Ming-Tung Hsieh has stoically borne the scars of internment for over half a century. But on Wednesday, he broke down and wept unabashedly. Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s apology to Indian Chinese for the torture, harassment and wrongs done by the Indian government during the Sino-Indian War in 1962 had a cathartic effect on not just Hsieh but scores of Chinese who still recoil with fear when they look back at those dark years.
On the eve of Narendra Modi’s trip to China, Singh said: “I feel sorry for those Chinese Indian people, who were separated from their families and were tortured, harassed, looted and who became homeless. They had already been assimilated to the Indian society when they had to face that unfortunate state of affairs.”
Speaking to TOI on Thursday, Ming-Ting, the author of ‘A Lost Tribe‘ — part memoir, part history of Indian Chinese and their tryst with the concentration camp in Deoli, Rajasthan — said Singh’s acknowledgement was a crucial step towards restoring the confidence of Indian Chinese that had been dented by the inhuman treatment during the war.
“The police arrived one day, packed our family into vans and took us to Alipore jail. A few days later, we were put on a train and bundled to a concentration camp. Though my parents pleaded for us, there was no forgiveness. Thousands of small traders were caught in the border dispute and arrested because of their ethnicity. Some were taken to the border and pushed across to China even though most had never been to the country. Such ethnic cleansing-like measures instilled fear in the community. That fear outlived a generation and triggered an exodus,” he said.
Ming-Tung, who was born at Tiretti Bazaar in 1943, now lives mostly in Canada where his children migrated once they grew up. Some went to Taiwan, US, UK and Australia. “In 50 years, a population goes up by two-three times. Ours has halved from 10,000 to 5,000,” said his cousin Ying-Hsing Hseih, owner of Big Boss restaurant at Tangra.
Ying-Hsing was 12 when the war broke out. His family was put under house arrest. “I was lucky as I could even go to the local school. But classrooms were empty. Some did not have teachers. In others, many students were missing,” the restaurateur said. The Pei May school has no students today.
No just Kolkata Chinese, who are living here for two centuries, were tortured, those from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Meghalaya were also picked up and sent to the camp. Liao-Han Shen, who was also sent to Deoli camp when he was 12, recalled how people instigated the pro-Taiwan Chinese to fight with pro-China ones. “We spent four years in the camp barracks. It still haunts us,” said Liao-Han who runs the Golden City restaurant. Paul Chung of the Indian-Chinese Association is glad that the government has finally acknowledged a wrong but says it is only the first step to setting things right. “We were born in India and are Indians. The government must exonerate all Indian Chinese who were branded a spy in 1962,” said Paul.
source: Times of India