Voice of Chinese – Indian Hostage of Deoli Camp, India – China War 1962
Voice of Chinese – Indian Hostage of Deoli Camp
India – China War 1962
Also see: My blog post on Calcutta (Kolkata) Chinatown
The Sino – India War lasted just a month (20 Oct – 21 Nov 1962) but the ordeal of the Chinese origin Indian continued over four years.
Just after the India – China war thousand of Chinese origin Indians, who have been living in India for generation and for centuries, were horded up in trains and were sent to a concentration camp in Deoli in Rajasthan.
Initially the deportation started from Assam and other North Eastern states but soon it spread to Darjeeling region of West Bengal. Soon the Indian intelligence made their inroads, from the boarder areas and into the Chinatown of Kolkata.
In 1962 Kolkata’s two Chinatowns (old one at Tiretta Bazar and new one at Tangra) were in its full glory housing about 20,000 + people of Chinese origin.
Several of the Chinese families from Kolkata were sent packing to Deoli but most of them were spared.
But why were these families selected? with lack of official records it still remains a mystery even after half a century.
Most of the hostages spent about two years in the Deoli Camp but few were unlucky enough to spend more than four years, the reason of discrimination is still a mystery.
After the release most lost their properties and few even were packed out to China. Many of these Deoli interns later migrated to Canada and the USA.
Recently these Indian Chinese in Canada and USA have come together to put forward their story to the rest of the world.
Rafeeq Ellias, a film maker, have made a documentary. It narrates the experience of Chinese Indian hostages at the Deoli camp, sadly the documentary only covers Indian Chinese of USA and Canada, the Kolkata Chinese have been left out.
Recently these innocent suffers of the Sino – Indian War have come under the same roof and are calling themselves Deoliwalas.
They have already meet Indian officials at Delhi and are looking for an official apology from the Indian Government, something which the Japanese American received in 1998 for their detention during the World War II (WWII).
After a session in Delhi the Deoliwalas Michael Cheng (USA) and Steven Wan (Canada) travelled to Kolkata to share their Deoli experience. They were also joined in by Kolkata Chinese John Liao, also a victiom of Deoli camp
It was a initiative of The Chinese Indian Association, which is headed by Bean Ching Law (popularly known as Binny), a Kolkata Chinese. The session started at the auditorium of iLead, a management and communication school, in Tangra, with a brief introduction by Binny.
It started with a short introduction from Binny followed by the screening of Rafeeq Ellias’ documentary, then it was left to the three Deoliwalas to share their first hand experience.
Cheng was the first to start, he was only six but memories are still vivid and scars even deeper. He told the story of their arrest from their Darjeeling home and how they were treated as criminals. He also spoke about the long and uncertain train journey.
But Cheng’s greatest regret was about his education, after loosing two years of education never got admitted in school and had no formal education.
He also narrated the story about his struggle after the camp and finally migrating to USA.
Wan, was the next to speak. His family was arrested from Kalimpong on the last day of the Sino – India war and he was 13. He spoke of the poor health facilities and the camp doctor giving the same pink liquid for all ailments. He also narrated about his struggles after the release and his migration to Canada.
Liao, the lone Kolkatan on the panel, started with a totally different note. He started with saying that the “Deoli days were the best days of my life!!!” How can a person, who have spend four of his teenage years as a hostage, say so? Was it a satire? but it did not seem so.
The truth was revealed as he went deeper into his speech, it was at the Deoli camp he picked up the lesson of Confucius from elderly Chinese and it was here he understood the meaning of the word tolerance. It was probably because of his lessons of tolerance he was able to locate the small dots of light in the otherwise dark days of Deoli. So he mentioned about the good food and the singing and dance sessions under the night sky.
In the Deoli Camp he also got fascinated by Homeopathy, from the camp homeopath. Even though he went on to miss four years of education, but later joined school and went on to have a degree in homeopathy.
The session ended with a brief Q&A session but the story is far from over….
On August 10, 1988, President Ronald Regan signed the “Civil Liberties Act of 1988”, which formally apologized for the war time imprisonment of Japanese – Americans
India’s Chinese community awaits its own dawn