Friday, 20 May, 2022
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With the anti-poor lockdown, BJP is back to its upper caste, middle class, urban roots

Demonetisation’s political gain was to rebrand the BJP as a pro-poor party. The poorly implemented coronavirus lockdown is undoing that image.

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There was a certain 8 pm ‘address to the nation’ with which Prime Minister Narendra Modi changed the image of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Once seen as the “Brahmin Bania” party of the Indian town-square, the BJP was now a pro-poor party that saw the rich with suspicion, à la Indira Gandhi.

This was a risky gamble that paid rich dividends for the BJP. And its calculation about its core Hindu upper caste, middle class, urban vote proved to be correct: they didn’t have any alternative to shift to.

Four years later, with another 8 pm ‘address to the nation’, Narendra Modi has risked his and his party’s carefully cultivated pro-poor image. The necessary but horrendously implemented 21-day nationwide lockdown due to coronavirus has unmasked the BJP’s pro-poor image, revealing that it remains in its disposition a Hindu upper caste, middle class, urban party. It thinks like one, even if it sometimes manages to act differently to woo the voters.

It is clear that the Modi government did not anticipate that daily wage migrant labourers in the cities will be forced by the lockdown to return to their homes, even if it means walking hundreds of kilometres. Such a lapse suggests a disconnect between India as its exists and the India of the imagination of 7 Lok Kalyan Marg.

Also read: How Covid-19 is changing Indian politics

The difference between Notebandi and Gharbandi

Many have counted the obvious similarities between notebandi and gharbandi, demonetisation and lockdown. Good intent, no planning, Tughlaqi farmaan, sudden announcement, four-hour notice, people dying, modification of orders on a daily basis, and so on. But there’s this big difference: demonetisation came across as pro-poor, anti-rich. The coronavirus lockdown is the opposite.

The lockdown was necessary and it will no doubt slow the rate of infection, thus “flattening the curve”. But there is little to suggest we won’t see a surge in cases, unless this lockdown is extended forever, which is not possible.

Meanwhile, the poor are already suffering from the harshest lockdown in the world. Only an urban middle class-minded government would decree showing Ramayan and Mahabharat on TV as a solution to the people’s lockdown woes, because it presumes that people are just bored at home. But the poor weren’t facing boredom. They were, and still are, facing hunger, homelessness, unable to find daily work. They have been asked to leave construction sites and hostels where they were put up by contractors. And since the Modi government has suspended all public transport, they don’t know how to get home.

Also read: Modi’s poorly planned lockdown won’t save us from coronavirus, but will kill economy

The subjects and the objects

Meanwhile, the police has been beating them up, treating them like objects. Officials have been spraying bleach on them as if they were the virus, caning them, making them hop. How do you think they feel about Bharat Sarkar after this treatment? And BJP-ruled states are markedly worse. The worst is Goa, where an overzealous chief minister, Pramod Sawant, won’t even let people buy bread and milk. Let them eat Doordarshan.

As migrants across India were looking for ways to reach home, public broadcaster Prasar Bharati actually asked people to post photos of themselves watching Ramayan. What we have here is a cognitive bias arising out of what the BJP actually is: an urban middle class, upper caste party.

It has achieved its awe-inspiring national dominance by shedding some of that image. It thought of smart cities over smart villages, neglected farmers to keep inflation low, and so on. It addressed the resulting backlash through freebies like toilets, LPG cylinders and affordable housing. After losing three Hindi heartland states in December 2018, the Modi government was forced to give cash handouts to farmers.

But in this moment of health crisis, it has bared its true self. Why are these labourers on the roads? Why can’t they just be where they are? These are the kind of reactions we saw from the BJP trolls on social media.

At least 22 people have died in highway accidents while walking home. Accidental deaths happen all the time, but people aren’t supposed to be walking on highways, and vehicles don’t expect pedestrians.

Also read: India’s democracy deficit comes in the way of its battle against COVID-19

Who has seen poverty?

Narendra Modi gave people three days’ notice to beat pots and pans, giving the BJP machinery ample time to organise a show of strength. But for the lockdown, he gave less than four hours. Trucks carrying goods, including essential supplies and perishables, were stopped at state borders. How were these truck drivers supposed to reach home? Eat food? No thought was given to such questions, because the BJP’s worldview is that of the upper caste, well-off trader who can just take a few days off and watch Ramayan on Doordarshan without a care in the world.

People in essential services are allowed to move around, but even they were harassed and lathi-charged by the police. Public transport is shut. How is the sanitation worker supposed to travel? How is the cleaning staff at the hospitals supposed to go for work? How is the hospital supposed to arrange transport for them amid a national lockdown? They’ve been walking many kilometres a day. Again, the BJP did not think of this because in its worldview, everyone has a car. Everyone it knows.

A belatedly announced economic package by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman does very little to give immediate relief to those who need it the most: migrant workers, daily wagers and marginal farmers.

This is not the moment when Narendra Modi could say, “Gareebi dekhi hai maine ( I have seen poverty).” With this lockdown, it is difficult to say if the Indian prime minister even knows what poverty is.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

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  1. Modi Govt has destroyed the informal economy of India. Fast forward two years and more – Demonetization (introducing cashless economy) which damaged India’s growth may I say permanently. Then the GST blow. Now we have COVID-19 and Lockdown – a war on poor migrant labour (at least 20 million in urban areas alone). ‘They’ want unorganised economy out of the picture. They want poor migrant workfoce out of the picture. They don’t shine, they don’t vote ? They are not tweeting ? Have you seen the acts of police brutality in the name of public health? This sheer negligence of the govt is wilful and deliberate. God they lack every emotion that ever existed .. Modi did say in 2014 – ‘Ab koi gareeb nahi rahega’ – Thhis is what he meant. What can you expect from him ? People see only what they want to see. All bjp lovers – can you logically refute any of the arguments made in this article?

  2. Shivam Vij, Shekhar Gupta, The Print, and all the “Liberals” are racist, casteist, classist, and anti-Hindu, anti-India, and anti-Modi. The whole cabal does not even understand WHY the people of India voted for Modi in the first place.


    All of you traitors are anti-national, including Shivam Vij!

  3. Theprint is one such biased media who chooses or trains writers to write anything anti-modi. You guys are slapping your own ideology of hatred, bias, racism, division by writing your own prejudiced minds and those blind anti-modi gang will join to support them.

    Theprint media is not taken seriously due to these narrow minded, immature views. Anyone can write anything, but to write something positive, you should have something in you as positive first.

  4. According to the author only Communist government like in West Bengal which made it Waste Bengal and killed all source of Income for people there and Italian Scamgress are the best choices for the nation. According to him Scamgress planned everything to the minutest detail and benefited the poorest with huge financial gains.

  5. Kitna ganda machaoge aaj toh Govt ne OBC reservation diya KV and JNV school se mei 27% usme toh nahi bologe kyuki u want to divide country in the name of caste…Kitna giroge tumlog ..I don’t know who is funding u ….But please iss desh ko mat todo …

  6. What is the matter with this person? Has he taken leave of his minute amount of senses? His anti-BJP stance has become the dance of the moron! why are you publishing ths drivel? please stop and desist!

  7. I see how politburo moderates comments.
    Lesson 1 .Equality where some people opinions are more equal than others.

  8. If there is any award for TRASH WRITING –by people claiming to be journalists , This writer -Mr Shivam Vij is first one who deserves it MOST to be awarded with this award. This will give The Print also honour of claiming its journalist has first right on stupidity. He does not understands the extent of the crisis through which the Whole world and India is undergoing . In most of the countries of the world , India included , hospitals are full, medical and para medical staff are under severest strain, other arms of Government are also working hard to mitigate the suffering of the people .But his Modi -hater is sermonsing and out-pouring his hatred against Modi sitting cool in his drawing room. if one reads this article with care , he himself has contradicted himself also . What a drastic fall of journalistic standards .


  10. Why this idiot is allowed to keep on writing these stupid articles. this person is just writing due to hatered for Modi and BJP. And hatered just blinds the mind and body.

  11. Total bogus and motivated piece and does not deserve a split second to waste. But, this piece is so bogus and motivated, have to. If Govt. had not done it (not locked down) he would have written that continuing status quo and not locking down Govt. endangering lives of poor and helping the capitalists and markets! Since Govt did that (locked down) in larger interest, He has changed the title conveniently. I sense that in the name of poor he is camouflaging somebody else’s motives. There is a deluge of article in the name of poor. Henceforth, will not read anything from this author.

  12. What a gem this author has produced. One of the ‘good RST’ so far.

    He is still not there in the extra ordinary leagues of jhollawalas who eat, drink, spew utopian ideas and fantasies not grounded in realities.

    Migrant exodus from Delhi is a result of announcement AAP at night after lockdown was in effect which is a fact.

    AAP government made arrangements to have these laborers transport to state borders.

    But let’s not get fact in the way of bashing and amping up attack on the central government.

    This reminds me of the epitome of jhollawalas Barkha.

    When Kashmiri hindus were being raped, massacred, pillaged and driven out of Kashmir she was screaming at top how some misguided youth are doing this but the overall sentiment in valley is of alienation in bringing the carnage upon Kashmiri Hindus.

    Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves Shivam…you still have to go through rigours of being a jhollawala to get to top like Barkha did.

    I have full faith you will get there eventually… prayatno vidhay prayatno vidhay.

    • This people are bullies.Their intentions are hostile towards us.Unless these people suffer personal loss they will not understand.the war should reach their house only that will deter them

  13. Selective lockdown of gated Indians in time and strict prohibition of assemblies could have saved us from this ordeal. But common sense public health measures take a back seat everywhere.

  14. Indian elections are not based on Economy. It continues since independence to be based on regional, religious and language bias.

  15. I am looking for a Chrome extension to block this guys articles from showing up on the Print page. If I don’t find one, I might have to block the Print like I have done with the Wire.

  16. Well analysed and articulated. But he would contuned be abused. His question why four hours gap when lock down was a confidential issue. Those who are depend on rizi roti through daily wages they also need time to prepare themselves to tackle lock down for long duration. I am like me and others who are lucky to connect and Commrnt, even abuse someone who is speaking his mind are not daily wage workers. Modi, his ministers supporters, Gandhis, Yogis and all others are not daily wagers.

  17. Modi knows poverty much better than you.He was not born with silver spoon in his mouth unlike you.He is a self made man who has the skin in the game who takes risk .He has not simply become the prime minister he has earned it .People know this that why they respect him.He is the underdog whom half baked good for nothing unaccountable upper caste janudhari intellectuals like you ridiculed.Still he won.Poor people vote for him because he is reflection of their aspiration.What more can Gandhi chattus like you do than sit and comment here.I can sympathise with your frustration.Modi will win again .Not moral win unlike you it will be real win.

  18. With every Shivam Vij “Opinion”, I am getting convinced that his hallucinations and imaginary is going over the roof. It’s high time he visits a psychiatrist and get lodged in an asylum.
    Dear Shekhar Gupta, with likes of Shivam and Jyoti Malhotra for company, you may start losing credibility in your followers and readers. Request you to kick them out and ask them to join Mojo or thewire. That’s the right platform for them and not the Print.

  19. Core BJP voters are upper caste Hindus. But just with their support BJP can’t win. Poor and down trodden were fooled twice. BJP Knows they may not win again. So they best thing is to not allow them to vote. How can they go about it? There was NRC. But they got better opportunity with corona virus. Lock down will not affect the upper caste, middle class. The poor will be the most effected. And many may probably die either via infection or starvation. Thus reducing the votes that may go against BJP.

    • Ya they are upper caste so what will you do.are muslims apologetic about their religion.Fuck yourself.Thats the reason you people targeted Kashmiri pandits isn’t it .If you wish ill for us there will be consequences we won’t suffer in silence like will also suffer.

      • Until you call yourself “upper” in caste there is nothing upper than shame and disgust about your religion. Wait and watch about how and where 5% of population goes.

        • I would be grateful to you if you can use your brains and educate me on how you plan to dissapear this 5% population .

  20. I don’t agree with most of the policies of govt. but these illogical articles should never be written. The print is obviously a sponsored media house to spread biased news, writers like him are mentally unstable, half educated and dangerous for India.

  21. Prime Minister Modi was faced with Sophie’s Choice. If he did not order a lockdown there would be tsunamic deaths. In the lockdown there would be calculable hardships, particularly for the poor. But if he did not order a lockdown, the poor would suffer the most with scant access to medical facilities. With the lockdown, the economy would take a hit and lead to massive unemployment. But if he didn’t order it, the spread of COVID-19 would mean the economy would be hit anyway with labour getting the disease.
    PM Modi has always shown awareness of the poor and underprivileged, even if it is for the vote bank. In this decision, he has chosen to ignore vote bank politics. The poor who will suffer will not love him. The middle class and wealthy will not love him for causing inconvenience. But, he has squarely faced Sophie’s Choice. And we have to bite the bullet. INDIAN EXPRESS

  22. shivam vij , are u paid by congress it cell to bash Bjp in social media ,by the way i am not a modi bhakt,, but ur journalism is soo crap & cheap ,it didn’t even imagine that u will bring ur caste feeling to this covid lockdown,every citizen of india is worried about their , and ur concerned abt caste ????? we don’t want paid journalists like u .

  23. So, basically PM should give a warning of atleast 2 weeks, wait for the disease to spread and then help people migrate from one region to another so that disease spreads more evenly. Dude, can you give me that thing which you are smoking?

  24. In Bangkok, a city of 8 million, the curfew is from 12 mid-night to 5am. Yes. you read it right, for 5 hours. And Thailand was the 2nd country to have the CoV after China. Other countries in this belt also have few cases.

    So why this national obsession with lockdown?

    Not only is Modi intellectually and morally bankrupt (see him doing yoga one day after all the heart-wrenching pictures/videos of homeless people walking hundreds of kilometers – sometimes with children and people as old as 90 years) – the rest of privileged India too joins him. You only have to read the comments here.

    This indifference to the plight of the underprivileged is the reason why Hinduism collapsed more than a 1000 years ago – not Islam. This will be the reason why it will not raise its head again unless it changes this attitude.

    Shivam is fighting a losing battle. But he should continue. Keep going.

  25. Is he journalist or a puppet of congress……. Always find out political views in crisis….. No matter what happened to the world.

  26. This poverty was created purposefully by letting population explosion happen with active connivance of religious fundamentalist and rent seeking intellectuals and journalists . While the nation was flooded with people who are poor and helpless.

  27. It is always easy to criticize in hindsight. I would have admired you if this piece was written right 1 day after lockdown. Suggest something useful for tomorrow. It is easy to say this is wrong..that went wrong.. all the time. I am amazed you are paid for such stuff. I think you reached to the print, only because you know English.

  28. If I say you are the hate monger or whatever sweat words I hurl on you and so on, it is evident that I see my own reflection in your eyes.

  29. What is your Problem Mr Shivam? Should the Government have given say 5 days notice before lockdown the kinfd of stampede that would have happened in all railway stations and bus stands would have been of much horredeous nature. But Alas thatis what you and your bretheren wanted. You all have problem with Ramayan & Mahabharat. Is anyone forcing to watch? Literally every household in Inda who has televison has choices from cable. All would have been well if they would have shown “Bharat Ek Khoj” – Grow up Man and stop cribbing. Demonstrate your intellect by contributing towards how we can come out from this. As usual not a single word on the horrific event happeing right at Delhi. Not a single word on the ordinance of Kerala Governemnt with Emergency Acts in place. Not a single word on Telengana Government action of ceiling borders but all crap thrown on Central Government

    • When you do not plan or allow people to get to their homes how could you expect anything different to happen. With these camps set up you are breeding the virus. Just plan insane what has happened!

      • Yes! You are right. Lets begin a fight with others. For a second if I assume that everything is right. Then why didn’t Prasar Bharti ask for the photos to show how these migrant and jobless workers are being fed? Can watching Serials on tv satisfy hunger? Again for a second if i assume that watching saktiman can satisfy hunger then how many these daily wage workers have tv with them to watch whatever being broadcasted? Have the people watching serials at home with lots of tasty meals ever experienced the state of joblessness and hunger? Writing comments is very easy, criticising writers is also easy but ask these commenters a thing that i m not going to ask because they probably won’t have solutions.

  30. Only journalists/thinkers like you could expose such hypocrites. They are blood sucklers of the humanity.

    Also, plz include Harish Khare as one of your regular contributors.

  31. Valid points. Unfortunately, since you have been Modi-baiting since the beginning of creation, there will not be many ears to listen to your points.

    Heard the “fire-fire” story?

  32. Utter nonsense. The author is blinded by Modi hate.he should be treated for mental illness lest he becomes a public threat.

  33. Keeping the Anti BJP rhetoric up despite government taking some good measures. No good measures were mentioned no mention of Mosque incident and how the mosque incident can turn out to be a super spreader event for India like the Church cult incident in South Korea. And why so much hate towards Doodarshan programs like Ramayan by intellectual liberal class (to which Mr Vij belongs).Can’t expect much from you Mr Shivam Vij.

      • As long there is anti hindu rhetoric there will be hindutva.Swift retaliation for any wrong that has been done by you people and the secular parties.deter dissuade preempt.thank God people can articulate at least through BJP they are not radical enough.

  34. History’s graveyard (or crematoriums) are replete with leaders who thought they knew everything. The sad part is they took many hapless people to their doom along with them.

  35. I think this kind of situation requires prompt action steps.. if the lockdown would have been declared well in advance .. I am Sure the migration would have been more what is now.. as people would have also done unnecessary migration and the chances of spreading virus would have been more and all highways and trains would have been overcrowded.. obviously not considering the migration is a big lapse in government planning

    • Virus was brought by globe trotting Indians and foreign travellers. Hence no transmission was there among ordinary Indians . Through humane and efficient planning govt could have facilitated their journey home .

  36. I agree. Only an insensitive government can offer reruns of TV shows for the well-off when millions are starving for food.

    • Frankly, if it hadn’t been Narendra Modi at the helm, lesser leaders would have preferred to have settled for half-measures, citing a combination of economic constraints and human deficiencies. India is a democracy and there is total freedom for intellectuals, contrarians and the fifth columnists to point to deficiencies, real and imaginary. The international media, particularly those based in the Anglophone world, also find it easy to present India as a land of chaos, heartlessness and stupid bigotry. There is enough in the subcontinent to feed this appetite. But what needs careful scrutiny is the fact that a national lockdown has been successfully undertaken in a country of India’s size and diversity. The economic costs of this lockdown will be unimaginably high. But the fact that we have put people over money is reason enough to believe that India hasn’t lost its head in a crisis. PIONEER

  37. Like Shivan Vij knows what poverty is. US educated delusional left liberal he is and yet he claims to understand poverty. How many villages in India have you visited? It’s the not the first time you’re being wrong but again you’re not a self-concussions person. A person driven by his hatred for Modi and I don’t know why ThePrint allows such rubbish here

  38. Waiting for you guys to also call it a Pogrom against poor. Negligence in planning, mismanagement at administration level is not an intentional act.

  39. In a democracy we get the government we deserve. After all, we elected them.
    Let each blame the earlier one.
    Now grin and bear it.

  40. Our Honourable Prime Minister may gracefully ensure that in the backdrop of World Economic Collapse,chances are there that Economic Crime Syndicates around the globe cannot further manipulate and make it a ‘Befooling Health Scam’.
    Further if there arises a French Revolution type situation,intellectual isolation may be further extended to forcefully prevent criticism and spread of spark.Even some wicked people in Bestile Fort might advocate indirect mass killing and weakening of social vitality through long mal-nutrition and starvation deaths to ensafe themselves.
    This will increase per capita income horribly!!!
    I am afraid that situation does not get beyond control with spiral effects.
    At this hour of external and internal situation,we need more real patriots.

  41. Dude really?. Upper caste, Brahmin?
    Just what do you write man? How does your crooked mind work? Hate mongers like you are a curse to this country more than the clueless, well intentioned leadership across the country.
    Is there any sense/logic to whatever conclusions you draw? Its high time journalism is more responsible and critical without bringing ideological hate into this. What sort of analysis is this?

    Its another matter that BJP lacked coordination ALONG with STATE GOVTS. The migrants gettin stranded is INHUMAN. It PANICKED given the enormity of the risk lying ahead. It lacked the EXECUTION. Thats what is the OBJECTIVE REALITY.
    You start giving CASTE color to it? Really an despicable act of writing. You need to revise your journalistic ethics. What a shame, a intellectually rich country is producing such persons who lack minimum decency to be objectively critical at this crucial juncture.

  42. For me, two enduring images. One, Marie Antoinette sitting in her drawing room, watching Ramayana on a giant screen. The other, milling crowds at Anand Vihar bus station, after the tube light flickered on in someone’s head, and buses were arranged for the long journey home. Both speak to the quality of governance on offer during a crisis, never mind in normal times. Thoughtless, callous, clueless, inept.

    • I had mentioned earlier that electing Modi as PM based on his record as Gujarat CM needs careful scrutiny. Inspite of being a relatively well off state financially, it has an average record in education, health, literacy, care for the poor and overall governance. The then Gujarat CM was good at announcing encounters of Muslims, blaming miya Musharraf and selling state assets to Adani. I am afraid that the national electorate bought into this narrative. The PM simply does not have the mentality to manage this unfolding catastrophe with any amount of empathy towards his hapless countrymen.
      I wish the media and right thinking people would force the BJP/RSS to take few competent non BJP persons into the ministry to 1. Tell the nation how bad the economic situation truly is
      2. Manage the consequences of this lockdown so that the wheels don’t fall off India’s economy.
      The record of the incumbent team left to itself isn’t inspiring.

  43. ##It is clear that the Modi government did not anticipate that daily wage migrant labourers in the cities will be forced by the lockdown to return to their homes, even if it means walking hundreds of kilometres. Such a lapse suggests a disconnect between India as its exists and the India of the imagination of 7 Lok Kalyan Marg.
    ##As migrants across India were looking for ways to reach home, public broadcaster Prasar Bharati actually asked people to post photos of themselves watching Ramayan.
    ##People in essential services are allowed to move around, but even they were harassed and lathi-charged by the police. Public transport is shut. How is the sanitation worker supposed to travel? How is the cleaning staff at the hospitals supposed to go for work? How is the hospital supposed to arrange transport for them amid a national lock down?
    Three Quotes from your articles are articulate enough..
    But I ask of you,why did not the MEDIA rule India at time of Corona 1st sight~ forewarning would have been better! Can we blame Modi only, I ask…
    Besides, given the current distress signals, should we not ask a few questions of what after this disease is contained and over 3o crores infected by Aug next….do we get a newer and better Social Contract then with the State than we have now~ will the New Constitution take cognizance of newer threats and how to deal effectively with such issues such as bio chemical warfare , Chinese hegemony!~its deviation into a reactionary regime~which must be soundly beaten under a do or die future policy, public health and transport issues etc.etc~ even an end to both Chinese and OR ourselves is a MUST if Chinese are formidable ~ importance of discipline, coordination,unity within communities.
    Unlike our recent leaders who are dealing with the present only and not the tomorrows, your News can take a different oath immediately….of planning with alternatives for a better tomorrow . Generations that survive and are t o be taken over by AI and Ray Kurzweil with the inevitable Brain Implants around the corner~ has your news yet heard of Kurzweil and what is about to occur or just rooted with the brilliant Harari only!
    We can then debate if today Corona Virus is an international conspiracy theory of making the world more manageable with 4 billion demography, getting smaller and smaller. No wonder Putin is gassing a resolution to be retained as President in Russia till 2o35!!! Cool planners are these Putins, XiJipings, and few others… investigate and retort you must on such issues also interlocutory to Corona ~much as the 3 Witches from Macbeth finally grind the POT dry in ATROPHY, which is our placebo effect to incineration. BEST REGARDS PRINT Am with you ….

    • Kitna Bada intellectual hai aap.mereko tera jaisa baneka hai.kaisa dimaaag Diya hai.salute parthosarothy.

  44. Yes, agreed.
    It’s all about the PROBLEM.
    Anything to suggest the SOLUTION?
    In this crisis, the CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE of the ‘Executive'( BABUs) is conveniently forgotten in this Article.

  45. Pathetic, disgusting, unplanned lockdown by PM Modi. It is evident when u watch TV news channels. People will die more of hunger than coronavirus.

  46. You are the most irritating person to read in this lock down. Believe me you do it better than most stupid politicians in india.

  47. Absolutely despicable. Stop pretending that only “upper caste Hindus” watch the Ramayana! This is the problem with you folks and your ilk – you constantly demean and insult Hindus!

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