The Revolution and Evolution of Newspapers in Assam

The history of Assamese newspaper is one hundred and fifty years long which carries a rich legacy of revolutionary times and events throughout the process of its development. Several newspapers and magazines are related with many revolutionary phases of Assamese society and literature. The history of development of Assamese literature is also dependant on newspapers to some extent. The first Assamese newspaper (news magazine) Orunodoi was published in 1846. The American Baptist Missionaries, who were the torch bearers of setting up printing press and publishing newspapers in Assam were also the founding fathers of Orunodoi as well as journalism in Assam. With the colonial touch of the Western Civilization, newspaper service started almost at the same time in the three neighbouring states Assam, Bengal and Orissa. Emergence of Orunodoi : The publication of Orunodoi in Assam is an epoch changing evenT not only in the history of Assam but also in the social history of this region. Besides fulfilling the objectives of newspaper and magazine together, Orunodoi was a precursor of Assamese grammar, dictionary, drama, poem, various types of articles and school books. The cluster of Assamese letters and spelling system had undergone a process of change and development during the early years of Orunodoi. The structure of Assamese language and way of expression changed too and all these together brought a new rhythm to Assamese language and literature.The sincere effort of American Baptist Missionaries in spreading the news of science and technology and the contemporary world to every nook and corner of Assam through Orunodoi had broaden the mental horizon of Assamese people and brought a sea change into the sphere of Assamese language, literature and culture. Though the Missionaries had come from a different place with different cultural background yet they prepared here the ground for a new era and a kind of renaissance with all their generosity and finer feelings. That is the greatest contribution of the American Baptist Missionaries towards Assamese society. On one hand Orunodoi had tried to establish Assamese language and literature by giving it a proper structure and form, on the other hand it tried to awake a conscience about education and culture among the people who were concerned with academic and cultural progress of Assam. In short, we can say that — the morning Sun of Assamese language, literature and national feeling gradually rose in the pages of Orunodoi. In 1846, the editor of Orunodoi was Dr Nathan Brown and it was published from Sivasagar Mission Press. From 1861, Orunodoi became Orunodoy according to the new spelling system introduced by Hemchandra Barua. The publication of Orunodoy became irregular since 1882 and at last it was shut down. In 1871, a monthly newspaper Assam Bilasini was published by some local people after the model of Orunodoy from Dharma Prakash Jantral, Majuli. The first weekly newspaper Assam Mihir was published in 1872 from Guwahati. After that though many journals and newspapers like Goalpara Hitsadhini in 1876, Assam News in 1882, Asom Bandhu in 1885, Mou in 1886 etc. were published, their life span was not long and above all they were not published in business purpose. Assam News (1882-85) was worthy of mention among those newspapers. Hemchandra Barua, the pathfinder of English newspaper service in Assam was the editor of this paper which was pupblished weekly in two languages Assamese and English both. Though this paper survived only for three years it was able to put tremendous effort in shaping up. of Assamese language. Assamese spelling took the modern form in this newspaper. The use of the word ‘Baton Kakot’ in Assamese for English word ‘newspaper’ was started in this newspaper. The Beginning of Newspaper Age : Though a number of newspapers were published in Assam from the mid: nineteenth century, the newspaper which started the age of newspapers in the real sense is Asam, a nationalistic weekly newspaper published from Guwahati in 1894. The language of this second weekly newspaper in Assam was mainly Assamese. However, some letters and articles regarding some special issues were published in English too in order to bring them under the scrutiny of the British government. An English weekly, Times of Assam was published in 1895 from Dibrugarh. This newspaper, edited by Radhanath Changkakati, brought out a kind of renaissance into the tradition of newspapers of Assam. This newspaper with its shape and size incorporating various news, articles, commerce and business information and social events etc. was a ‘complete’ newspaper in the real sense of the term. Nilmoni Phukan, Lalsshminath Phukan, Harendra Nath Barua,

Newspapers & Magazines Currently Being Published in Assam

• Assamese daily Asomiya Pratidin, Dainik Asom, Dainik Janambhumi, Dainik Agradoot, Amar Asom, Aji, Asomiya Khabar, Ajir Dainik Batori, Niyamia Barta, Dainik Asomiya Batori Kakot, Dainik Pratibedan, Adinor Sambad, Sankar Jyoti. Gana Adhikar, Janasadharan etc. • English daily The Assam Tribune, The Sentinel, The Eastern Chronicle, North-East Times. • Hindi/Bengali daily Samoy Prabah, Hindi Sentinel, Sonar Cachar, Sambad Lohori, Hindi Khabar, Dainik Jugasankha etc. • Bi-weekly/weekly newspaper Agradoot. Sadin, Mahajati, Asom Bani, Ganatantra, Janambhumi, Puwar Batori, Dalito Asom, Saptahik Purbodoy etc. • Fortnightly/monthly magazine Prantik, Bismoi, Nandini. Rahasya, Gariyoshee, Salsoree, Prakash, Mahekiya Career Guide, Asomiya Sa Re Ga Ma, Swajan Cinta, Maya, Swaistha, Barnali, Bartapakhili, Kasturi, Mandakini, Trishnatur, Maya, Priyo Sakhi, Aalap, Enajori (online Magazine), Spondon (online Magazine); Xondhan (online Magazine) etc. • Children’s & youth magazine Mouchaq. Natun Awiskar, Safura, Akanir Agradoot, Boro-Othoro, Jigyas, Mukuta. Amar Sarothi, Pragya, Jilngoni, Rongmela etc.

Kedar Nath Goswami, Sarada Sankar Prasad Dutta and such many well established Assamese journalists started their career with this newspaper. The appearance of Jonaki is a very significant event in the history of Assamese newspaper and journal. Asomiya Bhasha Unnoti Sadhini Sobha published it as a manifesto in 1889 from Kolkata under the editorship of Chandra Kumar Agarwala. Jonaki contributed a great deal towards the initiation of a process of literary renaissance in every sphere of Assamese language and literature during itsearly years. It imported Western literary forms and ideals, subjective poetry and novels into Assamese literature. Chandra Kumar Agarwala, Lakshminath Bezbarua and Hemchandra Goswami — these literary triumvirate of ‘Jonaki age’ prepared the ground for Assamese literature to grow and prosper and inspired new writers to come up with their creative genius. Following the footsteps of Jonaki many other such journals like Bijuli (1890), Assam Bonti (1900), Usha (1907), Banhi (1909), Advocate of Assam, Milan etc. were brought to light in the later period but they could not survive long and all faded away slowly. Another milestone in the history of Assamese newspaper is the publication of Asomiya (1918-58). Assamese journalism got a boost with its motto of paitriotism Jononi Janmobhumishwa Swargadopi Goriyashi. Assamese newspaper or journals were not published with business purpose in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century (They could be categorised as cottage industry). The number of their circulation was so limited that they could not yeild any profit to the publisher. Moreover, without any proper and prompt communication infra-structure within the State these newspapers lagged behind the other newspapers of modern age in respect of news collection and news coverage. In a sense, professional attitude in journalism did not occur in Assam at that time. Publicity drive to increase circulation, printing neatness, creating sensation by hot news coverage etc. elements were ignored at that time. In fact, it was beyond imagination to accept newspaper as an industry at that time. Some particular issues of some of the newspapers could manage to get profit by dint of the personality of some particular editor or some particular write-up, but that was only a temporary phenomenon. Assamese newspapers worked as the medium of expressing opinions, the weapon for struggle and agitation and the tool for reformotion at that time. Patriotism, love for the language and a keen interest for independence of the country — these were the main objectives of those Assamese newspapers. A monthly magazine Awahan stirred up a change in 1929. Awahan was published from Kolkata under the patronage of Jaminadar Nagendra Narayan Choudhuri and editorship of Dina Nath Sarma. Awahan could acquire same standard with other contem-porary Indian magazines of that time. It was really a good magazine with attractive cover and beautiful printing quality containing short stories, travelogues, articles, poetry and novels published in series. With this magazine Assamese short story attained a significant development. Jayanti, another magazine published in the first half of the twentieth century (1938-49, editor Raghunath Choudhuri) was also worthy of mention. Jayanti was the precursor of modern Assamese poetry consisting new ideologies which gradually replaced romantic poetry. A new generation of writers came up with this magazine and such it opened up new vistas for them. The Assamese newspapers of that time were thriving mainly under the patronage and entrepreneurship of Assamese middle class people. These newspapers played a significant role in generating popular opinion at the backdrop of pre-independent environment in this region. They expressed the hesitant agitation and confusion of the middle class and inspired the common people to take part in the national movement as well. Developing through such situation and environment Assamese newspapers and journals attained the stage of maturity around the time of transfer of power. A new chapter was added to the history of Assamese newspaper with the publication of Dainik Batori, the first Assamese daily in 1935. This Jorhat based newspaper initiated the trend of presenting current hot news with attractive headlines which were bought from Reuters and Associated Press in telegraphic form and then translated into Assamese. Earlier in 1931, another newspaper Nagarar Kotha was published from Jorhat under the editorship of Mofozol Hussain. The circulation of this one page tabloid type paper published in every afternoon, was limited within the vicinity of Jorhat containing only the local news. Professionalism sprouted in Assamese journalism with Dainik Baton. After ten years, in 1946, with the emergence of English daily the ‘Assam Tribune’ a road was paved for a much desired modern and bold

journalistic endeavour in Assam. -;:=::::7-;-;1 Moreover, ‘Assam Tribune’ —7_771 successfully established newspaper as an industry and set an example for other newspapers of later years. In 1947, almost at the same time with The Assam   Tribune, Saptahik Janambhurni was published from Jorhat. This is the oldest newspaper which has been in the circulation continuously till date. Ramdhenu was another important journal of Assam which was published from Guwahati in 1951. Literary giants like Indrakamal Bezbarua, Dr Maheswar Neog, Dr Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya and Radhika Mohan Bhagawati edited this magazine at different times. This magazine contributed a lot in integrating various streams of Assamese literature. Hem Barua, Nabakanta Barua, Mahendra Bora, Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya etc. penned down some of their famous poems for this magazine and the criticism arose from them brought forth a class of serious readers. Ramdhenu delineated the post war psyche of Assamese people through literature. After Ramdhenu, Monideep (1960-68, editor : Mahendra Bora) and Aamar Protinidhi (1959) these two literary journals were able to influence Assamese readers deeply. Some other contemporary magazines were Posuwa (1948), Purbakash, Probah (1955), Kandan (1950), Naam Nai (1958) etc. Bismoi was another magazine which could give away an altogether different taste to its readers from the very beginning. It was published in 1969 and edited by Shashi Phukan. Bismoi set up a new trend in the literature of news magazines by publishing mysterious, detective, thrilling, adventurous events and stories of real life drama etc. and several other magazines were published after its model in the following years. In fact, Bismoi created an era of thriller magazine in Assam by recognising peoples’ anxiousness and love for entertainment and their unquenchable thirst to discover mysteries as its prime policy. Bismoi gave birth to a variety of reader class as well as a variety of writer class.

Assam Tribune group published Asom Bani in 1955 and Dainik Asom in 1965. Both are important newspapers of present times. Saptahik Neelachal in 1964, Agradoot in 1971 (bi-weekly at the beginning and from 1973 twice in a week). Dainik Janambhumi in 1972 (from Jorhat by Janambhumi group) all these newspapers came up gradually. Only these few newspapers could be taken into account which represented Assam till some years back. The Sudden Flood of Newspapers : From the decade of eightees i.e. from the time of Assam Agitation Assam has been constantly being flooded with neumerous newspapers, journals and magazines. This phenomenon became more prominent in the later years. From the silt of this flood sprang up professional journalism with a new form. The avenues for new possibilities were opened up in the history of Assamese literature. There has been always a competition among the newspapers to exhibit their news-skill in accordance with the ever increasing demand of the readers. During the time of Assam Agitation many newspapers stood along with various groups supporting or opposing their ideologies. Naturay, these newspapers played their own significant roles as manifestos of various groups and political parties. Such a trend is very much visible in many current newspapers too. The numbers of daily newspaper in Assam is more than a dozen. Similarly num-bers of weekly and quarterly papers are also high. It is witnessed that the small towns and growing villages are also active in publishing numerous newspapers.

Short descriptions of a few newspapers and magazines of current times are provided below. Janambhumi : Saptahik Janambhumi, an Assamese weekly, was published from Jorhat on 10th March, 1947. This is the oldest newspaper which has been in the circulation continuously till date. Janambhumi was first published from the Darpan press of Jorhat. Later. this newspaper was also published from local ‘Armada Printing House’ for a short pe-riod of time. In 1949 Janambhumi acquired own printing press and the newspaper is being continually published from there since then. The first editor of this newspaper was Dulal Chandra Bhuyan. Janambhumi is mentioned as an indepen-dent name in the newspaper history of Assam. This nation-alistic newspaper had initially supported the Congress gov-ernment, but afterward.s it became a bitter critic of the party. Janambhumi was one of the newspapers on which censor-ship was imposed in 1980 by the state government of Assam under the provision of Assam Special Power (Press) Law, 1980. Some popular section of the newspaper are `Moina Mel’ (Children’s Corner), `Mahila Mel’ (Women’s Corner) etc. Janambhumi also takes the credit for giving birth to the only children’s organisation of Assam, Sadou Asom Moina Pat-liar , from its children’s corner called `Moina Mel’. Janambhumi was a pioneer in Assamese journa-lism for pub-lishing political reviews regularly. It also pioneered in yet an-other aspect opening its forum for th’ iouths of the tea tribes.Janambhumi is the first Asst, J newspaper to cel-ebrate its Golden Jubilee. Asom Bani : Asom Bani is a weekly Assamese news-paper published from Guwahati. This weekly was launched by The Assam Tribune group on 1 July 1955. Satish Chandra Kakati became the founder editor of this weekly. The quality printing, use of pictures in every page and various attractive features made the paper very popular among the readers from the beginning. Besides the weekly horoscope, the weekly chronicle and a special page on films, plays and radio were there.The other popular features of the newspapers are `Kotha Sohoki Bholbholia’r `Kothar Sagor’, Mina ParOat Chora’, Khel Potharor Pora’, Aaide’or Buloni’, Byoktitwat Ebhumuki’, Maha maha Purusor Sanekire Jiwanor’etc. Many features included at beginning were discontinued in later period. The weekly gained importance from the begning by including writings of the contemporary renowned writers of that time. Dainik Asom : In 4th August, 1965, Dainjk Asom, a very significant Assamese daily of Assam was published. The founder editor of the paper was Kirtinath Hazarika. Though this newspaper raised its voice for the interest of Assam re-garding the Federal plan. the Emergency and many other burning issues, the most crucial role played by the newspa-per that in the movement for identification and deportation of illegal foreign nationals. In the foreign nationals issue, the newspaper proved the point that newspapers could play a very crucial role in launching a powerful mass movement. Dainik Asom was one of the newspapers on which censor-ship was imposed in 1980 by the state government of Assam under the provision of Assam Special Power (Press) Law, 1980. Dainik Asom contributed enormously towards raising the standard of Assamese journalism to a higher level. This newspaper also played important role to raised photo jour-nalism and cartoon journalism in Assam to a respectable position. Agradoot : Agradoot is an important newspaper of the 70’s.Kanaksen Deka is the proprietor and editor of the news-paper. On February 1, 1971 Agradoot appeared as a fort-nightly from Mangoldoi. Then in 1973, it was published from Guwahati as a bi-weekly. From the beginning the newspaper is promoting discussions and criticisms about Assam and its people and forming a mass opinion of people through its services. During the six year long Assam agitation, Agradoot played a remarkable role, by showing genuine concern and focusing on various political, economical, social and cultural aspects of Assam. Agradoot was one of the newspapers on which censorship was imposed in 1980 by the state govern-ment of Assam under the provision of Assam Special Power (Press) Law, 1980. Dainik Janambhumi : Dainik Janambhumi is regarded as one of the important Assamese daily of present time. It was first published from Jorhat on 15′ June, 1972 and Kanak Chandra Sarma was the first editor (managing editor) of this newspaper. From the beginning the newspaper was consid-ered as the voice of Upper Assam and it has continued on carrying forward the hopes and ambitions of the people through its services. This newspaper also played a strong role in the six year long Assam agitation. Due to this newspaper’s bold and independent opinions, the Dainik Janambhumi raised eyebrows from the government and the editor was arrested more than once. Apart from that, being the only Assamese daily published from Jorhat, Dainik Janambhumi became more popular and influential in Upper Assam.The newspaper publishes a sunday magazine named Basundhara with every Sunday issue. Dainik Janambhumi is currently published from Guwahati, Tinsukia and Tezpur simultaneously. The Sentinel : On 13′” April, 1983 under the editorship of Dhirendranath Bezbarua, The Sentinel, an English daily was published from Omega Printers & Publishers Limited, Guwahati. This newspaper, which started without much funfair began to gain popularity. The various attractive fea-tures published on Saturday are Sunday issues are very popular among the readers. The Omega Printers & Publish-ers Limited added a new chapter in the newspaper history of Assam by publishing a foreign edition of Sentinel and Aajir Asom, by the name of ‘Home Link’ for the people of north-east living in foreign lands. Aajir Asom : During the late 80’s, under the editorship of Radhika Mohan Bhagawati, the assamese daily newspaper AajirAsom was published. The paper was first published on 15 August 1947 with a commitment to mirror the national life daily to all the inhabitants of Assam. In 2015, it was shut down. Sadin : It’s a weekly Assamese newspaper. On 6th Janu-ary, 1989, the first regular issue of Sadin was brought out. Tilak Hazarika, who had made a mark as the editor of Asom Banff as chief editor. Ajit Kumar Bhuyan took charge as edi-tor. This newspaper introduced many popular features and displayed novelty in news presentation. This paper also played an important role in publishing political satire. Prantik : Prantik is a significant fortnightly news-maga-zine, edited by Pradip Baruah. published from December 1, 1981. Prantik is expected to create its own era in the literary world of Assam just like the oldies Oronodoi, Jonaki & Ramdhenu. Prantik has been striving hard to strike a proper balance between the socio-political, economic, cultural re-flections of the State, to maintain equilibrium with the litera-ture of other languages, international incidents, their causes, impacts, evaluation and their analysis to be delivered to the readers on time. Prantik has been playing an important role in the development and spreading of the Assamese language and its correct usage. Right from its birth Prantik have given much weightage in language pattern and stylistic forms of literature as well as priority over subject matter than writers. It has produced many new writers in the Assamese litera-ture industry. This is indeed an extraordinary step which has helped many new writers to establish themselves and get published in other journals as well. It is the signature style of Prantik to take out the best elements from a budding writer and deliver it to the public. It maintains a personal communi-cation with its writers; advises and provides important nec-essary materials — which make each and every page a treat to be cherished. Many famous novellas like Bhabendranath Saikia’s Antoreep. Jeevan Britta (autobiography), Phanindra Kumar Dev Chaaudhury’s Anuradhar Desh, Arun Sarma’s Ashirwador Rong were first published in Prantik. Bhabendranath Saikia, a doyen of Assamese literature and film, was the founder chief editor of Prantik.

Asomiya Pratidin : Asomiya Pratidin, an Assamese daily, was launched on March 3, 1995 by the Sadin Group. The founder editor and executive editors were Ajit Kumar Bhuyan and Parag Kumar Das respectively. This newspaper, gained popularity before long because of its open stance of oppos-ing Hiteswar Saikia, the then Chief Minister of Assam as well as its exposure of the misdeeds and corruption of big and small leaders and its attempt to add hot flavour to news presentation. A Sunday magazine named Sambhar is pub-lished with its Sunday issues. There is also an internet edi-tion of this newspaper. It is now published from Guwahati, North Lakhimpur, Bangaigaon & Dibrugarh at the same time. Parag Kumar Das, the then executive editor of Pratidin was assassinated in Guwahati on the 17th May 1996. Prior that, no editor of a newspaper in Assam had fallen victim to such violence. Asomiya Pratidin, is now highest circulated daily of Assam. Dainik Agradoot : DainikAgradoot, an Assamese daily, was launched on October 6, 1995 by the Agradoot Group. Its editor is Kanaksen Deka. This paper has introduced some special features besides the stereotype ones found in dai-lies. Among them, a few are long excerpts from the speeches of great men and sacred books in the Saswoto Katha’, a comic feature Bilasnondon Chora etc. Dainik Agradoot is now published from Guwahati, Jorhat and Tezpur at the same. time. Amar Asom : AmarAsom, an Assamese daily was pub-lished from April, 1997. This newspaper had some features not to be found in other Assamese dailies. Moreover, this is the first Assamese daily newspaper to be published from two places (Guwahati, Jorhat) simultaneously. This paper started the tradition of providing a magazine with the Sun-day issue. Goriyoshee : Another very significant and high stand-ard literary magazine is Goriyoshee which was published in

October, 1993. Distinguished litterateur Chandraprasad Saikia was the founder editor of the magazine. Goriyoshee can be described as the one and only complete literary magazine in the Assamese language today. Alongwith serious research oriented studies on various aspects of Assamese language. the magazine brings out articles on contemporary world lit-erature on a regular basis. This magazine was honoured with ‘Katha’ award which is a recognition of national level. Aaji : Assamese Daily newspaper. It’s been regularly published since 22nd March 2000. Ajit Kumar Bhuyan was the founder editor of this paper. This paper has always fo-cused on contributing socially responsible news and articles besides exposing government misdeeds. This paper has a Sunday supplement called Aaji Deobar. Dainik Janasadharan This paper was first published on the 1st of January 2003. Founder editor Manoj Kumar Goswami. It also publishes a Sunday magazine named ltyadi. This paper was also published simultaneously from Dibrugarh. Asomiya Khabar : Assamese daily Asomiya Khabar has been regularly published since 6th November, 2001. The in-augural issue was published on the 3rd November of the same year. This also publishes a Sunday magazine, Wednesday supplement, Saturday special Bhinnosuri etc. Ranju Hazarika’s novel Nixidhho Abhisaar was published regularly on the last page of this paper for the first time in the history of Assamese Newspaper. This paper is also published simultaneously from Jorhat. Ajir Dainik Batori : This paper has been regularly pub-lished since the 23rd January, 2005. The founder editor-in-chief was the renowned litterateur Homen Borgohain whereas Adip Kumar Phukan was the founder editor. This newspaper has introduced many new facets in the journalistic world of Assam. This is the first newspaper to be published from three places (Guwahati, Dibrugarh & Lakhimpur) since the first day of publishing. It also publishes a Sunday colorful magazine entitled Anubhuti. Adinor Sambad : Adinor Sambad, an Assamese daily published from Guwahati on the 29’h of October, 2006 under the editorship of Adip Phukan. Adinor Sambad introduced it-self as the ‘mutual platform to explore new horizons’ and mentioned its aim and objectives in the first issue as follows : We do not create news, we will rather serve it with a neutral view. We shall carry the thoughts and conscience of the in-tellectuals to the ones who find it difficult to express them-selves. This will be our prime motive.’ Adinor Sambad also publishes a Sunday magazine named Adhar. Besides the regular features, this paper also publishes a few significant pages. Among them, the Grontho page is dedicated to the news about books, Monor Khiriki is dedicated to interviews from various persons of significance, a satire column called Breakfast, a page Parikroma which is full of descriptions about various places from Assam. A page named Jeevan Gorhar Komarsaal which focuses on educational institutions from the State, a page called Samaj which reflects the socio-economic life of the tribal people, a page for infotainment called Tothyoronjon etc. Besides the above mentioned newspapers, a few like Natun Dainik, Aajir Batori, Aajir Sambad published from time to time has also contributed to the history of journalism in Assam. • Evening Daily Like in other parts of the country, afternoon/evening newspapers were first published in Assam around 1980s. An evening daily named Biyolir Batori edited by Naba Kumar Hazarika, a physician, was a pioneer in this regard. Unfortunately this paper closed down after a while. One of the main reasons being, it couldn’t arrange for proper channels to provide it with latest news and photos. On the 1st of January, 1991, another evening daily Sandhyo Bator/ edited by Surjya Hazarika was published from the Chandrakanta Press Pvt Ltd, Guwahati. Although Sandhyo Bator/ achieved initial success due to the amenities required for an evening daily, and also proper business management, later it became irregular and ultimately shut down (1997). On the 15th of July, 1991, another evening daily Mahanagar appeared. Arupa Baruah was the editor of the evening daily This newspaper also closed down after a while.

A few other magazines and journals of the contempo-rary era are : Ajir Somoy, Prakash, Sutradhar, Gyandeep, Shreemoyee, Pubali, Rongpur, Chitra Sangbad, Ronghor, Rohosyo, Priyo Sokhi etc. A few among these have already discontinued. This has not been possible to mention and dis-cuss each and every newspaper/magazines/journals in this write-up. But all of them have played important roles in con-tributing towards the 166:years of journalism in Assam.

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