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Dear India,
Recent killings of children in both the United States and Bangladesh have moved me. When I can’t wrap my mind around what can happen in this world, the order and structure imposed by verse can help clear my mind. Therefore, I have enclosed a poem at the bottom of the write-up.

We Americans have about one image that we can keep in our head about a country at a time. The one many of us have of India is that of Gandhi, peacefully leading a march to the sea to make salt. We tend to think of India as a spiritual, non-violent land. Perhaps that’s why so many people I’ve mentioned it to here are shocked by India’s border killings of innocent Bangladeshis, especially the girl, Felani. It doesn’t fit with the image we in America have of India.

How can any nation justify such abuses of basic human rights, especially a nation that, because of its colonial history, should understand the sufferings of the oppressed? I suppose you can counter, “Well, how can the United States, alleged proponent of liberty, ever support repressive regimes?”

Granted, we are guilty of our own forms of hypocrisy. Our hands aren’t clean either. Still, we the individual citizens of any nation have the right and the duty to stand up and say something when we hear of atrocities, wherever they occur. First and foremost, I am a father and a family man. I have a 15-year-old daughter. That gives me an emotional bond with Felani’s father that I can’t dismiss silently. I must respond, and perhaps keep responding, until this senseless slaughter is just an unfortunate chapter in the history of India. A father of one child is the father of all children. The sons and daughters of Bangladesh are my sons and daughters as well.

I know India and Bangladesh are going to address these matters. India promises within the next few months to “resolve these matters”. This is a positive step forward, but it does not bring back the dead, or answer the question as to how a government steps over the line from a misplaced sense of superiority into a callous disregard for human life. No high-level talks should have to be conducted for governments to prescribe to some very basic level of human decency, especially among friends and neighbours. Those who perpetrated and ordered these acts are criminals, and those who, to this point, condoned these acts should be brought to justice. Felani was not the first innocent child to die.

The Killing of 15-year-old Felani by Indian Border Guards… An American Father Responds.

Mahatma, help me make some sense

Of slaughtered children on your fence

Your nation stained, your image scarred

By Sahib Death, the Border Guard.

On the wire, mournful cries

Of parents rise into the skies

The bullets steal a nation’s youth

While politics obscure the truth.

If madness and mistrust increase

If we can slay our men of peace

Can killing children be that hard,

For Sahib Death, The Border Guard?

I hear a father’s cry of grief

Of agony beyond belief

And wonder what a monstrous thief

Could snuff a light so bright, so brief?

Our tears and rage won’t make us blind

We can’t be violent, kill in kind

For we’d grow soulless, damned and hard

As Sahib Death, the Border Guard.

Back here, we’ve suffered tragic ends

The work of madmen, not of friends.

My nation mourns the rare events

That happen daily on your fence.

At least we know each precious soul

Has eluded death’s patrol,

Has reached a land which can’t be barred

By Sahib Death, the Border Guard.

Descendants of the dead who fell

Into a distant Martyr’s well

Belay the murd’rous disregard

Of Sahib Death, your border guard!

Beloved readers, I have said it before. Bangladesh, from this “Martian” perspective, to quote aladin’s article of last week, is a nation of colour and energy. I could do a whole piece on how people use colours to decorate that which is most important to them, our street signs are colourful, our advertisements are colourful, our cars are colourful. Even our gas stations are colourful. In Bangladesh, looking at the photographs of the election queues, it seems that the people themselves are the most colourful element on the landscape. Everyone is so brightly, so lavishly dressed. What this means to me is that yours is a nation that subconsciously understands and celebrates its people above all else. When any of this colourful number, especially children, has her life brutally cut short, I feel it a world away.

This article originally stopped at the end of the poem. My editor emailed me to ask if this was really all I had to say. As I did research on this issue, read the story about that 13-year-old boy shot dead across the border during a shouting match with an Indian border guard a few years back, or this girl who was shot and left to die on the fence, at the age of 15, I had no words. My youngest daughter is 15, and my youngest son is 13. They are the elements of my life that I would dress in bright colours. Every parent worries about their children’s futures. I know, only from an American perspective what it is to burrow through the couch to find change to buy milk, or use a newspaper and some sphagnum moss as a diaper, and even how your ears burn when the nice person next to you in church gives you money because they see, as a new and struggling parent, that you need the money. And you face it all, you struggle and you fight, because you are a father and you do it for the sake of your child. Of all the ways to identify yourself: nationality, religion, race, party, or social class, above everything else, parenthood has the power to transform the way you live your life. It is a universal identifier. We, the fathers of the world, belong to a common brotherhood.

I struggled in the early years of fatherhood because my wife and I were still students, and students are universally poor. Here in American want is often just a temporary condition for the soon to be middle-class. This is a puddle that evaporates within a few years, and though my family walked the tightrope all those years ago, we were never without the safety net of my own father, if we really needed help. I never had to risk being shot by foreign soldiers, allies at that, to put bread on the table.

But I imagine a Bangladeshi father on the day his daughter dressed to go with him and arrange the particulars of a marriage with a husband in India. I imagine how a tear might have caught in the father’s throat to see his girl dressed up, grown and engaged to be married, how it would pain him to part with her, especially since he would eventually be separated from her new family and from his grandchildren, by a national border. I imagine the memories Felani’s dad would have of his little girl’s childhood, the struggles, the dreams, the prayers that all fathers have for their cherished daughters, who, no matter how old they get, we fathers permanently regard as loving, big-eyed seven year olds. I know the thought that sometimes goes through a father’s head. “In my youth, I dreamed big dreams that didn’t come true, but I have this wonderful child. If this was the trade, my dreams for in exchange for her life, I got the best of the bargain.” I know the memory of the soft hand of a ten year old girl, holding her father’s own rough, calloused hand, telegraphing through her warm fingers her absolute faith and trust in her father’s protective strength. I know the secret prayer of all fathers that God make them worthy of that trust. We see a horrible picture of a girl on a fence, but I see the father, present for her 15 years, for every stroke of the hairbrush, for every wiggly baby tooth, worrying, dreaming of a safer, happier life for his daughter.

I don’t know whether Felani’s father was rich or poor, or what sort of safety net he had for his daughter. I only know that all of his earthly struggle, love, and concern were erased by a single barbarous act. I only know that now, as this far-off brother of mine walks home from his labours searching for blessings, the absence of his little girl’s hand will permanently remind him that he was not strong enough to protect his own trusting little angel from the cruel indifference of this world.

Honestly, there are no words.

Frank Domenico Cipriani writes a weekly column in the Riverside Signal called “You Think What You Think And I’ll Think What I Know.” He is also the founder and CEO of The Gatherer Institute — a not-for-profit public charity dedicated to promoting respect for the environment and empowering individuals to become self-taught and self-sufficient. His most recent book, “Learning Little Hawk’s Way of Storytelling”, is scheduled to be released by Findhorn Press in May of 2011.

44 Responses to “A Letter to India…”


    Thank you Frank for the article. It will be more appreciated, if you could reach the US media as well as other international platforms and make the whole world see what the Indian border guards are doing to our people.

    Once again, thank you on behalf of the people of Bangladesh.

  2. Ramya

    Somewhere along the way, do consider the wails of the month-old-baby in Manhattan who died slowly and painfully because his father did not want him crying, or the child who starved to death because her parents were too busy playing Internet games. It is not only in India, my friend, it happens all over the world.

    • Frank D. Cipriani

      True, sadly true. But in this case, the agents of a government pulled the trigger. I know that the sympathetic people of India don’t condone the actions of their border guard, anymore than we condone the death of children in the US. But in this case, it has been an ongoing problem perpetrated by individuals in the paid service of the Indian government. The people of India have the political power to prevent this from happening again.

      • Somnath GuhaRoy

        There was a report in bdnews that a Bangladeshi “cattle-trader” was killed in BSF firing at 5 A.M.(that means 4:30 A.M. IST) 150 METERS INSIDE INDIAN TERRITORY. Now, what was this “cattle-trader”, like many others killed in firing, doing in the dark inside Indian territory at night, when the border gates open at 6 a.m. for trade and crossing? There are innumerable cases of Bangladeshi armed criminal gangs looting poor people inside India, and the Indians blame the BSF for not protecting them with more strictness against criminals from Bangladesh. Please also read their narratives. You may not care even if the Taj Mahal was towed across, but any poor human would expect his/her national guards to protect him/her against criminals operating from across the border regularly.

  3. sadman

    Thank you so much for sharing our pain that we often face due to the brutal oppression at the border.

    Thanks again.


  4. atiq

    People of Bangladesh are unorganised. Politicians are taking this advantage or people are just queuing behind to those politicians.

    • Frank D Cipriani

      I humbly submit that it takes one person to ask the question, “What can I do for the families of the victims of this slaughter?” And do a simple kindness in the name of those whose lives were cruelly interrupted by such barbarous acts.

    • Frank D Cipriani

      I have started to read your account of events. It certainly offers a different perspective.

  5. Faizus Saleheen

    Dear Mr. Frank Domenico Cipriani, the way you expressed your feelings on this brutal incident is really considerate and rare in this violent world we live in. My sincere thanks to you for such an initiative you have taken to enlighten the world about a very small part of such killings happening on a regular basis. My best wishes are with you and may Allah bless you and your family a long, peaceful and simple way of life.

    • Frank D Cipriani

      Thank you for the kind blessing. I wish the same to you and your family. Things are rarely simple with ten people in the household. There is a Hungarian greeting, “Isten hozott” which means, God Brought You. I feel like God brings things to us, and I thank Allah every day for opening my eyes to the wonder that is your homeland. I think the vast majority of humanity would be sympathetic, if only such matters were brought into the light. Most everyone, at least that I’ve ever met, was kind and gentle. The problem is that here in the West, people are more concerned with sex scandals and pop stars than with the type of suffering they cannot imagine actually occurs in the world. I pray for special blessings on your land, its people, so that you all may live in peace and prosperity.

  6. Tamanna Rahman

    Great article. At least it gives comfort to us, the poor Bangladeshis, that somebody out there in the US is worried about the misdeeds of mighty India towards innocent Bangladeshis. Thanks Frank!

    • Frank D Cipriani

      I am preparing an article to let more people know what goes on here. I hope it finds a US publisher.

  7. Jamaluddin Shah

    Thanks a lot Frank! It shows that all sensible people around the globe were hurt severely by this brutal killing of innocent Felani at Indo-Bangla border.

    The people of the global village must unite to eradicate this kind of wild atrocities anywhere in the world.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      Yes. For now, we must unite by pen. We also must do something for the father.

    • Frank D Cipriani

      As well as come to the aid of the families who are victims of such atrocities.

  8. M.A.Bari

    Dear F. D. Cipriani, you have rightly expressed concern over the brutal killing of Felani, an innocent girl from Bangladesh. India (the so-called friend of Bangladesh) have killed many more Bangladeshis in the last few years.

    • Frank D Cipriani

      I think the statistic was one death every four days. Horrible.

  9. Shamal Shingha

    Thank you Frank for your letter to India. Indian BSF never taken our cries in consideration. They’ve always underestimated Bangladeshi government since this is a poor country and we need their support for geographical reasons and many other things.

    We can only hope that they will also feel the pain some day and stop resorting to such brutality.

    • Frank D Cipriani

      I had a teacher in high school who taught history. He always said, “Freedom is independence. Without one, you can’t have the other.” This is so very true. If a country is self-sustaining, it doesn’t need to tread softly when its neighbor behaves like a bully. Gandhi understood this. In fact, were he alive, I think he’d be solidly on your side.

      I continue to believe that the best way for the Bangladeshi people to protest is through art, through music, and through the brilliant expression of its culture. The world will listen, through music, to what it fails to hear in prose. We know the horror of Guernica through painting. We understand a small student uprising in 1830’s Frace (or thereabouts) through Les Miserables.

      What fascinates me is the descent into soulless brutality that the border guards must have experienced in order to be able to do such a thing. To be honest, they are the ones to be pitied. In the eyes of God, it is better to lose your life but retain the goodness of your soul, than to keep your life, but live that life with an empty, evil soul.

  10. Anwar A. khan

    Dear Mr. Cipriani,

    I was deeply moved to read your article. I was actually in tears. I am also a father of a 19-year-old daughter and always try to keep her under the ambit of my safety net. Felani is also like my daughter. Her father could not protect her from the ugly claws of BSF. BSF’s atrocities are really heart wrenching. I really am feeling the same way that you have felt for her.

    To me, you are a true human being despite living in an affluent society of United States of America — a far-off place from here. Yet you have felt for a poor Bangladeshi girl like Felani. Your heart has bled for her and her father. Your write-up has really touched me.

    I personally sent several e-mails to the Indian PM on different dates protesting such brutalities by the BSF at our borders and requested him to personally intervene in stopping such killings, but to no effect.

    When you say “A father of one child is the father of all children. The sons and daughters of Bangladesh are my sons and daughters as well”, it definitely evolves our heart with an aura of fragrance and love from the bottom of the heart of a good human being. I salute you.

    Anwar A. Khan
    Dhaka, Bangladesh

  11. Tareque

    Dear Frank,
    As my visions got blurry with tears while I read your article, I can’t stop wondering….while those last cries of Felani touched the very heart of a father thousand miles away from that unfortunate place, how come the nerves of that border guard, standing right there, remained unmoved? how come he never even flinched the moment he pulled the trigger to shoot a teenager?

    It is an amazing world indeed…where a father mourns for a child he never had, and at the same world a border guard target practices at a child’s heart….

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      So well put. What monstrous element in the life of a human being would allow an individual to do such a thing?

      We are united only by our common humanity, whether we stand next to each other in an elevator, or are separated by thousands of miles. The sincere heart knows no borders, and monsters will be monsters regardless of nationality.

  12. Abid Bahar

    What a contradiction?

    Thanks for the great article but it didn’t cover the dying Felani’s cries. “Water, water” the bullet hit Falani cried. She died as if like an insect caught in a cobweb.

    As she was dying her father was watching helplessly from a distance for four hours. With Felani, all fathers must have dying pains as well.

    Thus, we ask when we human were successful to tear down the hated Berlin wall why shall we not also be able to break the Indian wall of hatred that divides the two Bengals allowing not just Indian ships and giant trucks to move freely but help Felanis to walk freely on the earth of ours!

    Abid Bahar

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      I believe, I have to believe, that she is in God’s hands, and that her sufferings have given way to joy. I hope her poor father(and her poor mother,fiancee, family) can find comfort in that.

      How could anyone read with a dry eye about the fact, which I didn’t know, that she cried for water?

      My second oldest daughter, who takes religion very seriously, always says, “Pray as if it’s up to God, act as if it’s up to you.”

      But we can begin, at least, with a prayer.
      May all the walls of hatred, both tangible and invisible, sink into the earth!

  13. Golam Arshad

    Frank: I am a father of three beloved daughters. Your write-up was profoundly touching and tearfully painful! Is India listening??

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      I have met many Indians, many of whom have become dear friends. I cannot speak for them, but I can attest to their decency and humanity. I know they must cry for this girl as well.

      Sometimes, a simple poem can wiggle its way into places where prose is barred. I imagine if someone out there can use a poem to spread a message, then let India listen.

      No one can ever tell if they have written a good or a bad poem. But if anyone out there believes that this poem can change a mind, then I relinquish authorship of it, use it as you wish, rap it, set it to music, share it on the social network. You can claim it as your own. I don’t care if I get credit as its author. All I want is for horrible things to stop happening. If, in this information age, a mere poem of questionable literary merit can contribute even slightly to raising the awareness and ending the slaughter, then by all means send it out. Just make India listen!

      India, like any nation, is not its diplomats, its politicians, or even its movie stars. It is its hotel managers, its laborers, and in this context especially, India is its doting fathers. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Let India know that evil has been done, and then count on the good people of India to ignore its politicians, its diplomats, and what we call here its “haters”. Then we will get a sincere and heartfelt cry of “Enough!” from people of goodwill on both sides of the border.

  14. Fuad Hasan

    I would like to thank Mr Frank from the bottom of my heart for his sympathy towards us. Of course “Father” is truly a universal word. It does not vary from nation to nation. “A father is a father irrespective of place or clan.” But being a poor nation, we are probably not even counted as human beings let alone a father or a mother, brother, sister……
    We are ignominious, we are too fragile to demonstrate against those brutal killings let alone defend ourselves. We solely depend on our mighty neighbour’s mercy. It took at least 15 days for our timid government to blast Felani’s killing.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      The most fundamental function of any government is to protect its citizens from enemies, both foreign and domestic. To this end is government, a necessary evil, established. Sometimes in politics, when the chickens are too busy pecking at each other, they don’t see the fox until it is at their neck. This is true with the Democrats and the Republicans here in respect to China, and it may be true of your government in terms of this border situation as well.

      But by the grace of God and the sacrifice of others, we live in a Democracy, and we don’t have to wait for our governments to decry a violation of fundamental human decency. We can, and must do that ourselves.

  15. Mohammad Zahinul Islam

    Dear Mr. Frank Domenico Cipriani,

    I have cried after reading your article. You have touched the raw nerve of all fathers. I have a daughter who is 6 years old and I perhaps to some extent can feel the pain of Felani’s father like all other father but NO ONE can feel the actual pain of Felani’s father. The way you have depicted the picture, I thank you from my heart. Let good sense prevail and justice for all. May Allah bless you.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      Every time someone writes, “May Allah bless you,” I wear it like a precious jewel on my heart, and yet I feel so unworthy of such a blessing. How many more blessings can I possibly hold? I have been given life, children, prosperity, and such wonderful readers in a faroff land that I have come to treasure and admire.

      How can we transfer some of these blessings to that father, whose pain, you so correctly indicate, we cannot possibly fathom. What outward blessing can we give him?

      If anyone out there knows this man, please let him know that here, in America, and I am sure throughout the world, that we pray for him, we pray for his family. Let him know that the balance of humanity tilts toward the good, and as we say in church here, “God is in the blessing business”.

  16. G F Hamim

    I’m very much in agreement with Mr. Frank and express similar shock at the brutality of the incident. Thanks for his empathy for Felani’s father. Truly, we have no ‘words’ either. Whatever commitment the Indian Border Guard makes, it can’t compensate a parent of what he has lost. This is an unbelievable cruel act from a national guard who are glorified by ‘Mahatma’ and his life’s lesson.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      That is the irony. Gandhi would have gone on a hunger strike. And all the actions in the world could not bring back that girl.

      But she wasn’t the first to die. I think the statistic is one death every four days. The Border Guards have much to account for.

  17. Mohammad Billal Hossain

    I really like your statement ‘A father of a child is the father of all children’. The killing of Felani was acutely brutal. BSF heard a young girl was crying on the fence being scared. In no way they could suspect it as a smuggling case as they sometimes try to defend their brutality as a controlling measure of smuggling.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      Yes, because in India, I presume, smuggling is a capital offense punishable by death without a trial.

      I don’t care if they were towing the Taj Mahal across the border by Monster Truck. You don’t kill people for smuggling. You arrest them.

      • Habib

        I am also a father of a 3-yr-old girl. I can feel the pain! I was also speechless after reading Felani’s news. I am an Indian also. And hardly five percent of Indians read/browse any Bangladeshi newspaper.

        It is also true that many Bangladeshi nationals illegally cross the border every day. Even in the case of Felani also, as per a leading English newspaper of Bangladesh, the girl along with her father was living and working in India illegally for a long time. And while going back, the terrible incident took place.

        We, every common Indian, want friendly relationship with all neighbouring countries. And we condemn this type of killings. But at the same time, we must protect our border as well.

        If you look at the situation in North Eastern Indian states, illegal migrants and militants are the major problem there; the BSF need to carry out its duty as well.

        We cannot justify the illegal migrants and trafficking of women and children in the name of HUMAN RIGHTS. If the people of both the countries respect each other’s law and follow the legal way of crossing the border this kind of killing will come to a stop.

        After the Felani incident or any BSF killing, all the newspapers in Bangladesh create an anti-India atmosphere. But they never tell their people to cross the border with valid travel documents.

        We consider Bangladeshi people like our brothers and sisters, we don’t want them to face any kind of problem because of us. At the same time we want them to respect the law. Thousands of Bangladeshi brothers and sisters come to India every month — legally. And they are most welcome in our country.

      • Frank D Cipriani

        All I am saying, is one should let the punishment fit the crime. Detention, arrest, certainly there are gentler ways to redress your grievances than by killing.

      • Somnath GuhaRoy

        Smuggling was NEVER a capital offense punishable by death without trial in India.
        This most grievous and horrible incident has come about due to the illogical division of India due to religious extremist feelings and insecurity fanned by Islamists in 1947.
        The insensible, unsustainable partitioning of a common geographical and economic area with common ancestory and history is showing its poisonous effects. To most Bangladeshis, it is a horrible indefensible act. Mr. Habib and many other Indians, especially of border areas, on the other hand feel that if India is swamped by the continuing huge influx of Bangladeshis- economic migrants or not- India faces economic, demographic and social crises. Bodos, Bangalis, Tripuris, Assamese, Khasiyas, etc., feel insecure about their languages, cultures, faiths, land-holdings and economies- especially in view of 1947 and the subsequent near-total annihilation of minorities in the areas of East and West Pakistan and also largely in Bangladesh.
        Deaths due to border shootings take place on the Pakistani border also, when Pakistanis shoot to give covering fire to terrorist infiltrators and smugglers, and the Indian guards retaliate.
        As I’ve travelled outside India on work, I know personally as to how alert and strict authorities of ALL countries now are in view of our common threats. Even valid documents and travellers are scrutinised rigorously and Indian immigration authorities are as strict as in any other land.
        Who suffers? The desperately poor and the secular humanists on both sides of any border.
        The solution to these unfortunate incidents on Indo-Bangla border may be effected by:
        – Joint and intense border patrols by guards of both sides; non-lethal means of policing against unarmed crossers: guard dogs, sprays, rubber bullets, clear patches, stakes, very mildly electrically charged fences, dissemination of knowledge of valid travel procedures, low-cost travel fees, work-permits, etc., may be considered by experts.
        Rational people and organisations on all sides must promote a peaceful atmosphere. From personal experience, I know that Bangladesh has a much better image and respect than our western neighbour even in the eyes of Indian security personnel, which we all pray will not be lessened by the actions of extremists in Bangladesh.
        Finally, genuine cases of innocent deaths should be compensated generously. I’m sure that the vast majority of Indians including I would not mind contributing- we did take care of war refugees from Bangladesh in 1971-72.

  18. Mizanur Rahman

    When I see the dead body of Felani, a girl of 15, hanging from the barbed wire fence, I wonder in astonishment, “Has the atrocity done to her committed by another human being?’’

    I am so ashamed of claiming myself a Bangali (Bangladeshi) who still says India is our friend. Our ferocious friend, India, set up phensedyl factories near the border to lure our youth towards the world of intoxication, they export all of their rubbish products to our country but blacklist our products to India and they are our friend!

    I urge our leaders to give priority to the country people instead of our ‘friendly’ neighbour.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      In America, the leaders are not in the vanguard. The people are. I suspect that if you want your leaders to give priority to the country people, then all people of Bangadesh must demonstate that they also give priority to the country people.

      Boycott their rubbish products. Lift your voices against the violence, stand together. You don’t need your leaders to do that. You, the people ARE the leaders.

      I might be wrong, I may not know alot about Bangladesh, but as an outsider, it seems to me that the only reason that anyone can get away with exploiting Bangladesh is because the opposing political leaders have vendettas against each other and sometimes these personal vendettas, as real and awful as they are, get in the way of standing together for the common good.

      • Dr Golam Kabir

        I first saw the photograph of a dead Felani hanging from the barbed wire via a Facebook link. At first, I was confused, could not believe that photograph was genuine. I am a father of two daughters who are the most valuable possessions of my life. It’s for my daughters that I live in UK for the last 11 years and am so proud of them.

        When I read about the gruesome way Felani was killed by the Indian Border Force, I felt so helpless. The soldier who shot Felani, a helpless teenager, is he a human being or a monster?

        Blaming and counter blaming governments would not help in this respect and it would neither put a stop to such brutal killing. We, the fathers, should stand up and let the world leaders know what happened to a poor father of Bangladesh, who had helplessly watched his dear dying and asking for water. This poor father could not even manage a drop of water for his beloved daughter at her dying moment.

      • Frank D Cipriani

        I am with you. An I reiterate, that we must do something to help that father, or his town, or in some way give a little good back to the life against whom such evil has been perpetrated.

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