Michael Witzel — The Perennial, Compulsive Liar — A Review of “Which of Us are Aryans?”
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published as a blog by the author on June 24, 2022, here: https://talageri.blogspot.com/2022/06/michael-witzel-perennial-compulsive-liar.html
Am I indulging in “ad hominem” right from the title of this article? If anyone thinks so, they are free to do so: however, the truth is the truth, by whatever name you call it; and the cold truth (call it “ad hominem” if it pleases you) is that Witzel is a perennial, compulsive liar: he lied 25 years ago, he lied 20 years ago, he lied 15 years ago, he lied 10 years ago, and he is still continuing to lie without pausing for rest, and with no shame or self-respect, even as recently as three years ago in 2019, when he wrote an article titled, “Beyond the Flight of the Falcons” (pp. 1-29) in a small volume, “Which of Us are Aryans?” (Aleph Book Company, New Delhi 2019) edited by the inevitable culprit and usual suspect Romila Thapar. This book was given to me for reviewing may be two months ago, but, as I was almost obsessively engrossed in preparing my article “The New Words and Other New Elements in the Rigveda,” it is only now that I have finally turned to reviewing the book. And this is my reaction to it after even a primary perusal: Witzel cannot stop lying, and he will never be able to stop lying even to please a dying grandmother [Note, this is just a phrase, though I am sure to have internet illiterates accusing me of insulting Witzel’s grandmother, as they once accused me of insulting his wife].
From what I thought was his comparative silence through most of the last ten years, I assumed Witzel had decided to call it a day so far as scholarly fraudulence was concerned, and to stop his inveterate lying, but, as we say in Konkani, “sūṇyᾱ: bᾱl vɑ:ṅkḍ tɛ̄ṁ vɑ:ṅkḍɛ̄ṁci” (“the dog’s tail is crooked and will always remain crooked” — again, just a traditional idiomatic saying!).
This book contains articles by five AIT protagonists: Witzel, Thapar, Jaya Menon, Kai Friese, and Razib Khan. I was probably expected to deal with Khan’s article, which deals with genetics, as does the article by Kai Friese, but as both of them (as well as the science of genetics itself is totally irrelevant to the IE/Aryan debate), have nothing new to say after my last few articles and my fourth book in 2018 (“Genetics and the Aryan Debate“) except to repeat faith-declarations, I am frankly in no mood to waste my time and energy in repeating data, facts, and arguments again and again as if they were dialogues in a vaudeville cross talk comedy show. But the repetition of language-and-text-related lies by Witzel (whose “status” is still so clearly considered as among the most “eminent”, as shown by his being chosen by our own Indian preeminent historian to cast the first stone in this book), even as late as the year 2019, cannot be lightly passed over — so this review/article.
From a first reading, the article by Jaya Menon on the archaeological aspect (even if on the AIT side) seems more measured, neutral and scholarly, and she does accept that “…there is no consensus between archaeogeologists differing over the species of Equus found at Harappan sites: Equus hemionus (the Asiatic half-ass) or the Equus caballus (the ‘true’ horse)” (p.112), and that “As far as biological data is concerned, a study of skeletal data in the early 1990s suggested that there was no evidence of the incursion of a new population into the subcontinent in the period after Harappan decline. Instead, two discontinuities, one between 6000 and 4500 BCE, and the other between 800 and 200 BCE have been suggested based on dental and craniometric evidence [….] However, this debate was priior to recent studies on ancient DNA” (p.113). And, referring to the Reich report on genetics, she notes that “Reich’s study did not have access to ancient DNA from the subcontinent” (p.114). Also, she stresses: “As far as language is concerned, it must be reiterated that the advent of Old Indo-Aryan or Sanskrit into South Asia is an issue to be dealt with by linguists, not by archaeologists. At most, if the Harappan seals had been deciphered, they may have provided a clue to the languages(s) that the Harappans spoke. Similarly, while skeletons can be recovered archaeologically, it is futile to link them with speakers of a particular language. An equally futile tendency has been to try and associate a language (in this case, Sanskrit) and speakers of that language with archaeological material, such as the PGW” (p.115). About genetics, she could well have similarly pointed out that an equally futile tendency was to associate a language with haplogroups and DNA types, such as the R1a1!
The whole book (excepting the article by Menon) is an exercise in academic lies and fraud. Academic fraud is defined (for example on Google) as “plagiarism; the deliberate falsification, misstatement, and alteration of evidence or data; the deliberate suppression of relevant evidence or data; and the deliberate misappropriation of the research work and data of others“. I do not know if there is any plagiarism in this book, but there is plenty of the underlined part in this book, although I will only touch briefly upon Witzel’s part in this fraud, as the usual, vapid, meaningless talking-in-the-air by Thapar does not call for any comment or answer.
The Title of Witzel’s Article
Michael Witzel, the prime and usual suspect in such matters, illustrates the fraudulent aspect at the very beginning of his article (pp.1-29) by telling us that the title of his article, “Beyond the Flight of the Falcon…” “refers to the Vedic and Avestan designation of the Hindu Kush Mountains: upariśyena/upairi.saēna. It suggests the path of the migration of some Indo-Iranian tribes into Eastern Iran and, subsequently, into Northern India” (p.1).
The word upariśyena is not found even once in the entire text of the Rigveda, the oldest Vedic text. In fact, the two elements of the word, upari and śyena, are not even found in any common hymn: the word upari is in fact a Late Rigvedic word found only in the latest books of the Rigveda: I.24.7, 34.8; VIII.19.12; 101.9; X.34.9; 73.8; 128.7; 129.5. The word śyena is found in the following hymns and verses — I.118.1,11; 163.1; II.42.2; III.43.6; IV.26.2; 38.2,5; 40.3; V.44.11; 45.9; 78.4; VIII.34.9; 82.9; IX.87.4; 89.2; X.144.4,5. As this shows, the two words are not even found in the same hymns, let alone as a significant historical clue suggesting “the path of the migration of some Indo-Iranian tribes into Eastern Iran and, subsequently, into Northern India” as Witzel fraudulently suggests it does!
In fact, the word upariśyena is not found even in the other three Veda Samhitas! It is found first, and once, only in the Jaiminiya Brahmana 209.2! And it is on the basis of this very late phrase that Witzel deciphers a reference to “the path of the migration of some Indo-Iranian tribes into Eastern Iran and, subsequently, into Northern India“, a “memory” which seems to have completely bypassed the composers of the four early Veda Samhitas! This Witzelian deduction is on the same scholarly level as similar claims of Lokmanya Tilak, who deduced from the fact that Kumbhakarṇa in the Ramayana was supposed to sleep for six months and remain awake for six months, that this represented a memory of the Arctic origin of the Vedic people of a place where there was a night of six months and a day of six months! The entire book is based on the principle of suppressio veri suggestio falsi, and consequently the book is one more in a long line of instances of academic fraud gaining currency on the strength of “academically” accredited scholars and “peer-reviewed” research.
In fact, the phrase highlighted by Witzel proves once more that the common words found in the Rigveda and the Avesta do not represent pre-Rigvedic elements, but Late Rigvedic or even post-Rigvedic elements which were part of the common “Indo-Iranian” culture which developed after the Vedic people (the Pūrus) had expanded, in the Late Rigvedic and post-Rigvedic period, into the northwest and Central Asia where the proto-Iranians had preceded them in their historical migrations/expansions from India.
My article, “The New Words and Other New Elements in the Rigveda,” a detailed data-based greatly expanded version of my earlier article “The Chronological Gulf Between the Old Rigveda and the New Rigveda,” puts the last and most massive and unextractable nail in the AIT coffin. As I have repeatedly written before, the sharp distinction between the vocabulary of the Old Rigveda and the New Rigveda, for which the evidence is piling up by the day, is the key to solving most of the problems and mysteries of the earliest “Indo-Aryan,” “Indo-Iranian,” and Indo-European history. AIT supporters who continue to tout their ware by stridently stonewalling the actual evidence are only digging the pit for the AIT coffin: when the fall comes it will be a very hard one. Hence, reading these lies by Witzel only strengthens my resolve to set out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Incidentally, even the title of the book itself shows a dubious attitude which can in no way be considered “scholarly”: can such a question (“Which of us are Aryans?“) be asked in India (ignoring the fact that one of the questioners is an American citizen of German origin who certainly does not fit into the definition of “us” when the discussion seems to be about “Aryans” in India) in the year 2019 CE, on the basis of a totally hypothetical “Aryan invasion/migration” which is supposed to have taken place, even according to the questioners, some centuries before 1000 BCE?
Compare a similar/different case: in England, there was no English language even as late as 500 CE. The earlier inhabitants of the British Isles are supposed to have been a primitive people about whose language and ethnic identity nothing is known. They are simply called the Beaker-folk. The earliest known IE-speaking immigrants into the British Isles were different types of Celtic people who are supposed to have entered the British Isles between 1000 BCE and 500 BCE from the European mainland, and then occupied the whole group of islands: first the Picts, then the Britons. It was only around 500 CE or so that Germanic people from northwestern Europe, the Anglo-Saxons (Jutes from Frisia in northern Holland and NW Germany, Angles from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, and Saxons from the region between the Elbe and the Rhine in Germany), migrated into Britain: they brought the earliest seeds of the Germanic English language (though their language, as it remained and changed over many centuries, would be completely incomprehensible to present-day speakers of English). They soon became dominant in England (merging with the local pre-Celtic and Celtic people), while the Celts remained predominant in the areas of Scotland, Ireland, and Cornwall, and in Ireland. The Normans were the next major immigrants after 1000 CE: they came from northern France and spoke a (then) variety of French. A lesser known, but equally important, immigration was that of the Danes from Denmark just before the Normans.
We are using the word “immigrants” and “immigration,” but unlike the totally hypothetical Aryan invasion/migration into India, these were all brutal invasions with the names of the people and tribes involved, and the bloody battles continuously being fought, all of them being a matter of detailed recorded history!
Even then, can we imagine a scholarly book being written and published today, with eminent and pre-eminent writers from different countries contributing to it, and titled “Which of us are Beaker-folk?” or “Which of us are Celts?” or “Which of us are Anglo-Saxons?” or “Which of us are Normans?” or “Which of us are Danes?” — “Us” being the present-day English people?
The Big Lie about the Mitanni People
While Witzel’s article is full of brazen lies, the most blatant Big Lie is about the Mitanni kingdom of West Asia. Witzel, writing in 2019, tells us: “Incidentally, the Indo-Aryan loanwords in Mitanni confirm the date of the Rig Veda for c. 1200-1000 BCE” (p.11). Then, after giving his totally discredited and fake arguments about the “forms with -az” in Mitanni, he repeats: “Clearly, the RV cannot be older than c.1400, and taking into account a period needed for linguistic change, it may not be much older than c.1200 BCE” (p.11).
Witzel’s date for the Mitanni kingdom in this article is “c.1600 BCE” (p.10). So, according to him, the Rigveda in India dates more than 200-400 years after the Mitanni kingdom!
The brazen shamelessness of western academics like Witzel — I am sorry, but I cannot stop my fingers from typing out what polemicists will fatuously call “ad hominem”: the utterly brazen western academic culture, with its stranglehold over scholarly discourse, its complete stonewalling of the truth, and its legions of monkeys (a large proportion of them Indian monkeys) clapping their hands and dancing to the “peer-reviewed” tunes and beats of fraudulent university academics, is something which will be noted with disbelief and wonder by future generations of scholars (assuming that this stranglehold does not last forever) — has to be identified, named, shamed, and universally castigated.
I have shown in my book, “The Rigveda and the Avesta — The Final Evidence” (2008), that the Mitanni personal names and other items of vocabulary (especially the crucial word maṇi) developed during the period of composition of the New Rigveda (books 5, 1, 8, 9, 10), whose geographical area is spread out from western U.P. to Afghanistan, and that the Old Rigveda (books 6, 3, 7, 4, 2), whose geographical area is restricted to the eastern half of this area, precedes this period of composition of the New Rigveda by several centuries. Therefore, if the Mitanni kingdom is dated at 1600 BCE, the Rigveda has to be dated long before this, far beyond 2500 BCE in its earliest parts.
I have repeated this data and evidence in every book and article written by me in the fourteen years since 2008. Witzel knows fully well about these books and articles (on a discussion in an internet site in 2008, he had refused to comment on my 2008 book), and about all this data and evidence. He also knows very well that the timeframe of the Rig Veda can only be determined by “a combination of textual and linguistic data that indicates the beginning of the Vedic period” (p.2). And yet, as late as 2019, instead of keeping quiet if he has no answer to this data and evidence, Witzel is still going strong, at age 78, lying brazenly through his teeth (like some other such western academic con artists), in the secure knowledge that he is protected by a crooked and monopolistic academic superstructure which protects and promotes this kind of fraudulent “scholarship”.
A Brief Look at some other Major Lies in his Article
1. “…the people of the Vedic civilization were semi-nomadic, and its people did not dwell in the post-Harappan agricultural villages of Haryana and its surroundings; instead, they were constantly on the move with their cattle (Aryavarta — ‘the turning around of the Arya’) [….] pastoral ethnicities [….] We still need to find clear pastoral remains of the period, such as in Gujarat and Tajikistan (Meadow and Patel, 1997)” (p.4). Also, “the Andronovo Indo-Aryans were semi-settled cattle breeders” (p.13). Elsewhere (p.7), he even postulates a new alternate route for “another path of migration into India, via the mountains of the Tien Shan and Pamir” on the ground that this area has scope for “extensive inter-regional pastoralism” because it ‘provided excellent grazing ground’,” for the cattle!
What a series of lies!
1a. Has Witzel found archaeological remains of these “semi-nomadic people“, who “were constantly on the move,” of whom he speaks so confidently? If so, he is definitely in line for a Nobel Prize!
1b. Note the references to the cattle and pastoral culture of the “Aryans” [And likewise other references to the “pastoral Aryans” in the article by Razib Khan: “pastoralists brought R1a1-Z93 to the Indian subcontinent 4000 years ago” (p.146); “ancient DNA from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and South Asia all seem to indicate that the intrusion of Central Asian pastoralists dates to the period after 2000 BCE” (p.150); “the variant of lactase persistence, the ability to digest milk sugar as an adult, found in modern northwest India is the same as that found in Northern Europe” (p.151-152); “details of how these pastoralists spread across South Asia in the centuries after their arrival will be highly conjectural” (p.154). Note also that he admits that “Geneticists cannot assert definitively that particular peoples spoke particular languages” (p.151)].
Yet, in spite of the fact that we cannot assert what languages particular people spoke on the basis of genetics, it seems we can assert whether cattle remains belong to western cattle or Indian (zebu) cattle, though all the archaeology and genetic (and other historical) reports show that there were never any western cattle in India before modern times. There were only Indian cattle, yet these academic liars consistently describe their imaginary “Aryan” intruders as bringing a “pastoral culture” (and large numbers of cattle) with them from the steppes which contrasted with the local “agricultural culture”!
1c. The word “Aryavarta,” which according to Witzel indicates that the “Aryans” “were constantly on the move with their cattle (Aryavarta — “the turning around of the Arya”), is not found in any of the four Veda Samhitas, or even in the Brahmana and Aranyaka texts, but is first found in the Sutras! Apparently, by Witzel’s logic, the incoming “Aryans” were settled people right till the late period of the Sutras, at which time they started turning round and round all over the place with their cattle! Or perhaps this is another Kumbhakarṇa-like proof of the Aryan invasion, like the phrase upariśyena?
1d. Have archaeologists Meadow and Patel actually found, at two extreme locations in Tajikistan and Gujarat, remains of western cattle brought in by the “Aryans” from the steppes?
2. “All (archaeological) reports about ‘Indus horses’ as spurious (R. Meadow and A. Patel, 1997): skeletons of horses, onagers and donkeys can only be distinguished by their phalanges, but we still do not have good specimen collections” (p.5).
If Witzel believes this to be so, should he not then accept that all assertions about there being, or not being, horses in the Harappan civilization stand invalidated till “good specimens” of “phalanges” are found? Yet he finds assertions about Indus horses “spurious,” but has no compunction in asserting that there were no horses in the Indus sites and that therefore the sites represent a “non-Aryan” civilization!
3. Witzel even goes on a long diatribe (p. 8-9) against “revisionists” — his favorite term for Indians who do not accept the AIT, for their failure to accept linguistics as a science — and tells us that linguistics is “constantly attacked by revisionists and Hindutva writers as ‘(colonial)’ pseudo-science”; and he plaintively asks, “Why does linguistics work worldwide, but not in India” (p.8)? [As we see the way in which Witzel constantly turns linguistic rules upside-down at every turn, this is a question that should actually be posed to him!].
This is the old cowardly tactic of creating and attacking a straw man, or of treating the weakest and most indefensible argument of some fringe from the opposing side as “the” argument of the entire opposing side, and then “winning” the debate by demolishing the straw man or the weakest argument! Our OIT (“Out of India”) case very definitely treats Linguistics as a science, and completely demolishes the AIT, and proves the OIT, purely on the basis of Linguistics. And so, naturally, our OIT case is completely stonewalled by crooked academics!
It is as if we were to show the AIT to be untenable by treating the entire AIT case as based on the hypothesis of a massive armed invasion, and one-time conquest and destruction of the Harappan civilization, by a huge army of “Aryan invaders” with massive regiments of fierce charioteers, and then conclusively “disproving” this “AIT case”!
4. Witzel’s lies do not end here: another very major lie is about the Uralic languages of eastern Europe. He writes: “the speakers of its ancestral Proto-Indo-Iranian language clearly lived in the Russian/Central Asian steppe belt [….] This is obvious as they have left many loanwords attested in the various Uralic languages, through all their stages from Proto-Uralic to the ancestors of Finnish, Hungarian, Komi, Mari, etc. such as pakas ‘Bhaga’, Asura, *śata ‘100’, orja “aryan slave’, *kekra (cakra) ‘wheel’, *resma (rasmi) ‘rope’ etc.” (p.11).
Do we call this extremely gross stupidity or a tendency to lie? The facts:
4a. “The earliest layer of Indo-Iranian borrowing consists of common Indo-Iranian, Proto-Indo-Aryan and Proto-Iranian words relating to three cultural spheres: economic production, social relations and religious beliefs. Economic terms comprise words for domestic animals (sheep, ram, Bactrian camel, stallion, colt, piglet, calf), pastoral processes and products (udder, skin, wool, cloth, spinner), farming (grain, awn, beer, sickle), tools (awl, whip, horn, hammer or mace), metal (ore) and, probably, ladder (or bridge). A large group of loanwords reflects social relations (man, sister, orphan, name) and includes such important Indo-Iranian terms like dāsa ‘non-Aryan, alien, slave’ and asura ‘god, master, hero’. Finally a considerable number of the borrowed words reflect religious beliefs and practices: heaven, below (the nether world), god/happiness, vajra/‘Indra’s weapon’, dead/mortal, kidney (organ of the body used in the Aryan burial ceremony). There are also terms related to ecstatic drinks used by Indo-Iranian priests as well as Finno-Ugric shamans: honey, hemp and fly-agaric” (Kuzmina, 2001, p. 290-291).
But all these borrowings are one-way borrowings: from Indo-Aryan and Iranian to Uralic. Over a century of examination with magnifying glasses has failed to yield a single credible borrowing in the opposite direction: from Uralic to Indo-Iranian.
Does it require anything more than the most elementary logic to realize that this shows that “Indo-Iranians” were never in the area of the Uralic people in eastern Europe, but that one group (or more) of “Indo-Iranians” from South Asia migrated to, and settled down in, eastern Europe, where there was an exchange of vocabulary between the two groups, which never affected the “Indo-Iranian” languages back home?
If anyone is stupid enough to ask, “what happened to the Indo-Iranians who migrated to eastern Europe? Why aren’t they there now?“, he must answer the same question about the alleged original Indo-Iranians who were allegedly in eastern Europe before allegedly migrating to South Asia. Or about the Indo-Aryan Mitanni who were definitely there in West Asia in 1500 BCE. Or the speakers of Witzel’s “Para-Munda” and “Language X” in the Harappan areas. Or even the Hittites in West Asia and the Tocharians in Central Asia. What happened to them all? Where are they now? Obviously, they merged into their surrounding populations and their languages became extinct.
And we have the exact parallel cases all over the world: for example, speakers (or active users) of Arabic came to India in medieval times and have left countless Arabic loanwords in the Indian languages; speakers (or active users) of Sanskrit went to southeast Asia in (earlier) medieval times and have left countless Sanskrit loanwords in the Southeast Asian languages. But there was no reverse borrowing of Indian words into the Arabic spoken in Arabia, or Southeast Asian words into the Sanskrit spoken in India. And the Arab migrants to India, and the Sanskrit migrants to Southeast Asia have not survived as speakers of those languages in the migrant areas.
4b. Note, above, that one of the borrowings is the word for Bactrian camel.
According to this “peer-reviewed” Harvard professor, the Indo-Iranians migrated from eastern Europe to South Asia through Bactria (without bringing a single Uralic word with them but leaving a rich and important “Indo-Iranian” lexicon in the Uralic languages). And then one group of conscientious Indo-Iranians, having borrowed a new word for the Bactrian camel in Bactria, went all the way back to eastern Europe to add this new word to the Uralic lexicon!
5. Witzel then goes on, treating logic as a soiled toilet-paper to be tossed into the swirling toilet, to give us various categories of common Indo-Aryan and Iranian words allegedly borrowed from various hypothetical and unrecorded languages on the hypothetical migration route from the Steppes to South Asia (I will not count Indra and ṛṣi, the inclusion of which words is the height of ultra-brazen super-insolence on the part of Witzel and his cohorts): Mujavant, Atharvan/Gandharva/Śarva, iṣṭa, uṣṭra, khara, godhūma, kāca.
As pointed out umpteen times in the last twenty years, ever since Witzel concocted his “Bactria-Margiana loanwords” argument, all these words are totally missing in the Old Rigveda: they are first found either in the New Rigveda, or in later Vedic texts, or in even later Sanskrit texts. So, how can they represent “evidence” of pre-Rigvedic borrowings by Indo-Aryans allegedly still on their way to South Asia?
But to those bitten sharply by the Kumbhakarṇa bug — which leads to the hallucination that post-Vedic things (like Kumbhakarṇa sleeping for six months and remaining awake for six months) are actually clues to the pre-Vedic extra-Indian locations of the Indo-Aryans (like the North Polar Arctic area with a night of six months and a day of six months) — there is no cure. Whether they are actually bitten by the bug or just liars pretending to be so bitten!
But enough of this wading through the pathetic “scholarly” lies of these “academic political activists” with their hate agendas!
I volunteered to do the review of this book, and so felt it my duty to complete the task for which I had volunteered. But frankly, dealing again and again and again with the same brazen lies is not a pleasing or interesting task, but a nauseating one — especially knowing that this repetition, like all the previous ones, is going to meet with the same stonewalling by the academic mafia.
But I think it is time to make two things very clear:
1. There is no more sense in repeatedly replying to (unless a genuinely new and interesting point is raised), or debating issues with, dishonest crooks who will stonewall you anyway. It is now time for them to deal with our unchallengeable OIT case with its irrefutable arguments.
2. But even this is not the answer anymore. The question is not only of discussing and debating, but of honesty in discussion and debate. And since no-one can guarantee honesty on both sides, this is also a superfluous procedure. So, something else is required.
Take a similar case: the “discussion” or “debate” between the Ramjanmabhoomi side and the Babri Masjid side on the issue of whether or not there was a demolished Hindu temple under the Babri Masjid structure: discussions and debates went on and on with no end in sight. They would still have been going on to this very moment and would still be carried on fifty years hence. The entire national and international academia and media had made it their life’s mission to propagate, on a military basis, the idea that there never was a Hindu Temple under the Babri Masjid structure.
It took a panel of learned and impartial judges to examine and take into consideration all the evidence from both the sides and give their judgement based on evidence only.
Today no-one dares to claim that there was no Hindu temple under the Babri Masjid structure. [Sorry! I take back that statement immediately: there may still be those hate-filled extremist, leftist, and Muslim groups who may still be making those claims. After all, referring to the “pain and oppression” that Indian Muslims “suffered” on the demolition of the structure is still a popular staple in leftist discourse. But then, there are still Flat-Earth societies even in the “Civilized West”!].
So, the only solution now is a panel of learned and impartial judges to examine and take into consideration all the evidence from both sides and give their judgement on the basis of the evidence only.
Kuzmina, E. E. (2001), “Contacts Between Finno-Ugric and Indo-Iranian Speakers in the light of Archaeological, Linguistic and Mythological Data,” in “Early Contacts between Uralic and Indo-European: Linguistic and Archaeological Considerations,” edited by Carpelan, Parpola, Koskikallio. Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, Helsinki.
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