announced the names of the ten members of the Central Regulating Board of the National Militia. The members were:
- Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani (Chairman, Bhashani's National Awami Party)
- Abul Hasnat Muhammad Qamaruzzaman (Home Minister, People's Republic of Bangladesh)
- Manoranjan Dhar (Member of National Assembly, Awami League)
- Moni Singh (Chairman, Communist Party of Bangladesh)
- Professor Muzaffar Ahmed (President, Muzaffar's National Awami Party)
- Gazi Golam Mostafa (Member of Provincial Assembly, Awami League)
- Rafiq Uddin Bhuiyan (Member of Provincial Assembly, Awami League)
- Tofael Ahmed (Member of National Assembly, Awami League)
- Abdur Razzaq (Member of Provincial Assembly, Awami League)
- Captain (retd.) Muhammad Shujat Ali (Member of Provincial Assembly, Awami League).
The Central Regulating Board of the National Militia consisted of members who represented either Awami League or other political parties that supported the independence movement of Bangladesh.
On 6 January 1972, prime minister Tajuddin Ahmed held the first conference of the National Militia Board in the Bangladesh Secretariat. It was during this conference Tajuddin Ahmed officially announced that the war vets are to be recruited for the formation of the National Militia Force. Four days after the conference was held, President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returned to Bangladesh. On 12 January, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman resigned as President and took office as Prime Minister. Few days later, the government of Bangladesh finally settled to form the National Militia Force and on 24 January, a press-note was issued to announce to the public that a militia force will be formed.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, wanted to merge with the Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini, with the Bangladesh Rifles but the Bangladesh Rifles personnel stiffly opposed the move in a commotion that resulted in a mutiny. This plan was then abandoned.
The force was formed after an order known as 'Jatiyo Rokkhi Bahini Act, 1972 | President Order no.-21' which was issued on 7 March of the year but it was ordered that the act will be treated in effect from 1 February 1972.
Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini had a complete table of organization which was circulated on 8 March 1972 by a gazette notification. The chief of the force was known as Director General. His five deputies were known as Deputy Director General. In reality, the Rakkhi Bahini was under the direct control of the prime minister's office and attached to the local Awami League units. In time, the government planned to place each unit under the command of a district governor. The Rakkhi Bahini also swore an oath of loyalty to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Brigadier A. N. M. Nuruzzaman was appointed as the Director General while Major Anwar Ul Alam Shahid (Deputy Director, Training), Lieutenant Colonel Abul Hasan Khan (Deputy Director, Administration), Lieutenant Colonel Sarwar (Deputy Director, Operations), Lieutenant Colonel Sabihuddin (Deputy Director, Signals), Lieutenant Colonel Azizul Islam (Deputy Director, Zonal Headquarters of Chittagong) and Lieutenant Colonel A M Khan (Deputy Director, Medical) were his six deputies. The bulk of the Rakkhi Bahini personnel were recruited from the Mujib Bahini, a militia force that was formed during the concluding part of Liberation War and was under direct Indian supervision.
Equipment and training
Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini was well uniformed in olive green. Members of the force were given L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle, Heavy machine gun, submachine gun, light machine gun, mortar, steel helmets, leather boots etc. They were provided with jeeps and trucks imported from India.
The basic training of the force officers candidates were given in Indian Military Academy, and at Savar camp, under the supervision of Indian military officer named Major Bala Reddy. Any other additional courses, special courses were also provided by Indian Army, at the Indian Military Academy of Dehradun.
Some additional land and properties were also given to this force by the government. The Zonal Headquarters building in the Bhatiary of Chittagong and lands in Giltala of Khulna, Bateshwar of Sylhet, Bogra and in Mirpur of Dhaka.
During its first days as it was formed as an auxiliary of Police, it helped police to guard the office. When police failed to control the situation, they were deployed. At least 44 offices and residents of police were attacked and looted from June to December 1973. So the government deployed Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini within September of the year.
But within a very short time it became so unpopular due to its action, particularly against Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal.
JASAD challenged the government's activities and started to gain huge popularity especially among the students and youths. And many other secret organizations was emerged and gained popularity as the government was failing to solve almost every issue.
Human rights abuses
The Rakkhi Bahini committed various human rights abuses, including political killings, forced disappearances, shooting by death squads, and rape. Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal claims that over 60,000 of its members were killed. The most conservative estimates put the death toll at over 2000. Pro- Awami League commentator Syed Badrul Ahsan dismisses these claims as "myths."
Anthony Mascarenhas presented a description of the activities of Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini in his book Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood, he writes:
The Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini, which roughly translated means National Security Force, was an elite para-military force whose members had to take oaths of personal loyalty to Mujib. Despite its high-sounding name, it was a sort of private army of bully boys not far removed from Nazi Brown shirts.
Mascarenhas adds that by the end of 1973 the total of politically motivated murders in Bangladesh had crossed the 2000 mark. The victims included some members of Parliament and many of the murders were resulted of intra-party conflicts within Awami League.
Even the capital Dhaka was not immune to the violence. An unofficial curfew was introduced after midnight. Almost every rickshaw, taxi and private car was checked and searched by Rokkhi Bahini personnel.
When the famine started, millions of people came to the capital from villages in search of food. The government decided to drive the poor and have-nots out of the capital as it was embarrassed in front of international community with the famine. On 3 January Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini was deployed to 'Clean Dhaka' depriving the poor-beggars and the destitute from the city. In this operation about 0.2 million have-nots and slum dwellers were taken away from the capital and were forced either to return to their villages or to be moved to the three camps. The camps were hastily laid out several miles from the city. Condition of the camps was disastrous.
Amongst the three camps, the camp of Demra was the most appalling one, in where Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini gathered about 50,000 people. Those people were ill-treated and sometimes they felt that death is a better solution.
According to Anthony Mascarenhas, an old man of the camp told visiting journalists, "Either give us food or shoot us."
Curbing of press freedom
On 7 September 1972, Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini personnel torched the head-office of newspaper 'Desh Bangla'. On 11 August the police sealed the office of 'Desh Bangla' in Chittagong for publishing news against Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini. They also arrested two journalists and eight workers of the press.
Al Mahmud, then the editor of popular newspaper 'Gonokontho' was arrested for publishing the news of the attack on Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal activists while encircling the Home Minister's residence in Dhaka. At least twelve Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal activists were killed and about a hundred were wounded as Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini personnel opened fire on that political program. But the government claimed the number of death were only six.
Al Mahmud did not listen to the government and tried to publish the accurate news. When the government came to know that, they sent three trucks full of Police and Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini personnel to seize the office and press of 'Gonokontho' at night and arrested the Editor Al Mahmud along with seven workers of the press. Many staff reporter of 'Gonokontho' were abducted for their job. The publication of the newspaper was clogged on 20 January 1974. The declaration of 'Gonokontho' was cancelled by the government on 27 January 1975.
Government cancelled another popular weekly 'Holiday' on 13 May 1975 and its editor Enayetullah Khan, was detained for publishing news against the government and the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini.
1974 Ramna massacre
See More 1974 Ramna massacre
Jasad, frequently tortured by JRB, decided to hold a rally on 17 March at Paltan. They also made a plan to surround the resident of Home Minister Muhammad Mansur Ali on the same day after the rally.
On 17 March 1975, agitated Jasad supporters tried to set up a barricade in front of the resident of the Home Minister Muhammad Mansur Ali after the rally. But prepared JRB personnel started firing indiscriminately upon the crowd leaving several people dead on the spot.
However, the Home Minister was not in Dhaka that day and was spending leisure hours with his family.
Other massacres of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal members
A notable occurrence occurred on 17 March 1975. Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini set up fire the headquarters of JASAD on 14 March 1975. JASAD decided to form a rally towards Home Minister Mansoor Ali's house and surround it as a counter to that incident on 17 March.
The rally that started from Paltan was forwarding to the Home Minister's house but the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini opened brush-fire and at least 50 JASAD activists were killed on the spot.
During the regime of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman thousands of youths were killed due to the suspicion of having connection with JASAD by Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini.
Among them a leader of Bangladesh Krishok League central committee and a teacher of Nawabganj High School Siddiqur Rahman Khan was killed on 10 October 1972. On 17 September 1973 JASAD Student's League leader Bablu, Robi, Ebadat Ali, Motaleb, Kalu and many other were killed in daylight by Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini.
Notable victims include: General Secretary of City College Students' Union Jahangir, student of Jahangir Nagar University Shah Borhan Uddin Rokon, student of BUET Nikhil Chandra Saha; Narshingdi JASAD leader Alauddin; JASAD leader from Gazipur Akram, Joinal, Shamsu, Badal, Anwar; Manikganj JASAD leader Shahadat Hossain Badal, Delwar Hossain Haraj, Abdul Awal Naju, Najim; activists from Jamalpur Giasuddin Master; JASAD activist Abdur Rashid, Hasu Miah; leader from Mymensingh Masuduzzaman, Abdul Jabbar; Madaripur JASAD activist Jahngir, Saddam, Ali Hosen, Mofijur; Faridpur's Kamaluzzaman, Abdul Hakim; Moniddin Ahmed, Salam Master, Rafique Uddin from Razshahi; Ata, Ranju, Manik Das Gupta, Tota, Colonel Rana, Khalil, Rajjak of Bagura; Natore's JASAD leader Nasiruddin; leader from Pabna Ashfaqur Rahman Kalu.
Execution of Siraj Sikder
After the liberation war he started his mission to establish a socialist society. During the liberation war on 3 June he established the political party 'Purba Bangla Sharbahara Party'. On the first congress of the party he was elected as the party's President on 14 January 1972. He started working as the President of the party. In 1973 he was elected as the President of an alliance of eleven peoples' organization named as 'Purba Banglar Jatyo Mukti Front' (National Liberation Front of East Bengal). But analyzing political situation of the country which was named as "One Party Democracy" by Guardian and the increasing torture over his party members forced him to choose the way of revolution.
On 28 December 1974 the government announced the first ever state of emergency in the history of Bangladesh to arrest all the terrorists and opposition leaders. From then Siraj Sikder was being treated as an outlaw by the law and enforcement forces. He went underground after the promulgation of emergency.
He was arrested by the intelligence agents on 1 January 1975 from Halishahar of Chittagong and was brought to Dhaka by air.
A Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini commander later denied that the murder of Siraj Sikder was committed by his force.
Forced disappearances and illegal detentions
Detention of Aruna and Chanchal Sen
Aruna Sen the wife of politician Shanti Sen, was detained by the Jatiya Rokkhi Bahini, along with her relative Chanchal Sen. She was subjected to torture while in captivity. Aruna Sen published a statement regarding her captivity in the 17 March edition of Weekly Holiday and in the June edition of Monthly Sangskriti in 1974.
After Aruna Sen was detained, a writ was filed at Supreme Court. The court asked Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini to present her in front of the court and prove her detention legal. They presented her but failed to support the legality of the detention.
Disappearance of Shahjahan
Soon after the claim, Shahjahan's brother brought a certified copy from a lower court that stated that Shahjahan was never accused in any cases filed in any of the police stations in the country and the story seemed baseless because Shahjahan's brother saw him in the Rakkhi Bahini custody on 2 January 1974 which was three days later the claimed date of Shahjahan's elopement. During the trial of Rakkhi Bahini members the Rakkhi Bahini commander explained to the court that Shahjahan fled while the Rakhkhi Bahini took him to recover arms at Mohammadpur on 31 December 1974. The court dismissed these allegations.
The irregularity and very unsatisfactory manner of the handling of the matter by the Rakkhi Bahini has created a situation that urgently calls for an effective action on the part of the authorities to clear the cloud and create a sense of assurance in the mind of the people.
Relations with the military
Political opponents of the Awami League allege that the Rakkhi Bahini was made to replace the army. The Rakkhi Bahini had automatic weapons, steel helmets, jeeps, trucks etc. The Awami League government seemed to be more interested in the development of the militia than in the armed forces. It was planned that this militia would be increased annually so that by the end of 1980 its strength would be 20 000. On the other hand, Bangladesh Army was poorly equipped. In winter they had to guard the border in slippers.
The Rakkhi Bahini was distrusted by the defence services in Bangladesh because of its pro-Indian orientation. This was so for several reasons. First, most of the members of the armed forces who fought during the War of Independence strongly believed that the Indian Army just walked in at the end of Bangladesh Liberation War thereby robbing the Bangladesh military of the "glory of liberating their motherland." Second, many senior military officers believed that the government-in-exile at Mujibnagar signed a secret treaty with the Indian government, compromising the sovereignty of Bangladesh and that Sheikh Mujib became less interested in the development of the defence forces because of that treaty. Third, many senior army personnel felt that the Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini was planned and designed by the Indian Army for the safety of the Awami League regime. The poorly-equipped defence services were also bitter about the fact that the Indian Army took away all the sophisticated weapons left by the Pakistan Army.
Mascarenhas also records the statement of Major General Abul Manzoor, that numerous military personnel were killed by Rakkhi Bahini terming them as Razakars. or collaborators. Despite the indignation, from July 1973 to July 1974, the army conducted a number of combined military operations with the Rakkhi Bahini and the police such as checking for smuggling at the border, handling 'extremists', and maintaining law and order.
Expulsion of Ayesha Faiz from her home
A house in Babar Road of Mohammadpur was allotted to her by the government for her husband. But just after three days she was kicked out of the house with her family by a Subedar Major of Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini.
She detailed the incident in her biography Jibon Je Rokom (Life as it is).
I told in reply, "It has given by the government. My husband is a martyr."
The Subedar Major left our house without saying anything else. But I got puzzled.
After some moment another Subedar Major came home. He was not alone; he came with a truck, full of Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini personnel. There were guns in every pair of hands. The name of the Subedar Major was Hafiz. He entered my house and claimed, "The house is mine. Sheikh shaheb has given this to me."
I said, "How is that possible? I have the allotment papers."
He replied my words tearing a curtain within a second and ordered his sub-ordinates to kick us out.
I was shocked a by this. I protested and said, "Let's see how brave you are."
the subedar major was thundered and left my house with out uttering any word. After that, hundreds of Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini personnel encircled my house. They were neither letting anyone to enter nor to go out. Kajal (Humayun Ahmed) was in Muhsin Hall. He came after he was informed. They did not even allow him to enter the house. The entire night passed like prisoner.
When it was dawn I went to Police. They said that, "We are just servants! We can do nothing against them."
I returned home at night. They stopped me to enter. After a long conversation they permitted me to go in.
At 8 PM a troop of Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini entered my house demolishing the door. Iqbal (Muhammad Zafar Iqbal) stood up and hide me with his hands. One of them jumped near to me showing the bayonet. Reloading his gun, he put his finger on the trigger of his rifle and shouted. I was thundered, "Does he want to kill us?"
Ayesha Faiz left the home with her children. She later recalled: "Once I was made refugee by the Pakistan Army of occupation. The second time it was done by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini.
An incident on May 1974 drew the attention of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. A teenager of just 17 was found to have 'disappeared' after four days of torture. The court castigated the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini for 'operating outside the law'.
This ruling of the court disturbed Mujib and he stripped it of its power to intervene in such cases.
He amended the Jatiyo Rokkhi Bahini Act in 1974 just after the court's ruling. Article-2 of Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini Act (Amended) says,
8A. Notwithstanding anything contained in, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (V of 1898), or in any other law for the time being in force, any officers may, while performing any function under article 8, without warrant-
a) Arrest any person whom he reasonably suspects of having committed a cognizable fence under any law;
b) Search any person, place, vehicle or vessel, and seize anything found in the possession of such person or in such place, vehicle or vessel in respect of which or any means of which he has reason to believe an offence punishable under any law has been committed.
Article 3 of the act says,
No suit, prosecution, or other legal proceedings shall be against any member of the Bahini for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this order or rule made there under."
So these are the basic provisions of the infamous Act called the Jatiyo Rokkhi Bahini Act (amended),1974.
According to these provisions anybody could be arrested by the Rakkhi Bahini at will mid they would remain immune from any judicial supervision in all their activities in which they would be pleased to indulge in "good faith".
This indemnity refrained the Judiciary Division from taking any legal actions This indemnity amplified their desperate actions.
Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and aftermath
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Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
See also: Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
When Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed on 15 August 1975 by members of the Bangladesh Army, the Rakkhi Bahini, which was very loyal to him, was very inactive.
After the coup, members of Rakkhi Bahini who were deployed all around the country from escaped their camps and houses in fear of mob-violence, as the people were very angry on them.
Absorption in military forces
After the death of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the force was absorbed in Bangladesh Army after the "Jatiyo Rokkhi Bahini Absorption Act, 1975 came into effect. It was issued on 9 October 1975 and was in effect from 3 September 1975.
The Director General of the force Brigadier Nuruzzaman was appointed as an ambassador after the force was absorbed.
Human rights abuse
Human Rights Watch states that institutionalized violence committed by the Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini, established the culture of impunity and widespread prevalence of abuses by security forces in independent Bangladesh. Pro-Awami columnist Syed Badrul Ahsan defends its actions, but acknowledges "it would have been more effective and effectual, more properly indoctrinated in the spirit of the 1971 war, history would have been different."
In popular culture
- The Black Coat, a historical novel written by Neamat Imam and published by Penguin Books India in 2013, presents the most scathing criticism of Sheikh Mujib's rule and his employment of the Rakkhi Bahini in decades. The novel explores Sheikh Mujib's rule from 1972 to 1975, especially during the Bangladesh famine of 1974, when he became increasingly autocratic. Radio Canada commented that: The Black Coat is 'a novel that slays Sheikh Mujib,' and The Daily Star remarked: '…a poignant political tale… Imam has shown a lot of courage in dealing with one of the most tumultuous and controversial phases of independent Bangladesh's history.' The novel attacks Sheikh Mujib's introduction of one party rule, the ruthlessness of the Rakkhi Bahini and Mujib's suppression of his political opposition and claims that Sheikh Mujib was Bangladesh's first and deadliest dictator. As the famine deepened, and the political opposition to Mujib's rule intensified, the Rakkhi Bahini units got busier than ever. Although they were freedom fighters at one time, they engaged themselves in promoting Mujib's autocratic aspirations.
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