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Talk on Indian-Chinese Internment in 1962

The 1962 Chinese debacle saw them interned and released after 1966 to find their property confiscated. Many moved to Canada, Hong Kong and some even back to Mainland China. The blind-striving by land-deprived peasants in John Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’ must have seemed like a picnic for these latest set of Chinese refugees.

Indian-Chinese restaurant owners, carpenters, leather workers and a host of others in Kolkata and in northeast India, who were born in India, got a midnight knock in 1962 and told to pack their bare minimum to move to an internment camp in Rajasthan.

Their belongings were confiscated. Though not shoved into cattle-cars, the seven-day journey to Deoli camp, Rajasthan, was not a pleasant one with a few dying on the way.

During the internment, a few signed papers offering themselves for deportment to mainland China. After the 1962 war, China supposedly sent ships to pick them up. For those who chose to stay behind, the end of the internment came after 1965. When they returned to their former homes, they found their properties occupied and their confiscated belongings, which were stored in a shed, looted. They had to report everyday to a police station. The Enemy Property Act applied to the Indian-Chinese people.

Japanese-Americans were interned during WW-II in the US. The German-Americans were spared this treatment. Much later, the US apologised to the Japanese-Americans.

One Ms Kwai-Yun Li who was interned is now a Canadian citizen. She has submitted a thesis which is posted in parts at icucik.blogspot.com. She has interviewed many Indian-Chinese now settled in Canada.

Many Indians’ first reaction when they hear about the internment is an incredulous, “It couldn’t have happened in India of the Mahatma.” They then try and get out of denial mode by saying that censorship must have masked the truth.

The Indian-Chinese numbers are not high enough to count for electoral clout, so it is up to others to shout for them. There have been attempts by the media to highlight the issue earlier, but it has yet to sink into the Indian consciousness.

Mr Paul Chung, President of the Indian-Chinese Association, is maintaining three blogspots, namely http://indianchinese.blogspot.com; ciclk.blogspot.com and icucik. Blogspot.com. Modalities of an apology to the Indian-Chinese could be worked out in consultation with him.

Talk on Indian-Chinese Internment in 1962

Pause in Times (http://maraa.in/arts/projects/) of Conflict is a monthly forum for reflection on creative practices in places of conflict, organized by maraa- a media and artscollective(http://maraa.in/). Since our first Pause in July, we have reflected on a diverse range of creative practices and explorations emerging from and connected to Palestine, Iraqi Kurdistan, Kabul, Kashmir, the Emergency and DubPoetry.

This month we are pausing at stories of the Chinese-Indian community caught in the 1962 border war through a talk by Kwai-Yun Li and photographs by Vidura Jang Bahadur.

On 9th Feb, Kwai Yun Li will present “‘Quit India’ orders: the waning of the ethnic Chinese population in India,” a talk that will attempt to tell the story of an ethnic minority group caught in a border dispute.

Free and open to the public, the event was held from 6 pm onwards at The Ants Cafe, Behind New Horizon School, 100 Feet Road, Indiranagar, Bangalore.

About the Talk: The first Chinese immigrated to India from China in the 1770s. In the early 1800s, the East India Company decided to convert the jungle in Assam into tea plantations and they recruited “tea planters” from China. The Chinese immigrants continued to arrive in India.

On October 20, 1962, the Chinese and Indian armies clashed in NEFA (North-EastFrontier Agency, modern day Arunachal Pradesh) in the north-east and Aksai Chinin the north-west. The Indian Army suffered a humiliating defeat. The Indian government interned over 2,000 Chinese residents in Deoli Detention Camp, Rajasthan; deported an equal number to China and enacted a series of anti-Chinese ordinances and laws.

About Kwai-Yun Li: Kwai’s parents immigrated from Moi Yen, China to Calcutta, India in the 1920s. The youngest of nine children, she was born inthe sleeping alcove at the back of the family shoe-shop in Calcutta. Sheimmigrated to Toronto in 1972 and became an accountant. While working in accounting, Kwai returned to school and became a writer. Read more about her on www.kwaiyunli.com.