India: Film cleared for release by appellate board

On 24 April 2017, India’s Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) overturned a decision by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and cleared film ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ for release in the country’s cinemas on 21 July 2017, reported The Guardian on 26 April 2017. “There cannot be any embargo on a film being women […]

India: Comic receives death threats over stand-up video

Indian stand-up comic Kunal Kamra received death threats over a video of one of his sets ‘Patriotism and the Government’ that he uploaded on YouTube on 1 March 2017, reported First Post on 16 March 2017. The video begins with a slogan from a student protest in 2016: “India is a democracy, until you criticize […]

INSIGHT 2016 publication: Targeting the arts

» Read on Targeting the arts INSIGHT articles about controversies and conflicts over art in 2016 Documenting incidents of censorship will never be enough. From the very beginning, Freemuse has attempted to describe censorship of music and arts in a larger context. In 2015 we introduced INSIGHT – a series of articles providing readers with […]

India: Two female singers threatened by radicals and clerics

As many as 46 clerics and Islamic organisations in the north-eastern state of Assam issued a fatwa banning teen female singer Nahid Afrin from singing at a musical show on 25 March. The fatwa comes just days after reports revealed that another female singer, Suhana Syed, has been receiving threats from radical Islamists for singing […]

India/Pakistan: Films continue to fall victim to threats and censorship

India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has refused to certify film ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, which revolves around the stories of four women, reported Hindustan Times on 23 February 2017. The CBFC stated the reason for the denial was that: “The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contanious [sic] sexual […]

India: Mural erased from festival after far-right group’s protest

On 26 December 2016, the last day of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay’s (IIT-B) Mood Indigo cultural festival, dozens of protestors from far-right political party Shiv Sena entered the campus and demanded a mural depicting a modern version of Hindu god Hanuman be erased from the wall, reported The Indian Express on 26 December […]

India: Art exhibition vandalised, artist attacked

On 8 December 2016, right-wing activists from two different groups stormed the fourth annual Jaipur Art Summit, damaged paintings, attacked and injured a painter, and stole a painting in protest of it featuring semi-nude women, reported India Today on 8 December 2016. “It happened so fast. Painting is your heart, it is your baby. It […]

India: Actor challenges theatre censorship in court

On 20 September 2016, veteran actor and filmmaker Amol Palekar filed a petition to the Bombay High Court to challenge the Maharashtra state’s pre-censorship of plays, the practice of needing censor board approval of scripts before plays can be staged, reported news outlet The Quint on 28 September 2016. Of the 29 states in India, […]

India/Pakistan: Films, actors, tv shows banned amidst Kashmir tensions

In a retaliatory exchange, Pakistan banned Indian films, tv shows and channels after India banned Pakistani actors and technicians from working on Indian films, as a response to deadly attacks over Kashmir that began on 19 September 2016. On 30 September 2016, the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPPA) decided at an annual general meeting […]

India: Artists struggle with censors over LGBT and other themes

In recent months filmmakers and playwrights have been challenging Indian certification boards after works focusing on LGBT, political and religious themes have come under fire by censors, especially at a time when nationalist ideas and groups are gaining traction in the public and political spheres. LGBT themes in film India’s Central Board of Film Certification […]

India: Writer detained over attempted murder charges

Dalit writer Durai Guna and activist friend Bhoopathy Karthikeyan were arrested on 10 June 2016 for attempted murder during the Chennai Book Fair, though those close to the writer and human rights activists claim the charges are false and are a continuation of harassment Guna has suffered for works he’s published on Dalit issues, reported […]

India: Film censorship continues unabated

Even after losing the high profile, month-long battle with the film producers of ‘Udta Punjab’ wherein India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) called for nearly 100 cuts/edits, the board continues to censor films throughout the country at a fast clip. Though the CBFC has been embroiled in controversy over its decisions and methods, other government […]

Pakistan: Controversial Indian film suffers 100 cuts before release

Indian film ‘Udta Punjab’, which already has faced a tough censorship battle in India, was released in parts of Pakistan on 24 June 2016, but only after 100 cuts were made to the film removing “objectionable and anti-Pakistan” content, reported The Indian Express on 21 and 27 June 2016. “We have cut all derogatory and […]

India: Censors under fire

Nearly halfway into the term of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the world’s largest democracy is witnessing an increasingly polarised debate over freedom of expression; and what many critics and civil society members say is an atmosphere of intolerance in the country. By Ankush Arora    INSIGHT  When Indian film-maker Pankaj Butalia applied for […]

Art Under Threat: Attacks on artistic freedom in 2015

Freemuse Annual Statistics on Censorship and Attacks on Artistic Freedom in 2015 Artistic freedom is under extreme pressure in far too many countries. The Freemuse annual report summarises censorship and threats on artistic freedom in 2015 in over 70 countries. In total, Freemuse registered 469 cases of censorship and attacks on artists and violations of […]

India: Censor board bans own member’s movie

The examining committee of India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) denied certification to controversial film ‘Mohalla Assi’ directed by Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi, himself a member of the CBFC, after it “evoked extreme reactions” from some members, reported Mumbai Mirror on 8 April 2016. The film, based on a well-known novel, features profanity and blasphemy […]

India: Two superhero blockbusters suffer cuts

Latest Ryan Reynolds vehicle ‘Deadpool’ and upcoming Ben Affleck picture ‘Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice’ face cuts by India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for nudity, violence and profanity, reported DNA India and Hindustan Times in February and March 2016.      ‘Deadpool’ suffered seven cuts that got rid of most of the […]

India: Non-state groups ban Bollywood film featuring homosexual relationship

The Millat Bedari Muhim Committee (MBMC) and Aligarh city mayor Shakuntala Bharti have banned Bollywood film ‘Aligarh’ because of its homosexuality, which they believe will besmirch the reputation of the north Indian city, reported The Indian Express on 28 February 2016. The MBMC further issued a letter to India’s information and broadcasting minister to have […]

India: Play banned for topless scene

The National School of Drama (NSD) has banned Polish play ‘Sonaka’ throughout India due to a nudity scene wherein a woman appeared topless, reported Odisha TV on 13 February 2016. The play, put on by Polish-based troupe Alexander Jiereko and part of the NSD’s national theatre festival, was enacted in the eastern state of Odisha […]

India: Frustrations in film industry over censorship

“With every single film we have the most insane battles… It is insane. It is restrictive. It is regressive. And very frankly, it is getting worse,” said 33-year-old Bollywood actor Imran Khan about the Indian film censorship board. “Censorship has reached a very scary place in India,” Khan told Indian students at Harvard University in […]

India: Controversy over State Censor Board for Theatre

Theatre playwrights and performers in Gujarat and Maharashtra are questioning and condemning the State Censor Board for Theatre for having suggested 19 cuts in a Marathi play entitled ‘Jai Bhim, Jai Bharat’. The board which certifies theatre scripts as fit for public consumption asked playwright Jandardan Jadhav to change ‘Khairlanji’ to ‘Vairanjli’, ‘kutra’ (dog) to […]

India: Censor board’s ‘truly epic cuts’ to American movie

After months of delay, Quentin Tarantino’s movie ‘The Hateful Eight’ is out in India, “but like the bloody and violent nature of the movie, it has been slashed and chopped by our Censor Board,” wrote Hindustan Times. A list of all the 10 cuts made to the film has found its way online. Here it […]

India: Singer prosecuted for song critical of state government

Arrested for singing a song critical of the government of the South Indian state Tamil Nadu, folk singer and activist Kovan has now been released on bail. His arrest is part of a larger crackdown on activism and freedom of expression, reports Lakshimi Sarah At the end of October 2015, the 52-year-old singer S. Kovan […]

India: Police remove floating cow art and detain artists

In India two artists were detained for their work on 21 November 2015: a life-size styrofoam art installation of a flying cow in Rajasthan’s Jaipur city. Following protests by right-wing Hindu groups alleging their religious sentiments were hurt, local police dismantled the work and detained the two artists. Later, amid public outrage, the chief minister […]

India: Pakistani actors banned in Maharashtra state

The Hindu right-wing party Shiv Sena has now vowed to not allow two Pakistani actors to promote their films in Maharashtra state. This comes just a month after the same group cancelled two concerts by Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali. Fawad Khan, who has several Bollywood films set for production, and Mahira Khan, who is making […]

India: Board censors James Bond kissing scenes

The Indian Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has ordered that all kissing scenes in the new James Bond film, ‘Spectre,’ need to be shortened by 50 per cent for its national screenings. Censors have ordered cuts to four kissing scenes between Daniel Craig and the two female leads, Léa Seydoux and Monica Bellucci.  ‘Spectre’ […]

India: Pakistani singer’s concerts cancelled after protests

Two concerts by the veteran Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali scheduled in the Indian state of Maharashtra were cancelled by the organisers after a regional Hindu right-wing party took exception to the events. The Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist party that is part of the coalition government in Maharashtra State, asked the organisers to cancel the […]

India: Play demanded banned by Catholic church

The Catholic Church in India has demanded a ban on the play ‘Agnes of God’, an adaptation of American playwright John Pielmeier’s drama about a nun giving birth to a child. The church has alleged the play is a ‘wrongful portrayal’ of priests and nuns committed to a life of celibacy and hurts the sentiments […]

India: Religious group issues fatwa against composer and director

A Muslim group in India has issued a fatwa against the Indian musician and composer A.R. Rahman and the Iranian film director Majid Majidi. A Sunni-Muslim group in Mumbai called the Raza Academy has issued the fatwa in protest against Majidi’s film ‘Muhammad: Messenger of God’ – Iran’s most expensive ever movie with a $40 […]

India: Actor calls for consitutional freedom of expression rights in cinemas

“I feel there should be constitutional right of freedom of expression. Either you give cinema artistes complete freedom of expressing themselves or you don’t have them in the society because in cinema, people can’t be open for attack all the time,” Indian actor Manoj Bajpayee told IANS. According to the acclaimed actor Manoj Bajpayee, the […]

India: Film makers threatened to remove song from film

The makers of the film ‘Guddu Rangeela’ have reportedly been threatened by religious groups that if they don’t remove the song ‘Mata Ka Email’ from their film, they risk facing “dire consequences”, including disruptions at the theatres. In Ludhiana, there has been demonstrations demanding a ban to be put on the film, and posters of the film […]

India: Rift in censor board over list of ‘banned words’

In India, the Central Board of Film Certification witnessed a “minor internal rift” after a board member publicly criticised the statutory body for releasing a list of words and references that it wanted banned from films. Objecting to the list of words ‘not to be used in film’ issued by board chairman Pahlaj Nihalani, board […]

India: Author gives up writing after book burning protests

Four years after its publication, Perumal Murugan’s novel ‘Madhorubhagan’ (‘One Part Woman’) has come under attack for blasphemy from religious and political groups. In December 2014, the right-wing Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, “National Volunteers’ Organisation”) burnt copies of the book, demanding the arrest of both the author and the publisher, and that […]

India: Writer faces death threats and book burning

Condemning the death threat to writer Perumal Murugan and burning of his book ‘Maadhorubhagan,’ members of Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists’ Association staged demonstration saying the threat by caste and religious outfits and the burning of Murugan’s book ‘Madhorubhagan’ were nothing but an attempt to crush freedom of expression. » Sourced through from:

India: Attempts to censor political theatre

Organisers and artists performing in the tiatrs – Konkani theatre – may soon have to submit a formal undertaking to south Goa’s biggest and most well-known state-run theatre performing facility, the Ravindra Bhavan, promising not to speak against politicians, government officials and VIPs, while performing onstage. » Sourced through from:

A history of literary censorship: three books

Three new works concerned with banned literature – from Joyce to Rushdie – are reviewed by Leo Robson in New Statesman • The Zhivago Affair: the Kremlin, the CIA and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book  Peter Finn and Petra Couvée Harvill Secker, 350pp, £20 • The Most Dangerous Book: the Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses  Kevin […]

India: Fundamentals of censorship allegedly ‘skewed and misused’

“In India the fundamentals of censorship seem to be skewed in many ways, and also misused,” wrote Shaumik Samar Ghosh in an article titled ‘Censuring the Censors’, which was published in The Indian Republic, India’s largest not-for-profit news portal, on 27 June 2014. “How does Indian censorship work? Article 19(a) of India’s constitution grants us […]

India: Supreme Court breaks police stranglehold on theatre

“If Chennai doesn’t have vaginas, it is full of a#*holes!” quipped Mahabanu Mody Kotwal in the opening act of The Vagina Monologues when it was staged in Mumbai. The veteran theatre actor and director had good reason for using the pun. In December 2010, when the play was to be staged in the city for […]

India: Pressure from fringe groups raise concern in film sector

A growing trend of fringe groups holding to ransom censor-certified films and attempting to stall their release has become a cause of concern for filmmakers, producers, and fans. In an article entitled ‘Holding Tamil box office to ransom’, The Hindu reported that insiders in the Indian film industry worry that pressure groups prevent the release […]

India: Tamil film pulled out of theatres in Tamil Nadu after protests

Cinematographer and filmmaker Santosh Sivan’s Tamil war-drama ‘Inam’, a story on a group of orphans during the Sri Lankan civil war, is being pulled out of theatres in the state Tamil Nadu following protests from Tamil fringe groups. Following a request by some Tamil fringe groups, five scenes had been removed from ‘Inam’, which narrates […]

India: Play cancelled due to protests from Hindu fundamentalists

After dates for the performance ‘Ali J’ were announced, it was banned from being staged in three different cities. “In spite of obtaining prior permission from the city police regarding the play, a team of police came to the venue and told us to cancel the show at the last minute. It was shocking for […]

Artist Alert: February 2014 | Article 19

Newsletter from Article 19, published on on 14 March 2014: Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and […]

India: Film on assassination of former Prime Minister banned

The Punjabi film “Kaum De Heere”, based on events related to assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has been banned in India, but it shall be released in Australia on 14 March 2014. India’s Central Board of Film Certification had declined to grant requisite certificate to the movie on 29 January 2014. » See […]

India: Publishers under pressure to withdraw contentious books

“Freedom of speech shrinks in the world’s largest democracy,” reported AFP from New Delhi. “At least one crucial pillar of its democratic edifice – the right to free expression – is being rapidly eroded, with ominous implications.” Amy Kazmin Penguin India, an arm of one of the world’s biggest publishers, the US-based Penguin Random House, […]

India: Tamil poets explains how music is permitted in Islam

“Islam is not against music,” said Tamil poet Abdul Rahman on 14 February 2014, and that statement was quickly quoted and republished on dozens of Indian news-sites and blogs. Abdul Rahman is the director of the Islamic Literary Organisation, Islamiya Ilakkiya Kazhagam – a pioneer literary organisation in the Indian state Tamil Nadu. “Islam is not […]

India: Publisher agrees to destroy book about hindu religion

Penguin Books India has said that it will destroy all available copies of the 2009-book ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ as part of an out of court settlement, reported The Guardian The book ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ written by Indologist Wendy Doniger takes a so-called “unorthodox view” of Hinduism. The out of court settlement […]

Artist Alert: December 2013 and January 2014 | Article 19

Newsletter from Article 19, published on on 12 February 2014: Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and […]

India: Signs of growing weather in film censorship

A filmmaker who has been constantly censored is now being awarded by the government. And the Central Board of Film Certification has indicated it wants to move away from the concept of censorship to that of certification. Two pieces of news from the Indian film scene which indicate a positive change. Almost all of the […]

India: Films at mercy of new censor board CEO – and his five-year-old daughter

The new CEO of India’s censor board has described his objection to some of India’s recent blockbusters based on the reactions of his wife and five year old daughter. » See on

India: Art themed on same-sex issues face censorship

The recent ruling by the Indian Supreme Court reinstating a colonial-era law banning gay sex on 11 December 2013 has caused anger and dismay from the Indian art community. Not just because same-sex intercourse has been criminalised, but because there could be far-reaching effects of the law, including censorship of the arts. From art shows […]

India: Threats to artistic freedom of expression

In India at the moment there are heated discussions, friction, clashes, court cases and rows over where limits to freedom of expression in the arts should be drawn or removed, often due to religious sentiments.   Recent incidents for example are an art exhibition being closed down, a film screening being stopped by the police, […]

India: Film screening stopped by police

Kamal Haasan’s controversial film ‘Vishwaroopam’ is facing a two-week ban in Tamil Nadu amid protests by Muslim community. It was released in Kerala, but its screening was stopped by police in Hyderabad over security concerns. Made in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, ‘Vishwaroopam’, which revolves around the adversities of war, is produced and directed by Kamal […]

India: Rap song about corruption asked to be removed from film

‘Eggjactly’, a rap song about corruption composed, written and sung by Jaaved Jaaferi, is banned form televison by the censor board – and might also be banned altogether from the film ‘Jackpot’. See on You can listen to the song on Jaaved Jaaferi gives an introduction on live tv to his song, ‘Eggjactly’ India […]

Artist Alert: October 2013 | Article 19

Newsletter from Article 19, published on on 14 November 2013: Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and […]

India: Film banned for allegedly hurting religious sentiments

The Allahabad High Court in Delhi has banned director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s romantic saga ‘Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela’ in Uttar Pradesh, India. The order to ban the film was passed on a petition praying for the cancellation of the Censor Board certification given to the film on 1 November 2013 and sought that controversial and […]

India: Growing intolerance against artistic expression

Paresh Rawal, one of India’s best-known cinema and theatre actors, talks about his play being stopped and growing political intolerance against cultural expression in India. See on Film release was hush-hush: UR Ananthamurthy The film ‘Samskara’ was released without much fanfare because there was a threat that it would be banned. This was disclosed […]

India: Artists protest against state-sponsored censorship

A protest march demanded that the Bombay High court immediately release of members of the cultural troupe Kabir Kala Manch. Published on on 8 May 2013. On 2 May 2013, artists, writers, journalists, filmmakers, students, cultural activists and actors from theatre groups marched in protest from Sriram Centre to Maharashtra Sadan in Mumbai demanding […]

India: Ministry organises festival of censored movies

An ‘Cut Uncut film festival’ is organised by the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in the end of April 2013. It will screen films which had been rated adult by the censor board, ministry officials announced. The film festival will run over three days as part of Centenary Film Festival, which is held from […]

India: Theatre activists arrested

Theatre activists Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali were arrested on 2 April 2013 on various charges, including criminal conspiracy and for alleged links to Maoists and Naxalites. They are being held in Mumbai, India, and according to Amnesty International they are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali are members of […]

India: Film about Punjab terrorism banned

The controversial film ‘Sadda Haq’, based on Punjab terrorism, has been banned by the Punjab government on the grounds that it will disturb communal harmony. Producers want the government to reconsider the ban. Also, the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Tejinder Khanna issued a ban order, prohibiting the release of the film in the capital Delhi, invoking Section […]

India: Filmmakers harassed, writers speak out

Though there have been several documentaries on Kashmir, including Jashn-e-Azadi by Sanjay Kak, filmmakers aren’t allowed to work there freely. They have to shoot with low profile and hide the cameras in robes or luggage. Otherwise, they may have their footage deleted and the work halted by the civil and military authorities, reported Kashmir Media […]

India: 256 movies banned in the last decade

The objections raised by the Central Board of Film Certification on these 256 films suggests that there are no specific guidelines on censoring movies in India. And on most of the occasions the victims of an irregular censoring process are the films that do not adhere to the mainstream narrative, wrote Soumik Mukherjee in an […]

India: Major media attention on lack of artistic freedom of speech

India has been enthralled in what Salman Rushdie called a ‘cultural emergency’, with writers and artists harassed for opinions. “In India today, it seems, free speech is itself an atrocity,” wrote Suketu Mehta in New York Times on 5 February 2013: “Writers and artists of all kinds are being harassed, sued and arrested for what […]

India: Panel debate about the writer’s place in a totalitarian state

In India, the most scintillating, thought provoking and interesting session of the Jaipur Literature Festival’s second day, according to The Hindu’s Vaiju Naravane, was a session entitled ‘The Writer and the State’ which featured a panel of writers, who discussed the writer’s place in a totalitarian state. The writers in the panel were: Ariel Dorfman […]

India: Activist challenges Indian blasphemy law

“Can you legislate against offence without compromising free speech?,” asks Caspar Melville, editor of New Humanist Magazine, in his report about Sanal Edamarauku, who challenges Indian blasphemy law on the basis that it conflicts with provisions in the Indian constitution which protect free speech. Catholic groups in India have brought blasphemy charges against Sanal Edamarauku, […]

Nepal: Indian Bollywood film screening stopped for “spreading hatred”

A radical faction of Nepal‘s ruling Maoist party has forced through that cinemas in Nepal may not show Indian Bollywood film. The decision to ban the films does not come from the government but from a political party. It is being implemented even so, because the radical faction of the ruling Unified Communist Party of […]

India: Film based on Salman Rushdie book not to be screened

Indian-born filmmaker Deepa Metha’s latest film, ‘Midnight’s Children’, may never be available to Indian audiences because of the Indian government’s aversion to the film. No outright ban of the film is currently in place. Instead, distributors allegedly fear soft reprisals and are avoiding the title. The film had its debut at the Toronto International Film […]

India: Renowned cartoonist arrested and charged with sedition

Aseem Trivedi, a renowned Indian political cartoonist, best known for launching the campaign Cartoons Against Corruption, and founding member of Save Your Voice — a movement against internet censorship in India — was arrested on 9 September 2012 and charged with sedition. Although the Bombay High Court has since granted him bail, Trivedi is

India: Dispute over independent film censor board

Punjab cultural affairs minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur announced setting up of a state-level censor board to “scan and screen content in music videos” in order to crack down on obscenity. The Central Board of Film Certification called it a ‘separatist move’. “The objective is to screen the content shown in videos and the lyrics so […]

India: Fear of offending religious sentiments lead to cancellation of opera

“Religious censorship crushes creativity. So is it ever right to ban art?,” asked author Jeet Thayil in a commentary in The Guardian newspaper on 10 August 2012 where he descibed why a six-city Indian tour for the opera ‘Babur in London’ was cancelled. The piece combines the contemporary poetry of Jeet Thayil with original music […]

India: Interview with censored film director

“They are a puritan lot, divorced from today’s liberal society and afraid to face reality,” fumes Indian filmmaker Ashvin Kumar about the Censor Board, as he recalls getting into trouble with the board for several of his films including ‘Inshallah Football’, ‘Dazed in Doon’ and ‘Inshallah Kashmir’. But not the one to give in, Ashvin […]

India: Writer challenges police censorship in court

Writer N. V. Sankaran – also known as Gnani – has taken the ‘procedural practice’ of submitting threatre scripts to police for prior approval to be tried at the Madras High Court. This was reported by Times of India Unlike other states in India, theatre groups in Tamil Nadu must submit a copy of the […]

Think piece from India on artistic freedom of expression

Incidents in Jaipur and in Kolkata, where Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen were prevented from participating in a book festival, suggest that Indian publishing will have to adapt its practices to those of the film industry – where Bollywood movies are routinely re-edited to accommodate protests of various kinds – if it is to pitch […]



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