Sunday, 4 September 2016



TO the question whether the Hindus ever ate beef, every Touchable
Hindu, whether he is a Brahmin or a non-Brahmin, will say ‘no,
never’. In a certain sense, he is right. From times no Hindu has eaten
beef. If this is all that the Touchable Hindu wants to convey by his
answer there need be no quarrel over it. But when the learned
Brahmins argue that the Hindus not only never ate beef but they
always held the cow to be sacred and were always opposed to the
killing of the cow, it is impossible to accept their view.
What is the evidence in support of the construction that the Hindus
never ate beef and were opposed to the killing of the cow?
There are two series of references in the Rig Veda on which reliance
is placed. In one of these, the cow is spoken of as Aghnya. They are
Rig Veda 1.164, 27; IV.1.6; V 82-8; VII.69. 71; X.87. Aghnya means
‘one who does not deserve to be killed’. From this, it is argued that
this was a prohibition against the killing of the cow and that since
the Vedas are the final authority in the matter of religion, it is
concluded that the Aryans could not have killed the cows, much less
could they have eaten beef. In another series of references the cow
is spoken of as sacred. They are Rig Veda VI.28.1.8. and VIII, 101.
15. In these verses the cow is addressed as Mother of Rudras, the
Daughter of Vasus, the Sister of the Adityas and the Centre of Nectar.
Another reference on the subject is in Rig Veda VIII. 101. 16 where
the cow is called Devi (Goddess).
Raliance is also placed on certain passages in the Brahmanas and
There are two passages in the Satapatha Brahmana which relate
to animal sacrifice and beef-eating. One is at III. 1.2.21 and reads
as follows :-
“He (the Adhvaryu) then makes him enter the hall. Let him not eat (the flesh) of
either the cow or the ox, for the cow and the ox doubtless support everything here on
earth. The gods spake, ‘verily, the cow and the ox support everything
here; come, let us bestow on the cow and the ox whatever vigour belonged to
other species (of animals); and therefore the cow and the ox eat most. Hence
were one to eat (the flesh) of an ox or a cow, there would be, as it were,
an eating of everything, or, as it were, a going to the end (or, to destruction)...
Let him therefore not eat (the flesh) of the cow and the ox.”
The other passage is at 1, 2, 3, 6. It speaks against animal sacrifice
and on ethical grounds.
A similar statement is contained in the Apastambha Dharma Sutra
at 1, 5, 17, 29. Apastambha lays a general embargo on the eating
of cow’s flesh.
Such is the evidence in support of the contention that the Hindus
never ate beef. What conclusion can be drawn from this evidence?
So far as the evidence from the Rig Veda is concerned the
conclusion is based on a misreading and misunderstanding of the
texts. The adjective Aghnya applied to the cow in the Rig Veda means
a cow that was yielding milk and therefore not fit for being killed.
That the cow is venerated in the Rig Veda is of course true. But
this regard and venerations of the cow are only to be expected from
an agricultural community like the Indo-Aryans. This application of
the utility of the cow did not prevent the Aryan from killing the cow
for purposes of food. Indeed the cow was killed because the cow was
regarded as sacred. As observed by Mr.Kane:
“It was not that the cow was not sacred in Vedic times, it was because
of her sacredness that it is ordained in the Vajasaneyi Samhita that beef
should be eaten.”1
That the Aryans of the Rig Veda did kill cows for purposes of food
and ate beef is abundantly clear from the Rig Veda itself. In Rig
Veda (X. 86.14) Indra says:- “They cook for one 15 plus twenty oxen”.
The Rig Veda (X.91.14) says that for Agni were sacrificed horses,
bulls, oxen, barren cows and rams. From the Rig Veda (X.72.6) it
appears that the cow was killed with a sword or axe.
As to the testimony of the Satapatha Bramhana, can it be said
to be conclusive? Obviously, it cannot be. For there are passages in
the other Bramhanas which give a different opinion.
To give only one instance. Among the Kamyashtis set forth in the
Taittiriya Bramhana, not only the sacrifice of oxen and cows are laid
down, but we are even told what kind and description of oxen and
cows are to be offered to what deities. Thus, a dwarf ox is to be
chosen for sacrifice to Vishnu; a drooping horned bull with a blaze
on the forehead to Indra as the destroyer of Vritra; a black cow to

1 Dharm Shaslra Vichar (Marathi) p, 180.

Pushan; a red cow to Rudra; and so on. The Taittiriya Bramhana
notes another sacrifice called Panchasaradiya-seva, the most important
element of which was the immolation of seventeen five-year old
humpless, dwraf-bulls, and as many dwarf heifers under three yearold.
As against the statement of the Apastamba Dharma Sutra, the
following points may be noted.
First is the contrary statement contained in that Very Sutra. At
14, 15, 29, the Sutra says :-
“The cow and the bull are sacred and therefore should be eaten”.
The second is the prescription of Madhuparka contained in the
Grahya Sutras. Among the Aryans the etiquette for receiving important
guests had become settled into custom and had become a
ceremony. The most important offering was Madhuparka. A detailed
descriptions regarding Madhuparka are to be found in the various
Grahya Sutras. According to most of the Grahya Sutras there are
six persons who have a right to be served with Madhuparka namely;
(1) Ritwija or the Brahmin called to perform a sacrifice, (2) Acharya,
the teacher, (3) The bridegroom (4) The King (5) The Snatak, the
student who has just finished his studies at the Gurukul and (6) Any
person who is dear to the host. Some add Atithi to this list. Except
in the case of Ritvija, King and Acharya, Madhuparka is to be offered
to the rest once in a year. To the Ritvija, King and Acharya it is
to be offered each time they come.
What was this Madhuparka made of ? There is divergence about
the substances mixed in offering Madhuparka. and
(13.10) prescribe a mixture of honey and curds or clarified butter and
curds. Others like 13 prescribe a mixture of three (curds,
honey and butter). states the view of some that those
three may be mixed or five (those three with fried yava grain and
barley)., 12, 10-12 give the option of mixing three of five
(curds, honey, ghee, water and ground grain). The Kausika Sutra (92)
speaks of nine kinds of mixtures, viz., Brahma (honey and curds). Aindra
(of payasa), Saumya (curds and ghee), Pausna (ghee and mantha),
Sarasvata (milk and ghee), Mausala (wine and ghee, this being used
only in Sautramanai and Rajasuya sacrifices), Parivrajaka (sesame oil
and oil cake). The Madhava gr.I.9.22 says that the Veda declares that
the Madhuparka must not be without flesh and so it recommends
that if the cow is let loose, goat’s meat or payasa (rice cooked in
milk) may be offered; the 1.13, 14 says that other meat should
be offered; (1.2,51-54) says that when the cow is let off, the
flesh of a goat or ram may be offered or some forest flesh (of a deer,etc.) may be offered, as there can be no Madhuparka without flesh
or if one is unable to offer flesh one may cook ground grains.
Thus the essential element in Madhuparka is flesh and particularly
cow’s flesh.
The killing of cow for the guest had grown to such an extent that
the guest came to be called ‘Go-ghna’ which means the killer of the
cow. To avoid this slaughter of the cows the Ashvalayana Grahya
Sutra (1.24.25) suggests that the cow should be let loose when the
guest comes so as to escape the rule of etiquette.
Thirdly, reference may be made to the ritual relating to disposal
of the dead to counter the testimony of the Apastamba Dharma Sutra.
The Sutra says1 :-
“1. He should then put the following (sacrificial) implements (on the
dead body)
2. Into the right hand the (spoon called) Guhu.
3. Into the left the (other spoon called) Upabhrit.
4. On his right side the wooden sacrificial sword called Sphya, on his
left side the Agnihotrahavani (i.e., the laddle with which the
Agnihotra oblations are sacrified).
5. On his chest the (big sacrificial laddle called) Dhruva. On his head
the dishes. On his teeth the pressing stones.
6. On the two sides of his nose, the two smaller sacrificial laddies called
7. Or, if there is only one (Sruva), breaking it (in two pieces).
8. On his two ears the two Prasitraharanas (i.e, the vessels into which
the portion of the sacrificial food belonging to the Brahmin) is put
9. Or, if there is only one (Prasitraharana), breaking it (in two pieces).
10. On his belly the (vessel called) Patri.
11. And the cup into which the cut-off portion (of the sacrificial food)
are put.
12. On his secret parts the (staff called) Samy.
13. On his thighs two kindling woods.
14. On his legs the mortar and the pestle.
15. On his feet the two baskets.
16. Or, if there is only one (basket), breaking it in two pieces.
17. Those of the implements which have a hollow (into which liquids
can be poured) are filled with sprinkled butter.

1 Kane’s vol. II. Part I p. 545.

18. The son (of the deceased person) should take the under and the
upper mill-stone for himself.
19. And the implements made of copper, iron and earthenware.
20. Taking out the omentum of the she-animal he should cover therewith
the head and the mouth (of the dead person) with the verse, ‘But
on the armour (which will protect thee) against Agni, by that which
comes from the cows.’ (Rig Veda. X.16.7).
21. Taking out the kidneys of the animal he should lay them into the
hands (of the dead body) with the verse, escape the two hounds,
the sons of Sarma (Rig Veda X 14.10) the right kidney into the right
hand and the left into the left hand.
22. The heart of the animals he puts on the heart of the deceased.
23. And two lumps of flour or rice according to some teachers.
24. Only if there are no kidneys according to some teachers.
25. Having distributed the whole (animal), limb by limb (placing its
different limbs on the corresponding limbs of the deceased) and
having covered it with its hide, he recites when the Pranita water
is carried forward (the verse), ‘Agni do not overturn this cup,’ (Rig
Veda, X.16.8).
26. Bending his left knee he should sacrifice Yugya oblation into the
Dakshina fire with the formulas ‘To Agni Svaha, to Kama Svaha,
to the world Svaha, to Anumati Svaha’.
27. A fifth (oblation) on the chest of the deceased with the formula ‘from
this one verily thou hast been born. May he now be born out of
thee. To the heaven worlds Svaha.’ ”
From the above passage quoted from the Ashvalayan Grahya Sutra
it is clear that among the ancient Indo-Aryans when a person died,
an animal had to be killed and the parts of the animal were placed
on the appropriate parts of the dead body before the dead body was
Such is the state of the evidence on the subject of cow-killing and
beef-eating. Which part of it is to be accepted as true? The correct
view is that the testimony of the Satapatha Brahmana and the
Apastamba Dharma Sutra in so far as it supports the view that
Hindus were against cow-killing and beef-eating, are merely exhortations
against the excesses of cow-killing and not prohibitions against
cow-killing. Indeed the exhortations prove that cow-killing and eating
of beef had become a common practice. That notwithstanding these
exhortations cow-killing and beef-eating continued. That most often
they fell on deaf ears is proved by the conduct of Yajnavalkya, the
great Rishi of the Aryans. The first passage quoted above from the
Satapatha Brahmana was really addressed to Yajnavalkya as an
exhortation. How did Yajnavalkya respond? After listening to the
exhortation this is what Yajnavalkya said :–
“I, for one, eat it, provided that it is tender”
That the Hindus at one time did kill cows and did eat beef is proved
abundantly by the description of the Yajnas given in the Buddhist
Sutras which relate to periods much later than the Vedas and the
Brahmanas. The scale on which the slaughter of cows and animals
took place was colossal. It is not possible to give a total of such
slaughter on all accounts committed by the Brahmins in the name
of religion. Some idea of the extent of this slaughter can however
be had from references to it in the Buddhist literature. As an
illustration reference may be made to the Kutadanta Sutta in which
Buddha preached against the performance of animal sacrifices to
Brahmin Kutadanta. Buddha, though speaking in a tone of sarcastic
travesty, gives a good idea of the practices and rituals of the Vedic
sacrifices when he said:
“And further, O Brahmin, at that sacrifice neither were any oxen slain,
neither goats, nor fowls, nor fatted pigs, nor were any kind of living creatures
put to death. No trees were cut down to be used as posts, no Darbha grasses
mown to stress around the sacrificial spot. And the slaves and messengers
and workmen there employed were driven neither by rods nor fear, nor carried
on their work weeping with tears upon their faces.”
Kutadanta on the other hand in thanking Buddha for his conversion
gives an idea of the magnitude of the slaughter of animals which
took place at such sacrifices when he says :-
“I, even I betake myself to the venerable Gotama as my guide, to the
Doctrine and the Order. May the venerable One accept me as a disciple, as
one who, from this day forth, as long as life endures, has taken him as his
guide. And I myself, O, Gotama, will have the seven hundred bulls, and the
seven hundred steers, and the seven hundred heifers, and the seven hundred
goats, and the seven hundred rams set free. To them I grant their life. Let
them eat grass and drink fresh water and may cool breezes waft around them.”
In the Samyuta Nikaya (III,1-9) we have another description of
a Yajna performed by Pasenadi, king of Kosala. It is said that five
hundred bulls, five hundred calves and many heifers, goats and rams
were led to the pillar to be sacrificed.
With this evidence no one can doubt that there was a time when
Hindus –both Brahmins and non-Brahmins –ate not only flesh but
also beef.

Volume 7

WHO WERE THE SHUDRAS? How they came to be the Fourth Varna in the Indo-Aryan Society • Book • 1947

Democracy and Hindu social system


There are various forms of Government known to history—Monarchy,
Aristocracy and Democracy to which may be added Dictatorship.
The most prevalent form of Government at the present time is
Democracy. There is however no unanimity as to what constitutes
Democracy. When one examines the question one finds that there are
two views about it. One view is that Democracy is a form of Government.
According to this view where the Government is chosen by the people
that is where Government is a representative Government there is
Democracy. According to this view Democracy is just synonymous with
Representative Government which means adult suffrage and periodical

According to another view a democracy is more than a form of
Government. It is a form of the organization of Society. There are two
essential conditions which characterize a democratically constituted
society. First is the absence of stratification of society into classes. The
Second is a social habit on the part of individuals and groups which is
ready for continuous readjustment or recognition of reciprocity of interests.
As to the first there can be no doubt that it is the most essential condition
of Democracy. As Prof. Dewey1 has observed:

[Quotation referred to by the author is not recorded in the original MS
from ‘Democracy and Education’, by Dewey p. 98.]

The second condition is equally necessary for a democratically
constituted society. The results of this lack of reciprocity of interests

This chapter consists about 20 pages out of which first two pages and the
concluding six are in the handwriting of the author. The rest are typed
pages with all necessary modifications by Dr. Ambedkar.—Ed.

among groups and individuals produce anti-democratic results which
have been well described by Prof. Dewey1 when he says:

[Quotation from ‘Democracy and Education’ of page 99 referred to by
the author is not recorded in the original MS.]

Of the two views about democracy there is no doubt that the first
one is very superficial if not erroneous. There cannot be democratic
Government unless the society for which it functions is democratic in
its form and structure. Those who hold that democracy need be no more
than a mere matter of elections seem to make three mistakes.
One mistake they make is to believe that Government is something
which is quite distinct and separate from society. As a matter of fact
Government is not something which is distinct and separate from Society.
Government is one of the many institutions which Society rears and to
which it assigns the function of carrying out some of the duties which
are necessary for collective social life.
The Second mistake they make lies in their failure to realize that
a Government is to reflect the ultimate purposes, aims, objects and
wishes of society and this can happen only where the society in which
the Government is rooted is democratic. If society is not democratic,
Government can never be. Where society is divided into two classes
governing and the governed the Government is bound to be the
Government of the governing class.
The third mistake they make is to forget that whether Government
would be good or bad democratic or undemocratic depends to a large
extent up on the instrumentalities particularly the Civil Service on
which every where Government has to depend for administering the
Law. It all depends upon the social milieu in which civil servants are
nurtured. If the social milieu is undemocratic the Government is bound
to be undemocratic.

There is one other mistake which is responsible for the view that
for democracy to function it is enough to have a democratic form of
Government. To realize this mistake it is necessary to have some idea
of what is meant by good Government.

Good Government means good laws and good administration. This is
the essence of good Government. Nothing else can be. Now there cannot
be good Government in this sense if those who are invested with ruling
power seek the advantage of their own class instead of the advantage
of the whole people or of those who are downtrodden.
Whether the Democratic form of Government will result in good
will depend upon the disposition of the individuals composing society.
If the mental disposition of the individuals is democratic then the

1 Democracy & Education p. 99.

democratic form of Government can be expected to result in good
Government. If not, democratic form of Government may easily become
a dangerous form of Government. If the individuals in a society are
separated into classes and the classes are isolated from one another
and each individual feels that his loyalty to his class must come before
his loyalty to every thing else and living in class compartments he
becomes class conscious bound to place the interests of his class above
the interests of others, uses his authority to pervert law and justice
to promote the interests, of his class and for this purpose practises
systematically discrimination against persons who do not belong to his
caste in every sphere of life what can a democratic Government do. In a
Society where classes clash and are charged with anti-social feelings and
spirit of aggressiveness, the Government can hardly discharge its task of
governing with justice and fairplay. In such a society, Government even
though it may in form be a government of the people and by the people
it can never be a Government for the people. It will be a Government by
a class for a class. A Government for the people can be had only where
the attitude of each individual is democratic which means that each
individual is prepared to treat every other individual as his equal and is
prepared to give him the same liberty which he claims for himself. This
democratic attitude of mind is the result of socialization of the individual
in a democratic society. Democratic society is therefore a prerequisite of
a democratic Government. Democratic Governments have toppled down
in largely due to the fact that the society for which they were set up
was not democratic.

Unfortunately to what extent the task of good Government depends
upon the mental and moral disposition of its subjects has seldom been
realized. Democracy is more than a political machine. It is even more
than a social system. It is an attitude of mind or a philosophy of life.
Some equate Democracy with equality and liberty. Equality and liberty
are no doubt the deepest concern of Democracy. But the more important
question is what sustains equality and liberty? Some would say that it
is the law of the state which sustains equality and liberty. This is not a
true answer. What sustains equality and liberty is fellow-felling. What
the French Revolutionists called fraternity. The word fraternity is not
an adequate expression. The proper term is what the Buddha called,
Maitree. Without Fraternity Liberty would destroy equality and equality
would destroy liberty. If in Democracy liberty does not destroy equality
and equality does not destroy liberty, it is because at the basis of both
there is fraternity. Fraternity is therefore the root of Democracy.

The foregoing discussion is merely a preliminary to the main question.
That question is—wherein lie the roots of fraternity without which
Democracy is not possible? Beyond dispute, it has its origin in Religion.
In examining the possibilities of the origin of Democracy or its
functioning successfully one must go to the Religion of the people and
ask—does it teach fraternity or does it not? If it does, the chances for a
democratic Government are great. If it does not, the chances are poor. Of
course other factors may affect the possibilities. But if fraternity is not
there, there is nothing to built democracy on. Why did Democracy not
grow in India? That is the main question. The answer is quite simple.
The Hindu Religion does not teach fraternity. Instead it teaches division
of society into classes or varnas and the maintenance of separate class
consciousness. In such a system where is the room for Democracy ?
The Hindu social system is undemocratic not by accident. It is designed
to be undemocratic. Its division of society into varnas and castes, and
of castes and outcastes are not theories but are decrees. They are all
barricades raised against democracy.

From this it would appear that the doctrine of fraternity was unknown
to the Hindu Religious and Philosophic thought. But such a conclusion
would not be warranted by the facts of history. The Hindu Religious and
Philosophic thought gave rise to an idea which had greater potentialities
for producing social democracy than the idea of fraternity. It is the
doctrine of Brahmaism1.
It would not be surprising if some one asked what is this Brahmaism?
It is something new even to Hindus. The Hindus are familiar with
Vedanta. They are familar with Brahmanism. But they are certainly
not familiar with Brahmaism. Before proceeding further a few words of
explanation are necessary.

There are three strands in the philosophic and religious thought of
the Hindus. They may be designated as (1) Brahmaism (2) Vedanta
and (3) Brahmanism. Although they are correlated they stand for three
different and distinct ideologies.
The essence of Brahmaism is summed up in a dogma which is stated
in three different forms. They are—
(i) Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma—All this is Brahma.
(ii) Aham Brahmasmi—Atmana (Self) is the same as Brahma.
Therefore I am Brahma.
(iii) Tattvamasi—Atmana (Self) is the same as Brahma.
Therefore thou art also Brahma.
1 have borrowed this word from Prof. Hopkin’s–The Epics of India.

They are called Mahavakyas which means Great Sayings and they
sum up the essence of Brahmaism.
The following are the dogmas which sum up the teachings of Vedant—
I Brahma is the only reality.
II The world is maya or unreal.
III Jiva and Brahma are—
(i) according to one school identical;
(ii) according to another not identical but are elements of him
and not separate from him;
(iii) according to the third school they are distinct and separate.
The creed of Bramhanism may be summed up in the following dogmas—
(i) Belief in the chaturvarna.
(ii) Sanctity and infallibility of the Vedas.
(iii) Sacrifices to Gods the only way to salvation.
Most people know the distinction between the Vedanta and Brahmanism
and the points of controversy between them. But very few people know
the distinction between Brahmaism and Vedanta. Even Hindus are not
aware of the doctrine of Brahmaism and the distinction between it and
Vedanta. But the distinction is obvious. While Brahmaism and Vedanta
agree that Atman is the same as Brahma. But the two differ in that
Brahmaism does not treat the world as unreal, Vedanta does. This is
the fundamental difference between the two.
The essence of Brahmaism is that the world is real and the reality
behind the world is Brahma. Everything therefore is of the essence of

There are two criticisms which have been levelled against Brahmaism.
It is said that Brahmaism is piece of impudence. For a man to say
“I am Brahma” is a kind of arrogance. The other criticism levelled
against Brahmaism is the inability of man to know Brahma. ‘I am
Brahma’ may appear to be impudence. But it can also be an assertion
of one’s own worth. In a world where humanity suffers so much from
an inferiority complex such an assertion on the part of man is to
be welcomed. Democracy demands that each individual shall have
every opportunity for realizing its worth. It also requires that each
individual shall know that he is as good as everybody else. Those who
sneer at Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahma) as an impudent utterance
forget the other part of the Maha Vakya namely Tatvamasi (Thou
art also Brahma). If Aham Brahmasmi has stood alone without the
conjunct of Tatvamasi it may not have been possible to sneer at it. But with the conjunct of Tatvanmsi the charge of selfish arrogance cannot
stand against Brahmaism.

It may well be that Brahma is unknowable. But all the same this
theory of Brahma has certain social implications which have a tremendous
value as a foundation for Democracy. If all persons are parts of Brahma
then all are equal and all must enjoy the same liberty which is what
Democracy means. Looked at from this point of view Brahma may be
unknowable. But there cannot be slightest doubt that no doctrine could
furnish a stronger foundation for Democracy than the doctrine of Brahma.
To support Democracy because we are all children of God is a very
weak foundation for Democracy to rest on. That is why Democracy is so
shaky wherever it made to rest on such a foundation. But to recognize
and realize that you and I are parts of the same cosmic principle leaves
room for no other theory of associated life except democracy. It does not
merely preach Democracy. It makes democracy an obligation of one and all.
Western students of Democracy have spread the belief that Democracy
has stemmed either from Christianity or from Plato and that there is
no other source of inspiration for democracy. If they had known that
India too had developed the doctrine of Brahmaism which furnishes a
better foundation for Democracy they would not have been so dogmatic.
India too must be admitted to have a contribution towards a theoretical
foundation for Democracy.

The question is what happened to this doctrine of Brahmaism ? It is
quite obvious that Brahmaism had no social effects. It was not made
the basis of Dharma. When asked why this happened the answer is that
Brahmaism is only philosophy, as though philosophy arises not out of
social life but out of nothing and for nothing. Philosophy is no purely
theoretic matter. It has practical potentialities. Philosophy has its roots
in the problems of life and whatever theories philosophy propounds
must return to society as instruments of re-constructing society. It is
not enough to know. Those who know must endeavour to fulfil.
Why then Brahmaism failed to produce a new society? This is a
great riddle. It is not that the Brahmins did not recognize the doctrine
of Brahmaism. They did. But they did not ask how they could support
inequality between the Brahmin and the Shudra, between man and
woman, between casteman and outcaste ? But they did not. The result
is that we have on the one hand the most democratic principle of
Brahmaism and on the other hand a society infested with castes,
sub-outcastes, primitive tribes and criminal tribes. Can there be
a greater dilemma than this ? What is more ridiculous is the teaching of
the Great Shankaracharya. For it was this Shankarcharya who taught
that there is Brahma and this Brahma is real and that it pervades all
and at the same time upheld all the inequities of the Brahmanic society.
Only a lunatic could be happy with being the propounder of two such
contradictions. Truely as the Brahmin is like a cow, he can eat anything
and everything as the cow does and remain a Brahmin.


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Ambedkar: The Champion of Women

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