Sunday, December 23, 2007

Subhas Chandra Bose

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Subhash Chandra Bose
Place of birth: Cuttack, Orissa, British India
Place of death: Taiwan (disputed)
Movement: Indian Independence movement
Major organizations: Indian National Congress, All India Forward Bloc, Indian National Army

Subhas Chandra Bose, (Bengali: সুভাষ চন্দ্র বসু, (January 23, 1897presumably August 18, 1945 [although this is disputed]note), generally known as Netaji (lit. "Respected Leader"), was one of the most prominent and highly respected leaders of the Indian Independence Movement against the British Raj.

Bose was elected president of the Indian National Congress for two consecutive terms but resigned from the post following ideological conflicts with Mahatma Gandhi. Bose believed that Mahatma Gandhi's tactics of non-violence would never be sufficient to secure India's independence, and advocated violent resistance. He established a separate political party, the All India Forward Bloc and continued to call for the full and immediate independence of India from British rule. He was imprisoned by the British authorities eleven times.

His stance did not change with the outbreak of the second world war, which he saw as an opportunity to take advantage of British weakness. At the outset of the war, he fled India and travelled to the Soviet Union, Germany and Japan seeking an alliance with the aim of attacking the British in India. With Japanese assistance he re-organised and later led the Indian National Army, formed from Indian prisoners-of-war and plantation workers from Malaya, Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia, against British forces. With Japanese monetary, political, diplomatic and military assistance, he formed the Azad Hind Government in exile, regrouped and led the Indian National Army to battle against the allies in Imphal & Burma during the World War II

His political views and the alliances he made with Nazi and other militarist regimes opposed to the British Empire have been the cause of arguments among historians and politicians, with some accusing him of Fascist sympathies and of Quislingist actions, while most others in India largely sympathetic towards his inculcation of realpolitik as a manifesto that guided his social and political choices. He is believed to have died on 18 August 1945 in a plane crash over Taiwan. However, contradictory evidence exists regarding his death in the accident.


Early life

Bose in his youth
Bose in his youth

Subhas Chandra Bose was born in 1897 to an affluent Bengali family in Cuttack, Orissa. His father, Janakinath Bose, was a public prosecutor who believed in orthodox nationalism, and later became a member of the Bengal Legislative Council. Bose was educated at Ravenshaw Collegiate School, Cuttack, Scottish Church College, Calcutta and Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge University. In 1920, Bose took the Indian Civil Services entrance examination and was placed fourth with highest marks in English. However, he resigned from the prestigious Indian Civil Service in April 1921 despite his high ranking in the merit list, and went on to become an active member of India's independence movement. He joined the Indian National Congress, and was particularly active in its youth wing.

Still, Bose's ideals did not match those of Mahatma Gandhi's single belief in non-violence[citation needed]. He therefore returned to Calcutta to work under Chittaranjan Das, the Bengali freedom fighter and co-founder (with Motilal Nehru) of the Swaraj Party.

Subhash Chandra Bose
Subhash Chandra Bose

In 1921, Bose organised a boycott of the celebrations to mark the visit of the Prince of Wales to India, which led to his imprisonment. In April 1924, Bose was elected to the post of Chief Executive Officer of the newly constituted Calcutta Corporation, In October that year, Bose was arrested on suspicion of terrorism. At first, he was kept in Alipore Jail and later he was exiled to Mandalay in Burma (where earlier Tilak had spent 6 years in prison). On January 23, 1930, Bose was once again arrested for leading an "independence procession", protesting against British rule in India. After his release from jail on September 25, he was elected as the Mayor of the City of Calcutta.

Over a span of 20 years, Bose was incarcerated eleven times by the British, either in India or in Rangoon. During the mid 1930s he was exiled by the British from India to Europe, where he championed India's cause and aspiration for self-rule before gatherings and conferences.

After his father's death, the British authorities allowed him to land at Calcutta's airport only for the religious rites, which would be followed by his swift departure. He traveled extensively in India and in Europe before stating his political opposition to Gandhi. During his stay in Europe from 1933 to 1936, he met several European leaders and thinkers.He came to believe that India could achieve political freedom only if it had political, military and diplomatic support from outside, and that an independent nation necessitated the creation of a national army to secure its sovereignty. Subhash Chandra Bose married Emilie Schenkl, an Austrian born national, who was his secretary, in 1937. According to Schenkl, she and Bose were secretly married in Bad Gastein on 26 December 1937. They had one daughter, Anita, born in 1942. Bose wrote many letters to Schenkl during the period 1934–1942, of which many have been published in the book Letters to Emilie Schenkl, edited by Sisir Kumar Bose and Sugata Bose.

Bose at AICC meeting in 1939
Bose at AICC meeting in 1939

Bose became the president of the Haripura Indian National Congress in 1938, against Gandhi's wishes. Gandhi commented "Subhas' victory is my defeat" . Gandhi's continued opposition led to the latter's resignation from the Working Committee, and the possibility that the rest of the CWC would resign. In the face of this gesture of no-confidence, Bose himself resigned, and was left with no alternative but to form an independent party, the All India Forward Bloc. Bose also initiated the concept of the National Planning Committee in 1938.

Actions during the Second World War

Bose advocated the approach that the political instability of war-time Britain should be taken advantage of—rather than simply wait for the British to grant independence after the end of the war (which was the view of Gandhi, Nehru and a section of the Congress leadership at the time). In this, he was influenced by the examples of Italian statesmen Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini.

His correspondence reveals that despite his clear dislike …for British subjugation, he was deeply impressed by their methodical and systematic approach and their steadfastly disciplinarian outlook towards life. In England, he exchanged ideas on the future of India with British Labour Party leaders and political thinkers like Lord Halifax, George Lansbury, Clement Attlee, Arthur Greenwood, Harold Laski, J.B.S. Haldane, Ivor Jennings, G.D.H. Cole, Gilbert Murray and Sir Stafford Cripps . He came to believe that a free India needed Socialist authoritarianism, on the lines of Turkey's Kemal Atatürk, for at least two decades. Bose was refused permission by the British authorities to meet Mr. Ataturk at Ankara for political reasons. It should be noted that during his sojourn in England, only the Labour Party and Liberal politicians agreed to meet with Bose when he tried to schedule appointments. Conservative Party officials refused to meet Bose or show him the slightest courtesy due to the fact that he was a politician coming from a colony. It may also be observed here that it was during the regime of the Labour Party (1945-1951), with Attlee as the Prime Minister, that India gained independence.

The Escape =

The car that Bose used during his escape
The car that Bose used during his escape

On the outbreak of war, Bose advocated a campaign of mass civil disobedience to protest against Viceroy Lord Linlithgow's decision to declare war on India's behalf without consulting the Congress leadership. Having failed to persuade Gandhi of the necessity of this, Bose organised mass protests in Calcutta calling for the 'Holwell Monument' commemorating the Black Hole of Calcutta, which then stood at the corner of Dalhousie Square, to be removed[citation needed]. A reasonable measure of the contrast between Gandhi and Bose is captured in a saying attributable to him: "If people slap you once, slap them twice". He was thrown in jail by the British, but was released following a seven-day hunger strike. Bose's house in Calcutta was kept under surveillance by the CBI, but their vigilance left a good deal to be desired. With two court cases pending, he felt the British would not let him leave the country before the end of the war. This set the scene for Bose's escape to Germany, via Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Bose had never been to Afghanistan, and could not speak the local tribal language (Pashto).

Bose escaped from under British surveillance at his house in Calcutta. On January 19, 1941, accompanied by his nephew Sisir K. Bose, Bose gave his watchers the slip and journeyed to Peshawar. With the assistance of the Abwehr, he made his way to Peshawar where he was met at Peshawar Cantonment station by Akbar Shah, Mohammed Shah and Bhagat Ram Talwar. Bose was taken to the home of Abad Khan, a trusted friend of Akbar Shah's. On 26 January 1941, Bose began his journey to reach Russia through India's North West frontier with Afghanistan. For this reason, he enlisted the help of Mian Akbar Shah, then a Forward Bloc leader in the North West Frontier Province. Shah had been out of India en route to the Soviet Union, and suggested a novel disguise for Bose to assume. Since Bose could not speak one word of Pashto, it would make him an easy target of Pashto speakers working for the British. For this reason, Shah suggested that Bose act deaf and dumb, and let his beard grow to mimic those of the tribesmen.

Cancelled passport of Bose
Cancelled passport of Bose

Supporters of the Aga Khan helped him across the border into Afghanistan where he was met by an Abwehr unit posing as a party of road construction engineers from the Organization Todt who then aided his passage across Afghanistan via Kabul to the border with Soviet Russia. Once in Russia the NKVD transported Bose to Moscow where he hoped that Russia's traditional enmity to British rule in India would result in support for his plans for a popular rising in India. However, Bose found the Soviets' response disappointing and was rapidly passed over to the German Ambassador in Moscow, Count von der Schulenburg. He had Bose flown on to Berlin in a special courier aircraft at the beginning of April where he was to receive a more favorable hearing from Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Foreign Ministry officials at the Wilhelmstrasse.[1]

Assassination Attempts

In 1941, when the British learned that Bose had sought the support of the Axis Powers, they ordered their agents to intercept and assassinate Bose before he reached Germany. A recently declassified intelligence document refers to a top-secret instruction to the Special Operations Executive (SOE) of British intelligence to murder Bose. In fact, the plan to liquidate Bose has few parallels, and appears to be a last desperate measure against a man who had thrown the British Empire into a panic.[2]

In Germany

See also: Legion Freies Indien and Azad Hind Radio
Bose and a Wehrmacht officer.
Bose and a Wehrmacht officer.

Having escaped incarceration at home by assuming the guise of a Pashtun insurance agent ("Ziaudddin") to reach Afghanistan, Bose traveled to Moscow on the passport of an Italian nobleman "Count Orlando Mazzotta". From Moscow, he reached Rome, and from there he traveled to Germany, where he instituted the Special Bureau for India under Adam von Trott zu Solz, broadcasting on the German-sponsored Azad Hind Radio. He founded the Free India Centre in Berlin, and created the Indian Legion (consisting of some 4500 soldiers) out of Indian prisoners of war who had previously fought for the British in North Africa prior to their capture by Axis forces. The Indian Legion was attached to the Wehrmacht, and later transferred to the Waffen SS;[3] its members swore their allegiance to both Hitler and Bose to secure India's independence. He was also, however, prepared to envisage an invasion of India via the U.S.S.R. by Nazi troops, spearheaded by the Azad Hind Legion; many have questioned his judgment here, as it seems unlikely that the Germans could have been easily persuaded to leave after such an invasion, which might also have resulted in an Axis victory in the War.[4]

The lack of interest shown by Hitler in the cause of Indian independence eventually caused Bose to become disillusioned with Hitler and he decided to leave Nazi Germany in 1943. Bose had been living together with his wife Schenkl in Berlin from 1941 until 1943, when he left for south-east Asia. He travelled by the German submarine U-180 around the Cape of Good Hope to Imperial Japan (via Japanese submarine I-29). Thereafter the Japanese helped him raise his army in Singapore. This was the only civilian transfer across two submarines of two different navies in World War II.

Indian National Army

Main article: Indian National Army
See also: Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind, Mohan Singh Deb, and Rash Behari Bose
Bose as the leader of INA
Bose as the leader of INA

The Indian National Army (INA) was originally founded by Capt Mohan Singh in Singapore in September 1942 with Japan's Indian POWs in the Far East. This was along the concept of- and with support of- what was then known as the Indian Independence League,headed by expatriate nationalist leader Rash Behari Bose. The first INA was however disbanded in December 1942 after disagreements between the Hikari Kikan and Mohan singh, who came to believe that the Japanese High Command was using the INA as a mere pawn and Propaganda tool. Mohan Singh was taken into custody and the troops returned to the Prisoner-of-War camp. However, the idea of a liberation army was revived with the arrival of Subhas Chandra Bose in the Far East in 1943. In July, at a meeting in Singapore, Rash Behari Bose handed over control of the organisation to Subhas Chandra Bose. Bose was able to reorganise the fledging army and organise massive support among the expatriate Indian population in south-east Asia, who lent their support by both enlisting in the Indian National Army, as well as financially in response Bose's calls for sacrfice for the national cause. At its height it consisted of some 85,000[citation needed] regular troops, including a separate women's unit, the Rani of Jhansi Regiment ( named after Rani Lakshmi Bai), which is seen as a first of its kind in Asia.

Netaji reviewing INA troops in Singapore after formally taking command
Netaji reviewing INA troops in Singapore after formally taking command

Even when faced with military reverses, Bose was able to maintain support for the Azad Hind movement. Spoken as a part of a motivational speech for the Indian National Army at a rally of Indians in Burma on July 4, 1944, Bose's most famous quote was "Give me blood, and I shall give you freedom!" . In this, he urged the people of India to join him in his fight against the British Raj. Spoken in Hindi, Bose's words are highly evocative. The troops of the INA were under the aegis of a provisional government, the Azad Hind Government, which came to produce its own currency, court and civil code, and was recognised by nine Axis states—Germany, Japan, Italy, the Independent State of Croatia, Wang Jingwei's Government in Nanjing, Thailand, a provisional government of Burma, Manchukuo and Japanese-controlled Philippines. Recent researches have shown that the USSR too had recognised the "Provisional Government of Free India". Of those countries, five were authorities established under Axis occupation. This government participated as a delegate or observer in the so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The INA's first commitment was in the Japanese thrust towards Eastern Indian frontiers of Manipur. INA's special forces, the Bahadur Group, were extensively involved in operations behind enemy lines both during the diversionary attacks in Arakan, as well as the Japanese thrust towards Imphal and Kohima, along with the Burmese National Army led by Ba Maw and Aung San. A year after the islands were taken by the Japanese, the Provisional Government and the INA were established in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with Lt Col. A.D Loganthan appointed its Governor General. The islands were renamed Shaheed (Martyr) and Swaraj (Self-rule). However, the Japanese Navy remained in essential control of the island's administration. During Bose's only visit to the islands in late in 1943, when he was carefully screened from the local population by the Japanese authorities, who at that time were torturing the leader of the Indian Independence League on the Islands, Dr. Diwan Singh (who later died of his injuries, in the Cellular Jail). The islanders made several attempts to alert Bose to their plight, but apparently without success.[5] Enraged with the lack of administrative control, Lt. Col Loganathan later relinquished his authority to return to the Government's head quarters in Rangoon.

On the Indian mainland, an Indian Tricolour, modeled after that of the Indian National Congress, was raised for the first time in the town in Moirang, in Manipur, in northeastern India. The towns of Kohima and Imphal were placed under siege by divisions of the Japanese, Burmese and the Gandhi and Nehru Brigades of I.N.A. during the attempted invasion of India, also known as Operation U-GO. However, Commonwealth forces held both positions and then counter-attacked, in the process inflicting serious losses on the besieging forces, which were then forced to retreat back into Burma.

Bose had hoped that large numbers of soldiers would desert from the Indian Army when they would discover that INA soldiers were attacking British India from the outside.[6] However, this did not materialise on a sufficient scale. Instead, as the war situation worsened for the Japanese, troops began to desert from the INA. At the same time Japanese funding for the army diminished, and Bose was forced to raise taxes on the Indian populations of Malaysia and Singapore, sometimes extracting money by force.[7] When the Japanese were defeated at the battles of Kohima and Imphal, the Provisional Government's aim of establishing a base in mainland India was lost forever. The INA was forced to pull back, along with the retreating Japanese army, and fought in key battles against the British Indian Army in its Burma campaign, notable in Meiktilla, Mandalay, Pegu, Nyangyu and Mount Popa. However, with the fall of Rangoon, Bose's government ceased be an effective political entitiy. A large proportion of the INA troops surrendered under Lt Col Loganathan when Rangoon fell. The remaining troops retreated with Bose towards Malaya or made for Thailand. Japan's surrender at the end of the war also led to the eventual surrender of the Indian National Army, when the troops of the British Indian Army were repatriated to India and some tried for treason...

His other famous quote was, "Delhi chalo", meaning "On to Delhi!". This was the call he used to give the INA armies to motivate them. "Jai Hind", or, "Glory to India!" was another slogan used by him and later adopted by the Government of India and the Indian Armed Forces.

See also: Legion Freies Indien and Battaglione Azad Hindoustan

Disappearance and alleged death

Officially, Bose died in a plane crash over Taiwan, while flying to Tokyo on 18 August 1945. However, his body was never recovered, and many theories have been put forward concerning his possible survival. One such claim is that Bose actually died in Siberia, while in Soviet captivity. Several committees have been set up by the Government of India to probe into this matter.

In May 1956, a four-man Indian team (known as the Shah Nawaz Committee) visited Japan to probe the circumstances of Bose's alleged death. The Indian government did not then request assistance from the government of Taiwan in the matter, citing their lack of diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

However, the Inquiry Commission under Justice Mukherjee, which investigated the Bose disappearance mystery in the period 1999-2005, did approach the Taiwanese government and obtained information from the Taiwan Government that no plane carrying Bose had ever crashed in Taipei.[8] The Mukherjee Commission also received a report originating from the US State Department, supporting the claim of the Taiwan Government that no such air crash took place during that time frame.[9]

The Mukherjee Commission submitted its report to the Indian Government on November 8, 2005. The report was tabled in Parliament on May 17, 2006. The probe said in its report that Bose did not die in the plane crash and the ashes at Renkoji temple are not his. However, the Indian Government rejected the findings of the Commission.

Political views

Bose's earlier correspondence (prior to 1939) also reflects his deep disapproval of the racist practices of, and annulment of democratic institutions in Nazi Germany.[10] He also, however, expressed admiration for the authoritarian methods (though not the racial ideologies) which he saw in Italy and Germany during the 1930s, and thought they could be used in building an independent India.[11]

Netaji Subhas with Gandhi. Netaji disapproved of the pacifist ideology promoted by Gandhi and wanted congress to be strong in its approach towards total Independence from British rule.
Netaji Subhas with Gandhi. Netaji disapproved of the pacifist ideology promoted by Gandhi and wanted congress to be strong in its approach towards total Independence from British rule.

Bose has been branded as a fascist in some quarters. Others believe that Bose had clearly expressed his belief that democracy was the best option for India.[12] The pro-Bose thinkers believe that his authoritarian control of the Azad Hind was based on political pragmatism and a post-colonial recovery doctrine rather than any anti-democratic belief.[citation needed]. However, during the war (and possibly as early as the 1930s) Bose seems to have decided that no democratic system could be adequate to overcome India's poverty and social inequalities, and he wrote that an authoritarian state, similar to that of Soviet Russia (which he had also seen and admired) would be needed for the process of national re-building.[13] Accordingly some suggest that Bose's alliance with the Axis during the war was based on more than just pragmatism, and that Bose may have been a Fascist, though not a Nazi; alternatively, others consider he might have been using populist methods of mobilization common to many postcolonial leaders. [14]

After the Independence of India, Subhas Chandra Bose did not get much importance, as the Gandhi-influenced Congress Party came to rule.

See also


  1. ^ Kurowski, The Brandenburgers - Global Mission, p. 136
  2. ^ Bhaumik S, British "attempted to kill Bose" BBC news. 15 August 2005. URL accessed on 6 April 2006
  3. ^ Rudolf Hartog The Sign of the Tiger (Delhi: Rupa) 2001 pp159-60
  4. ^ Sen, S. 1999. Subhas Chandra Bose 1897-1945. From webarchive of this URL. URL accessed on 7 April, 2006.
  5. ^ N. Iqbal Singh The Andaman Story (Delhi: Vikas Publ.) 1978 p249; Jayant Dasgupta Japanese in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Red Sun over Black Water (Delhi: Manas Publications) 2002 pp67, 73-5.

    With reference to this it is interesting to note that during the 1970s the leader of the Communist Party in the Lok Sabha, Samar Guha, proposed renaming the Islands once again as Shaheed and Swaraj, as Bose would have wanted. This was strongly opposed by K.R. Ganesh, a Minister in Indira Gandhi's Government, and the one prominent Indian politician to have hailed from the Andamans, on the grounds that Bose had failed the people of the islands in 1943. When asked in debate by Guha whether atrocities had been committed before or after Bose's visit, Ganesh replied "Before, during and after"

    Dasgupta Red Sun over Black Water p77
  6. ^ Bose, Subhas Chandra. Speech at a mass rally, Singapore, 9 July 1943. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose & India's Independence. URL accessed on 7 April 2006
  7. ^ Toye, H. "The Springing Tiger", pp. 112, 113, 115. Collected from Montgomery, A. Subhas Chandra.... JHR.
  8. ^ No crash at Taipei that killed Netaji: Taiwan govt. Outlook India
  9. ^ Netaji case: US backs Taiwan govt. Times of India. 19 Sep, 2005
  10. ^ Bose to Dr. Thierfelder of the Deutsche Academie, Kurhaus Hochland, Badgastein, 25th March 1936 "Today I regret that I have to return to India with the conviction that the new nationalism of Germany is not only narrow and selfish but arrogant." The Essential Writings of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Edited by Sisir K. Bose & Sugata Bose (Delhi: Oxford University Press) 1997 p155
  11. ^ Sen, S. 1999. Subhas Chandra Bose 1897-1945. From webarchive of this URL.
  12. ^ Roy, Dr. R.C. 2004. Social, Economic and Political Philosophy of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. pp.7-8. Orissa Review. URL accessed on 6 April 2006
  13. ^ "The Fundamental Problems of India" (An address to the Faculty and students of Tokyo University, November 1944): "You cannot have a so-called democratic system, if that system has to put through economic reforms on a socialistic basis. Therefore we must have a political system - a State - of an authoritarian character. We have had some experience of democratic institutions in India and we have also studied the working of democratic institutions in countries like France, England and United States of America. And we have come to the conclusion that with a democratic system we cannot solve the problems of Free India. Therefore, modern progressive thought in India is in favour of a State of an authoritarian character" The Essential Writings of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Edited by Sisir K. Bose & Sugata Bose (Delhi: Oxford University Press) 1997 pp319-20
  14. ^ Sen, S. 1999. Subhas Chandra Bose 1897-1945. From webarchive of this URL.

Further reading

  • Indian Pilgrim: an unfinished autobiography / Subhas Chandra Bose; edited by Sisir Kumar Bose and Sugata Bose, Oxford University Press, Calcutta, 1997
  • The Indian Struggle, 1920-1942 / Subhas Chandra Bose; edited by Sisir Kumar Bose and Sugata Bose, Oxford University Press, Calcutta, 1997
  • Brothers Against the Raj—A biography of Indian Nationalists Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose / Leonard A. Gordon, Princeton University Press, 1990
  • Lost hero: a biography of Subhas Bose / Mihir Bose, Quartet Books, London; 1982
  • Jungle alliance, Japan and the Indian National Army / Joyce C. Lebra, Singapore, Donald Moore for Asia Pacific Press,1971
  • The Forgotten Army: India's Armed Struggle for Independence, 1942-1945, Peter W. Fay, University of Michigan Press, 1993, ISBN 0-472-08342-2 / ISBN 81-7167-356-2
  • Democracy Indian style: Subhas Chandra Bose and the creation of India's political culture / Anton Pelinka; translated by Renée Schell, New Brunswick, NJ : Transaction Publishers (Rutgers University Press), 2003
  • Subhas Chandra Bose: a biography / Marshall J. Getz, Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., USA, 2002
  • The Springing Tiger: Subhash Chandra Bose / Hugh Toye : Cassell, London, 1959
  • Netaji and India's freedom: proceedings of the International Netaji Seminar, 1973 / edited by Sisir K. Bose. International Netaji Seminar (1973: Calcutta, India), Netaji Research Bureau, Calcutta, India, 1973
  • Correspondence and Selected Documents, 1930-1942 / Subhas Chandra Bose; edited by Ravindra Kumar, Inter-India, New Delhi, 1992.
  • Letters to Emilie Schenkl, 1934-1942 / Subhash Chandra Bose; edited by Sisir Kumar Bose and Sugata Bose, Permanent Black : New Delhi, 2004
  • Japanese-trained armies in Southeast Asia: independence and volunteer forces in World War II / Joyce C. Lebra, New York : Columbia University Press, 1977
  • Burma: The Forgotten War / Jon Latimer, London: John Murray, 2004

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