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Muslim thinker Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie says Pasmanda Muslims have always identified themselves with Hindu customs & traditions as they have co-existed with them for centuries now



Representational image: Muslims offer Eid al-Adha prayers at the Jama Masjid

Social activist and Unani doctor, Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie, has ruffled many feathers among India’s Muslim community. He has become a marked man with his mother getting threatening phone calls about the safety of her outspoken son.

Hailing from a family of freedom fighters, who were closely aligned to the Congress, Fyzie has been often found supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is also the man who is putting the hitherto hidden problem of casteism among Muslims on the frontline of debate and discussions in India.

On the occasion of India’s 75th independence anniversary, India Narrative speaks with Fyzie about raging topics like Hindu-Muslim relations, social harmony, the Modi government’s relations with the minority community and why the Muslims do not discuss caste discrimination within the community as fervently as the Hindus discuss their own relationship with caste. Fyzie says that almost all Muslim bodies are undemocratic and represent the views of the miniscule upper caste Muslims.

Excerpts from the interview:

IN: We complete 75 years of independence. Where has Indian society reached in these decades?

Fyzie: Socially India has progressed. We have completed a satisfactory journey till now. I will say we have done better than average.

I say this because the political dispensation and the administration have tried to deliver social justice in the country. Efforts at eliminating social inequity were more pronounced among the Hindus than among the Muslims because even the Brahmins agreed that the upper castes have wronged the low castes. But the leaders among the Muslim community do not allow the low caste Muslims to break out of the social barriers because they deny caste and discrimination among Muslims.

I will say that people professing the ideologies of the Left, liberal and Muslim right wing did not allow the Muslims at the lowest socio-economic ladder to come up in the social hierarchy because of personal selfish gains.

I, as an Indian, as a Muslim and as an individual from a low socio-economic class would say that the country is on the right track in terms of uplifting the society. This is because government schemes have benefited low caste Muslims while schemes targeted at minorities have only benefited the upper caste Muslims because they garnered the gains from such schemes.

IN: You speak about caste-based fissures among Muslims. Can you elaborate about casteism in the community?

Fyzie: We look at this from the context of caste among the Hindus—which is largely-occupation based discrimination.

Among the Muslims the highest caste of people are the Ashraafs—which comprise the ruling classes in India who came from abroad. Here we also have the Rajputs who had converted as they too were the ruling class in India.

Next come the Ajlaaf—most of the working class of people comprising weavers, ironsmiths and artisans.

The lowest in the Muslim castes are Arjaals—sweepers, scavengers and those who work with leather.

Among these three castes in the Muslims, we have clubbed the Ajlaafs and the Arjaals together as the ‘Pasmanda’ Muslims. I call them ‘desaj samaj’ or indigenous Muslims. These are the Hindus from the Other Backward Classes (OBC), the SCs and STs who converted to Islam.

The Ashraafs—the upper caste Muslims say that casteism in the community seeped in from the Hindus. This is a widely-accepted view among the Left, the Hindus and everyone else. But I do not agree with this argument—I ask them that after having lived with the Hindus for centuries you only absorbed the vice of caste from the Hindus. Why did Muslims not absorb the positives—liberal values, secularism and harmony, from Hinduism? It is because the Muslims had their own discriminatory practices based on classes, races and sects as it spread from the Arab world.

IN: Do the Muslims in the other countries of the sub-continent also practice casteism, for example, in Pakistan and Bangladesh?

Fyzie: Both Pakistan and Bangladesh are basically India. Therefore, the caste issues that we see in India are to be found there also. However, in India, the constitution and government schemes have improved our social condition. In Pakistan, the Pasmanda Muslims are in a bad shape because the rulers treat them like slaves.

Pakistan is a heaven for the ruling Ashraaf Muslims while it is a hell for the Pasmanda Muslims.

We have to go back to the Arab world and the pre-Islamic tribes to understand casteism and discrimination among the Muslims. Though Prophet Mohammed tried to control racism related issues, he could only succeed partly.

We have to understand that the Saudis, the Turks, the Iranians, and now the Afghans, have practiced discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity. What I am trying to say is that discrimination exists in Islam from ancient times. It is not entirely a Hindu import.

IN: Why is it that casteism among Muslims is not discussed by the community as it has been discussed and debated within the Hindus?

Fyzie: The Muslims do not want to discuss casteism in Islam. The Ashraafs—the Muslim upper castes, want to protect their turf. They feel that social justice in India will take the power out of their hands. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) does not hold elections because its luminaries fear that they will lose control. In fact, no Muslim organisation has democracy.

Even if the Muslims are a minority in India, the benefits go to a small section of upper caste Muslims. A low caste Muslim finds it easy to get admission to the Benaras Hindu University (BHU) but not in the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) because the Muslim leaders have cornered the benefits for themselves.

That is why the low caste Muslims—the Pasmandas, do not want minority status. We do not want benefits based on our religious identity. We can only uplift ourselves through government schemes that provide us socio-economic benefits.

IN: You say that Indian society has made progress. We also have many Muslim activists and NGOs, so how is it possible that Muslims from the lowest classes and castes have not progressed?

Fyzie: No social reforms exist among the Muslims. There is no concept of social justice in the community because it is led by the upper caste Muslims. There is no discussion or acceptance of criticism in the community.

The NGOs are all run by the Ashraafs. They run such organisations under the garb of ideologies—Left, minority and some are run by Maulanas. Yeh sab log aapna varchasv banaye rakhna chahtein hain (They all want to maintain their hegemony).

When I contrast the situation with the Hindus, I find they realise the need for social reforms. That is why they accept the evil of casteism and debate its elimination. Indians have always been diverse for 5,000 years. They do not bother about the differences and have accepted diversity.

We feel that we are still being led by Mughal rulers. Would you believe that the low caste Muslims were not allowed to go to madrasas by the Mughal rulers. Similar examples of discrimination and racism against the low caste Muslims abound in times of Islamic rule.

IN: Is India becoming communal?

Fyzie: If the Hindus are becoming communal, they talk about it and then take steps to eliminate it. But then we also see that communalism among the Muslims is not discussed. The fact is that communalism among the Muslims is very strong.

For example, the Muslim League was formed much earlier than the Hindu Mahasabha.

My take is that if you want to finish off communalism from India, then you have to eliminate Muslim communalism first. The communal thinking among the Hindus will reduce on its own.

IN: Do you think India is becoming Islamophobic?

Fyzie: Regarding Islamophobia in India, the Ashraafs use Islamophobia as a tool. The moment you talk about social reforms and social justice among the Muslims, the upper caste Muslims begin alleging Islamophobia. If you ruffle the Muslim society by talking about reforms, the Muslim right wing immediately labels you Islamophobic.

These concepts are harming the Indian social fabric. The secular, Left and liberal establishments accept whatever is said by the upper caste Muslims.

There are Hindus who are communal but they are very less in number.

IN: The BJP government has been criticised over a number of policy decisions it has taken related to the Muslim community. What is your take on these?

Fyzie: I think the Modi government has taken steps to bring about reforms in the community.

Banning triple talaq has benefited the Pasmanda Muslims, particularly women. Divorce among the lower levels in the community brings shame not just to the woman but her family also. Divorce and remarriage are acceptable among the upper classes, but not among the people at the bottom of the hierarchy.

The elimination of Article 370 will benefit the Pasmanda Muslims. Certain castes or sections of Muslims like the Bakkerwals, the Gaddis and the Van Gujjars will be benefited. Till now all the political power in Kashmir was with the Ashraafs. The low caste Muslims did not enjoy the benefits of government schemes in Kashmir.

IN: Can there be truth and reconciliation among the Muslims and Hindus? How can we see religious harmony among the communities?

Fyzie: Jab aap Pasmanda samaj ko aage karanege tab aasani se Hinduon aur Mussalmano mein samjhota hoga (If you uplift the Pasmanda Muslims, harmony will happen automatically between the Hindus and Muslims).

We have to remember that the low caste Muslims have always identified themselves with Hindu customs and traditions because they have co-existed with the Hindus for ages. The Pasmanda Muslims will wear sarees, use sindur, and gift shringar during weddings—all of which are Hindu customs. But the high caste Muslims call these Hinduana (Hindu beliefs), therefore, gair-Islamic (non-Islamic).

This cultural discrimination has remained within the Islamic society because of Ashraafs.

Truth and reconciliation will happen if the Ashraafs are controlled. They still act as if they are the rulers, therefore, they look at us with the same mentality. When they go abroad, they give hate speeches against India and portray the Hindus in a negative light.

I think India has progressed well till now. In my opinion, the country has a bright future in terms of social progress and harmony between faiths. Meri rai mein 1947 se aab tak ka safar aacha hai (In my opinion, the journey from 1947 till now has been good).

I am optimistic about a bright future of India. Inshaallah!

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Air India, BIAL Partner to Create South India’s Top Aviation Hub



Air India and Tata Group airlines will partner with BIAL to improve airport services and connectivity at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport, including setting up an exclusive lounge for premium passengers.

Air India and Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) have entered into an agreement aimed at bolstering Bengaluru’s status as a premier aviation hub for southern India. The collaboration seeks to enhance air travel connectivity to and from India over the next five years.

Under the agreement, Air India, along with other Tata Group airlines such as AIX and Vistara, will work closely with BIAL to improve international connectivity, operational efficiency, and passenger experience at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru (KIAB or BLR airport). This includes plans to strengthen the group’s presence at the airport and establish a dedicated domestic lounge for premium and frequent travelers of Tata Group airlines.

Furthermore, Air India has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Government of Karnataka to develop maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facilities at the Bengaluru airport. This partnership aims to stimulate the MRO ecosystem and create over 1,200 new job opportunities in the state.

Campbell Wilson, CEO and MD of Air India, emphasized the importance of airline-airport synergy in enhancing customer experience and operational efficiency. He expressed enthusiasm for strengthening Air India’s relationship with BIAL and expanding its presence at the airport, as well as establishing a major MRO center.

Hari Marar, MD and CEO of Bangalore International Airport Limited, highlighted the BLR airport’s commitment to becoming the international gateway in Southern and Central India. He stated that the collaboration with Air India aligns with the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s vision of developing Indian airports as hubs and aims to enhance the passenger experience. Marar also expressed ambitions to capture a significant share of long-haul routes from Bengaluru Airport over the next five years.

In related news, Air India announced the appointment of Jayaraj Shanmugam as its Head of Global Airport Operations, effective April 15. Shanmugam, who previously served as the chief operating officer (COO) at BIAL, brings extensive experience to his new role.

The collaboration between Air India and BIAL represents a significant milestone in the transformation of Bengaluru into a key aviation hub in the region. By leveraging each other’s strengths and resources, the partnership aims to not only enhance air connectivity but also contribute to the economic growth of Karnataka by generating job opportunities through the establishment of MRO facilities.

Jayaraj Shanmugam’s appointment as the Head of Global Airport Operations further solidifies Air India’s commitment to optimizing its airport operations and providing a seamless travel experience for passengers. His extensive experience in airport management, coupled with his previous role at BIAL, positions him well to drive operational excellence and efficiency within the airline.

As the aviation industry continues to evolve, alliances between airlines and airports are becoming increasingly vital to meet the growing demands of travelers and enhance overall competitiveness. The strategic collaboration between Air India and BIAL sets a precedent for future partnerships in the aviation sector, emphasizing the importance of cooperation and synergy to achieve common goals.

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March sees strong growth in Indian pharma market, up by 9.5%



The Indian pharmaceutical market (IPM) experienced a notable 9.5 percent increase in sales in March, reflecting robust value growth across various therapy segments, except for respiratory. According to data from research firm Pharmarack, all therapies demonstrated positive value growth, contributing to the overall expansion of the market.

Sheetal Sapale, Vice President-Commercial at Pharmarack, noted that while many pharmaceutical companies showed double-digit value growth, unit growth remained a challenge. The growth in sales during March was primarily driven by value growth and new introductions, particularly in the anti-diabetic segment.

Several factors contributed to the uptick in sales, including new product introductions and patent expiries. For instance, there were multiple launches in the hematinic market following the loss of exclusivity rights for iron supplement Orofer FCM in October 2023. Additionally, patent expiries for drugs like Linagliptin and Dulaglutide further fueled competition in the anti-diabetic segment.

In March, Alkem emerged as one of the few companies reporting positive unit and value growth, with a 15.1 percent increase in value and an 11.3 percent increase in units sold. Other key players such as Cadilla, Fourrts, and Natco Pharma also witnessed double-digit value and unit growth during the month.

The top-selling medicine brands in March included Glaxo Smith Kline’s Augmentin and USV’s Glycomet GP, with Augmentin achieving sales of Rs 73 crore. Despite facing challenges in unit growth, Augmentin reported a 10 percent increase in value sales. Mankind’s Manforce condom brand retained its position as the third top-selling brand, despite negative unit and value growth.

Cipla’s Foracort inhaler maintained its fourth position in the respiratory segment, with sales totaling Rs 50 crore. Abbott’s Type 2 diabetes/weight management drug Rybelsus demonstrated remarkable growth, with a double-digit value growth rate of 7 percent and a staggering 75 percent increase in units sold in March.

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McDonald’s buys all Israeli franchise restaurants amid boycotts



Aljazeera said that McDonald’s announced it will purchase its 30-year-old Israel franchise from Alonyal Ltd., taking back control of 225 outlets that employ more than 5,000 people. After US fast-food business Alonyal announced that it would be giving free meals to the Israeli soldiers in response to the October 7 bombing by Palestinian group Hamas, there were protests and boycotts. While McDonald’s is a global corporation, its franchises are typically locally owned and operate independently. Its CEO, Chris Kempczinski, said previously that the company had seen “meaningful business impact” in several markets in the Middle East and some outside the region due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, as per Aljazeera.

“For more than 30 years, Alonyal Limited has been proud to bring the Golden Arches to Israel and serve our communities,” Omri Padan, CEO and owner of Alonyal, said in a statement on Thursday. According to Aljazeera, McDonald’s added that it “remains committed to the Israeli market and to ensuring a positive employee and customer experience in the market going forward.” Following the transaction’s completion in the coming months, McDonald’s will assume ownership of Alonyal’s outlets and operations, maintaining its current workforce. However, the terms of the transaction were not disclosed by the companies involved. In February, Kempczinski said that the war had had a “disheartening” effect on sales in Middle Eastern countries and other Muslim-majority nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia. “So long as this conflict, this war, is going on, we’re not expecting to see any significant improvement in this,” Kempczinski said in a conference call. “It’s a human tragedy, what’s going on, and I think that does weigh on brands like ours.”

During October–December, sales growth for the fast-food chain’s Middle East, China, and India division was only 0.7 percent, significantly lower than market projections of 5.5 percent. This decline follows calls for a McDonald’s boycott by customers in Muslim countries, prompted by Alonyal’s announcement. Consequently, franchisees in nations like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia distanced themselves from the donations, collectively pledging millions of dollars in aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

While Chicago-based McDonald’s is known as one of the United States’ most iconic brands, most of its restaurants worldwide are locally owned and operated. Another prominent Western fast-food chain, Starbucks, has also faced boycott campaigns due to its perceived pro-Israeli stance and alleged financial ties to Israel. CEO Laxman Narasimhan told journalists in February that Starbucks saw a “significant impact on traffic and sales” in the Middle East but also in the US, where protesters campaigned against the Seattle-based company, calling for it to take a stand against Israel.

Domino’s, a US-based pizza maker with franchises around the world, also faced blowback after posts on social media claimed without evidence that it had also given free food to Israeli soldiers. The brand’s same-store sales dipped by 8.9 percent in Asia in the second half of 2023, mainly because consumers in Malaysia associated it with the US, an Israeli ally, a company official said.

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Disney CEO targets password-sharing, following Netflix



Disney CEO Bob Iger has revealed plans to tackle password-sharing on the company’s streaming platform, set to commence in June. Iger stressed in a CNBC interview the importance of consolidating the streaming industry, with the initiative aimed at boosting subscriber growth and improving profitability. He articulated aspirations for achieving double-digit margins for the business.

This move mirrors actions taken by streaming giant Netflix, which experienced a substantial surge in subscribers after cracking down on password-sharing, surpassing Wall Street’s expectations by adding nearly 22 million subscribers in the latter half of last year.

Iger’s announcement closely follows a proxy battle against Disney’s activist investors, including Nelson Peltz, who had criticized Disney’s performance in the streaming-television sector. Reflecting on the outcome of the proxy vote, Iger expressed satisfaction with the resounding endorsement of the board’s strategies, particularly concerning CEO succession. Moreover, Iger has also hinted at ongoing plans regarding partnerships for ESPN.

The victory in the proxy battle strengthens Iger’s position as Disney endeavors to revitalize its film and television franchises, achieve profitability in its streaming division, and establish partnerships for ESPN’s digital expansion.

Last year, Netflix expanded its crackdown on password-sharing to over 100 countries, extending beyond the United States. As part of its efforts to address market saturation and explore new revenue avenues, the platform implemented restrictions on password-sharing and introduced a subscription option supported by ads.

Emails were sent out to customers in 103 countries and territories, including key markets such as the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Singapore, Mexico, and Brazil, in May 2023. These emails reiterated Netflix’s policy that accounts should only be used within a single household.

To ease the transition, Netflix provides paying customers with the option to add an extra member from outside their household for a supplementary monthly fee. In the United States, this fee amounts to $8 (Rs 660). Members are also given the ability to transfer a person’s profile to maintain their viewing history and personalized recommendations, ensuring a seamless experience.

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India’s Ayurveda market to reach Rs 1.2 trillion by FY28



The Ayurveda product market in India is poised for substantial growth, with projections indicating a remarkable increase in market value to Rs 1,20,660 crore ($16.27 billion) by FY28 from the current Rs 57,450 crore ($7 billion), according to a study conducted by Ayurveda tech startup NirogStreet.

The surge in the Ayurveda product market can be attributed to several factors, including the escalating demand for natural and herbal remedies both domestically and internationally. Additionally, the rise in the number of Ayurvedic medical practitioners, coupled with government initiatives and the emergence of new entrepreneurs in the sector, has further fueled the market’s expansion.

NirogStreet’s survey revealed that the overall market for Ayurveda products and services is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 15 percent from FY23 to FY28. Specifically, the product and service sectors are anticipated to witness growth rates of 16 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, during this period.

The survey also shed light on the Ayurvedic manufacturing landscape in India, estimating its value at Rs 89,750 crore ($11 billion) in FY22. This figure encompasses the value of exports, amounting to around Rs 40,900 crore ($5 billion), with imports estimated at Rs 8,600 crore ($1 billion).

Participation in the survey was significant, with approximately 7,500 manufacturers from 10 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, and Kerala.

At a recent CII AYUSH Conclave, Padmashri Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, Secretary, Ministry of AYUSH, emphasized the importance of positioning AYUSH products in global markets and fostering innovation within the ecosystem. He highlighted that the AYUSH sector has witnessed remarkable growth, reaching $24 billion in a span of 10 years.

In light of this exponential growth trajectory, NirogStreet underscored the significant potential of the Ayurveda product market to become a key contributor to India’s economy.

The recent surge in the Ayurveda product market underscores a broader global trend towards holistic and natural wellness solutions. As consumers increasingly prioritize health and well-being, Ayurveda’s ancient wisdom and emphasis on holistic healing are gaining traction worldwide.

India’s rich heritage in Ayurveda positions it as a global leader in this burgeoning industry. The country’s vast array of medicinal herbs, traditional knowledge, and skilled practitioners serve as key assets in driving the growth of the Ayurveda sector. However, amidst the promising growth prospects, challenges persist, including the need for stringent quality control measures, standardization of products, and greater awareness about Ayurveda’s efficacy. Addressing these challenges will be crucial in ensuring the sustainable growth of the industry and maintaining consumer trust.

The endorsement of Ayurveda by government authorities and the proactive role of industry stakeholders in promoting innovation and research are essential steps towards realizing the full potential of the sector. In conclusion, the projected growth of India’s Ayurveda product market signifies a transformative shift towards holistic wellness and natural remedies. With concerted efforts from both public and private sectors, the Ayurveda industry is poised to emerge as a significant driver of economic growth while enriching lives with its time-tested principles of well-being.

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Byju’s accused of breaching loan terms, share sale restricted by arbitrator



An Indian ed-tech startup, Byju’s, is facing fresh challenges as it grapples with allegations of breaching loan agreements worth $42 million, according to a confidential order seen by Reuters. The company, once valued at $22 billion, has encountered a series of setbacks, including regulatory probes and management controversies, leading to a significant decline in its valuation to approximately $250 million.

MEMG Family Office, led by Indian billionaire doctor Ranjan Pai, initiated arbitration proceedings against Byju’s in March, alleging non-repayment of loans totaling $42 million. The dispute revolves around the failure to transfer certain shares of a Byju’s group company, Aakash Education, as per the pre-agreed terms.

An arbitrator, appointed under Singapore International Arbitration Centre rules, has issued an order prohibiting Byju’s from selling 4 million shares of Aakash Education, equivalent to a 6% stake based on last year’s agreement. The arbitrator’s order indicates a case of breach of the loan agreement, according to the April 4 order, as reported by Reuters.

Byju’s has not yet commented on the matter. However, a source close to the company revealed that negotiations are underway with MEMG to resolve the dispute, suggesting that the order may not significantly impact Byju’s operations.

During the arbitration proceedings, Byju’s cited difficulties in obtaining timely approvals from certain investors necessary for the share transfer, as stated in the order. Additionally, the company has faced challenges in accessing recently raised funds due to a legal dispute with some investors, resulting in delays in staff payments, as highlighted in an internal memo last month. Furthermore, in February, a U.S. unit of Byju’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in a Delaware court, listing liabilities ranging from $1 billion to $10 billion, adding to the company’s financial woes.

The escalating legal battles and financial woes facing Byju’s have cast a shadow over its once-stellar trajectory in the Indian startup ecosystem. The company, which was hailed as India’s biggest startup with a valuation of $22 billion in 2022, has seen its fortunes plummet amid a string of controversies and challenges.

The allegations of mismanagement and breach of loan agreements have further dented Byju’s reputation, raising concerns among investors and stakeholders about the company’s ability to navigate its current predicament. The emergence of regulatory probes and management upheavals has added fuel to the fire, exacerbating uncertainties surrounding the company’s future prospects.

The arbitration proceedings initiated by MEMG Family Office, led by prominent Indian entrepreneur Ranjan Pai, underscore the growing tensions between Byju’s and its creditors. The failure to adhere to pre-agreed terms and the subsequent legal dispute have not only tarnished Byju’s standing but also raised questions about its governance and financial stewardship.

Moreover, the revelation of Byju’s struggles in accessing funds and meeting its financial obligations, including staff payments, paints a grim picture of its operational challenges. The bankruptcy filing by its U.S. unit further underscores the severity of the situation, with liabilities stretching into the billions of dollars.

Amidst the turmoil, Byju’s faces a critical juncture as it grapples with the fallout from its recent setbacks. The company’s leadership, including CEO Byju Raveendran, is under intense scrutiny, with calls for accountability and decisive action to address the mounting concerns.

As Byju’s endeavors to navigate through turbulent waters, the outcome of its legal battles and efforts to restore investor confidence will likely shape its trajectory in the fiercely competitive ed-tech landscape. The challenges ahead are daunting, but Byju’s resilience and ability to adapt may ultimately determine its fate in the evolving startup ecosystem.

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