FELICITATIONS

I HAVE RECEIVED AN EMAIL FROM HARRY SHAW

I have received an email from Harry Shaw <hshaw@rogers.com> Date: Sat, Aug 21, 2010 at 12:14 AM Subject: Letter to Indian Prime Minister Dear Ms Chowdhury On behalf of the Association of India Deoli Camp Survivors (1962), I would like to forward you a copy of our letter to the Prime Minister of India, dated August 19, 2010. We are requesting the erection of a monument at the former Deoli Internment Camp site, as an acknowledgement of the persecution of ethnic Chinese after the Indo-China border war of 1962. Attached is a scanned copy of the letter (pg. 1 & 2). In the past, you have written and published works on the subject of the ethnic Chinese community in India. Your latest book “MAKAM, A painful story of the Chinese Assamese across Assam” has become a household word among the Indian Chinese communities in India, Hong Kong and North America. As survivors of the Deoli camp, we thank you for your tireless efforts in reporting the truth and in raising awareness of the suffering and tragic plight of the Chinese during and after the 1962 war. We have silently waited for almost half a century for the government of India and its political leaders to bring this shameful chapter in modern post-independence India to a close. We hope that the government of India will do the honourable thing and approve our reasonable request. We would greatly appreciate any support you may give to our association, as we believe our request would be much advanced with your help. Hope to keep mutually informed. Regards, Harry Shaw Gen. Secretary Association of India Deoli Camp Internees (1962)

latter

 

COPY OF THE LETTER RECEIVED FROM ASSAMESE CHINESE SOCIETY:

assam_china

 

CHINESE BALM

Makum. The name is as exotic and beautiful as the terrible history it hides. A small, semi-urban habitat nestled amidst tea and oil country in Upper Assam, right at the heart of the region where India had first struck oil way back in the 1860s, it was here that a young girl from nearby Margherita would wonder about the fractured lives of what people told her were the ‘Chinese’. As she travelled through the area by bus during the 1970s, she would tell herself, “Someday, I will have to know more about these people. ”

Rita Chowdhury, now one of Assam’s best-selling authors and winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award two years ago, not only went on to learn about that little community, but unearthed a sad, forgotten and largely unknown story about its forced displacement during the 1962 Indo-China war. Their only crime: they had Chinese looks and names. It didn’t matter that they had completely assimilated with the greater Assamese community since the time their forefathers had been brought in as indentured labourers by British tea planters in the early 19th century.

It was her chance discovery of this history of statesponsored deportation of Chinese-origin people in Assam – a chapter that went almost unrecorded – that led to Chowdhury’s magnum opus, the 602-page novel Makam, which is into its fourth edition since its publication in early 2010. But for Chowdhury, it’s not about the sales figures. It’s what India, suspicious of the Chinese then – even if they were its own – did to an unsuspecting and innocent lot.

“The least India can do is apologise to them for the misery inflicted by an insensitive state machinery for just being Chinese at an inconvenient time, ” she says. Not only that, she wants the community, members of which are scattered from Hong Kong to Toronto with unhealed wounds in their hearts, to be given back the status of Indian citizens.

During her research, Chowdhury, who weaves history into fiction in her work, found that over 1, 500 Chinese-Assamese had been rounded up on November 19, 1962 and packed off to congested camps at Deuli in Rajasthan before being deported. The government auctioned their properties almost immediately. The author, who is now getting a documentary made on the traumatised families – some of whom had to live without fathers and mothers, husbands and sons, wives and daughters for years on end – has recordings of the deep sadness among members of the community she met during her research trips to Hong Kong and elsewhere.

“They still live with unhealed wounds, still unable to comprehend why they were deported even though they were Indian citizens for generations, ” Chowdhury said recently. “They still suffer from a sense of persecution, so much so that they were initially very reluctant to even talk about the past. But once they began, their emotional bond with Assam and India just flowed out. ”
One of the Chinese, who preferred not to tell his name on camera during a recording, recounted in pure Assamese, and with the soft Upper Assam lilt, how he was rounded up by police as he was returning home after finishing a paper in a matriculation exam. “I could never complete my matriculation, ” he told Chowdhury.

“Most of these Chinese, from mainly the Canton region of China, had been brought by the British to work in India’s tea plantations, ” the writer says. “Some had ended up in Assam after fighting as soldiers in the Second World War. The extent of their tragedy can be gauged from the fact that many of them had been marrying into other communities when the deportations happened. Many families got broken up as only the Chinese were sent away while their native-Assamese family members were left behind. “

Makam – which in Cantonese means ‘the golden horse’ – recalls this painful story. Using fiction as the format, it employs two parallel narratives to talk about the wounds harboured by the community and the time when Robert Bruce of the East India Company set foot in Assam in search of what he suspected was tea drunk by the Singpho tribals.

Now, as the Enemy Property Act is being amended, Chowdhury feels it is the right time to try and get at least a sense of justice to the community’s members. “It will be virtually impossible to get them back their properties, as they had been auctioned off, but we can apologise to them for the injustice caused to them. We can also try to get them back their Indian citizenship – for those who want to return. Many of those deported, though, have died already, ” she says.

Chowdhury met Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi who, she says, has assured her full government support in welcoming the Chinese-Assamese back, even if just as visitors. The subject came up in the state Assembly too, with full support from across the board in looking at it as a humanitarian issue.

“Total war declared by governments on civilians is always in violation of the UN’s Fourth Geneva Convention on non-combatants, of which India has been a signatory since December 16, 1949, ” Chowdhury says. “When the incident happened, Indian democracy was in its infancy and the media was not as strong as it is today to take a stand, which is why, probably, such a terrible thing happened. ” Will the golden horse bring a little succour for a wronged people’s pain? There are many who hope it will.

AT “WRITER’S MEET-RABINDRA BHAWAN AUDITORIUM”, NEW DELHI in 18TH Feb.,2009

It is my pleasure to be in this meeting arranged by the august literary body of the country. I consider it a priviledge to share my writing experience with you – the leading citizens and authors of the land.

I must thank the jury of the Sahitya academy for bestowing me the award for my novel “Deo Langkhui”.

This novel is based on the oral history of the Tiwa community-an ethinic community of Assam. The community, with a rich socio-cultural heritage and historical background has been maintaining its age old tradition and culture from time immemorial including the barter system and kingship. But unfortunately, this community has no recorded history and that almost unknown to the people outside its domain. I sincerely hope the award will help to communicate the rich tradition of the Tiwa community to a greater audience. I consider this award not only an honour for me but an honour for the Tiwa community as well.

My career as a novelist began twenty years back in a peculiar situation. I was actively involved in the historical Assam movement on the foreigner’s issue. I had to move from one place to another evading police arrest for nearly one year and during that period I came to know that the literary organization of Assam “Asom Sahitya Sabha” had announced a manuscript competition of novels on the subject “Assam Movement”. I wrote a novel entitled “Abirata Yatra”, put that in a gunny bag and send it to the secretary general of the literary organization. I was arrested in Guwahati. After seven grueling days and nights of interrogation under police custody I was send to Guwahati jail and from there to Dibrugarh Jail after a brief period. While in Dibrugarh jail I was informed that my novel had won the first prize. But the district authority did not allow me to receive the award in the Tinsukia session of the Asom Sahitya Sabha in 1981.

My second novel was published after eight years. By this time the Assam movement was over and the historic Assam accord was signed. The newly born regional party formed the government. That was the beginning of a new phase of the socio-political history of Assam. I got the opportunity to observe the political life from close proximity being a wife of a politician who was a minister of the newly formed government. I left the life of a social activist and start concentrating with the pen.

The creator in me was born in the environment of war, solitude and grief. The liberation war of the “Mukti Vahini” of East Pakistan had left a deep impact on my mind. Circumstances led me to be in the midst of young “Mukti Vahi ni rebels’ in a tranning camp when I was barely ten years old. The sudden death of my elder sister at this point of time broke my tender heart. Life suddenly became a void. And I entered into the territory of grown-ups. I took refuge in the world of books and the journey to understand life began in a very subtle manner-probably much before time.

The days of the Assam movement, the days in the prisons, the days in the capital complex at Dispur, Guwahati and many other experiences have enriched my pen. I have seen life from different perspectives. The Assam movement had taught me the meaning of greater life, the meaning of selfless love and sacrifice. It also gave me the opportunity to know many people, to understand the society more deeply. I have also learned what brings real joy to one’s life, what makes life truly meaningful. I have made the pen my own plateform. I want to construct a bridge to reach the people through my writing and to speak in favour of humanity. I have dealth with many social issues in my novels which range from abandoned children to terrorism.

The subjects of my novels have given me the opportunity to know many things, to interact with people from different walks of life, to see different societies, different lives which in turn have broadened my own horizon. At the same time these experiences have helped me to rise above the trivialities of life.

]

I HAVE RECEIVED AN EMAIL FROM HARRY SHAW

I have received an email from Harry Shaw <hshaw@rogers.com> Date: Sat, Aug 21, 2010 at 12:14 AM Subject: Letter to Indian Prime Minister Dear Ms Chowdhury On behalf of the Association of India Deoli Camp Survivors (1962), I would like to forward you a copy of our letter to the Prime Minister of India, dated August 19, 2010. We are requesting the erection of a monument at the former Deoli Internment Camp site, as an acknowledgement of the persecution of ethnic Chinese after the Indo-China border war of 1962. Attached is a scanned copy of the letter (pg. 1 & 2). In the past, you have written and published works on the subject of the ethnic Chinese community in India. Your latest book “MAKAM, A painful story of the Chinese Assamese across Assam” has become a household word among the Indian Chinese communities in India, Hong Kong and North America. As survivors of the Deoli camp, we thank you for your tireless efforts in reporting the truth and in raising awareness of the suffering and tragic plight of the Chinese during and after the 1962 war. We have silently waited for almost half a century for the government of India and its political leaders to bring this shameful chapter in modern post-independence India to a close. We hope that the government of India will do the honourable thing and approve our reasonable request. We would greatly appreciate any support you may give to our association, as we believe our request would be much advanced with your help. Hope to keep mutually informed. Regards, Harry Shaw Gen. Secretary Association of India Deoli Camp Internees (1962)

latter

COPY OF THE LETTER RECEIVED FROM ASSAMESE CHINESE SOCIETY:

assam_china

CHINESE BALM

Makum. The name is as exotic and beautiful as the terrible history it hides. A small, semi-urban habitat nestled amidst tea and oil country in Upper Assam, right at the heart of the region where India had first struck oil way back in the 1860s, it was here that a young girl from nearby Margherita would wonder about the fractured lives of what people told her were the ‘Chinese’. As she travelled through the area by bus during the 1970s, she would tell herself, “Someday, I will have to know more about these people. ”

Rita Chowdhury, now one of Assam’s best-selling authors and winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award two years ago, not only went on to learn about that little community, but unearthed a sad, forgotten and largely unknown story about its forced displacement during the 1962 Indo-China war. Their only crime: they had Chinese looks and names. It didn’t matter that they had completely assimilated with the greater Assamese community since the time their forefathers had been brought in as indentured labourers by British tea planters in the early 19th century.

It was her chance discovery of this history of statesponsored deportation of Chinese-origin people in Assam – a chapter that went almost unrecorded – that led to Chowdhury’s magnum opus, the 602-page novel Makam, which is into its fourth edition since its publication in early 2010. But for Chowdhury, it’s not about the sales figures. It’s what India, suspicious of the Chinese then – even if they were its own – did to an unsuspecting and innocent lot.

“The least India can do is apologise to them for the misery inflicted by an insensitive state machinery for just being Chinese at an inconvenient time, ” she says. Not only that, she wants the community, members of which are scattered from Hong Kong to Toronto with unhealed wounds in their hearts, to be given back the status of Indian citizens.

During her research, Chowdhury, who weaves history into fiction in her work, found that over 1, 500 Chinese-Assamese had been rounded up on November 19, 1962 and packed off to congested camps at Deuli in Rajasthan before being deported. The government auctioned their properties almost immediately. The author, who is now getting a documentary made on the traumatised families – some of whom had to live without fathers and mothers, husbands and sons, wives and daughters for years on end – has recordings of the deep sadness among members of the community she met during her research trips to Hong Kong and elsewhere.

“They still live with unhealed wounds, still unable to comprehend why they were deported even though they were Indian citizens for generations, ” Chowdhury said recently. “They still suffer from a sense of persecution, so much so that they were initially very reluctant to even talk about the past. But once they began, their emotional bond with Assam and India just flowed out. ”
One of the Chinese, who preferred not to tell his name on camera during a recording, recounted in pure Assamese, and with the soft Upper Assam lilt, how he was rounded up by police as he was returning home after finishing a paper in a matriculation exam. “I could never complete my matriculation, ” he told Chowdhury.

“Most of these Chinese, from mainly the Canton region of China, had been brought by the British to work in India’s tea plantations, ” the writer says. “Some had ended up in Assam after fighting as soldiers in the Second World War. The extent of their tragedy can be gauged from the fact that many of them had been marrying into other communities when the deportations happened. Many families got broken up as only the Chinese were sent away while their native-Assamese family members were left behind. “

Makam – which in Cantonese means ‘the golden horse’ – recalls this painful story. Using fiction as the format, it employs two parallel narratives to talk about the wounds harboured by the community and the time when Robert Bruce of the East India Company set foot in Assam in search of what he suspected was tea drunk by the Singpho tribals.

Now, as the Enemy Property Act is being amended, Chowdhury feels it is the right time to try and get at least a sense of justice to the community’s members. “It will be virtually impossible to get them back their properties, as they had been auctioned off, but we can apologise to them for the injustice caused to them. We can also try to get them back their Indian citizenship – for those who want to return. Many of those deported, though, have died already, ” she says.

Chowdhury met Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi who, she says, has assured her full government support in welcoming the Chinese-Assamese back, even if just as visitors. The subject came up in the state Assembly too, with full support from across the board in looking at it as a humanitarian issue.

“Total war declared by governments on civilians is always in violation of the UN’s Fourth Geneva Convention on non-combatants, of which India has been a signatory since December 16, 1949, ” Chowdhury says. “When the incident happened, Indian democracy was in its infancy and the media was not as strong as it is today to take a stand, which is why, probably, such a terrible thing happened. ” Will the golden horse bring a little succour for a wronged people’s pain? There are many who hope it will.

AT “WRITER’S MEET-RABINDRA BHAWAN AUDITORIUM”, NEW DELHI in 18TH Feb.,2009

It is my pleasure to be in this meeting arranged by the august literary body of the country. I consider it a priviledge to share my writing experience with you – the leading citizens and authors of the land.

I must thank the jury of the Sahitya academy for bestowing me the award for my novel “Deo Langkhui”.

This novel is based on the oral history of the Tiwa community-an ethinic community of Assam. The community, with a rich socio-cultural heritage and historical background has been maintaining its age old tradition and culture from time immemorial including the barter system and kingship. But unfortunately, this community has no recorded history and that almost unknown to the people outside its domain. I sincerely hope the award will help to communicate the rich tradition of the Tiwa community to a greater audience. I consider this award not only an honour for me but an honour for the Tiwa community as well.

My career as a novelist began twenty years back in a peculiar situation. I was actively involved in the historical Assam movement on the foreigner’s issue. I had to move from one place to another evading police arrest for nearly one year and during that period I came to know that the literary organization of Assam “Asom Sahitya Sabha” had announced a manuscript competition of novels on the subject “Assam Movement”. I wrote a novel entitled “Abirata Yatra”, put that in a gunny bag and send it to the secretary general of the literary organization. I was arrested in Guwahati. After seven grueling days and nights of interrogation under police custody I was send to Guwahati jail and from there to Dibrugarh Jail after a brief period. While in Dibrugarh jail I was informed that my novel had won the first prize. But the district authority did not allow me to receive the award in the Tinsukia session of the Asom Sahitya Sabha in 1981.

My second novel was published after eight years. By this time the Assam movement was over and the historic Assam accord was signed. The newly born regional party formed the government. That was the beginning of a new phase of the socio-political history of Assam. I got the opportunity to observe the political life from close proximity being a wife of a politician who was a minister of the newly formed government. I left the life of a social activist and start concentrating with the pen.

The creator in me was born in the environment of war, solitude and grief. The liberation war of the “Mukti Vahini” of East Pakistan had left a deep impact on my mind. Circumstances led me to be in the midst of young “Mukti Vahi ni rebels’ in a tranning camp when I was barely ten years old. The sudden death of my elder sister at this point of time broke my tender heart. Life suddenly became a void. And I entered into the territory of grown-ups. I took refuge in the world of books and the journey to understand life began in a very subtle manner-probably much before time.

The days of the Assam movement, the days in the prisons, the days in the capital complex at Dispur, Guwahati and many other experiences have enriched my pen. I have seen life from different perspectives. The Assam movement had taught me the meaning of greater life, the meaning of selfless love and sacrifice. It also gave me the opportunity to know many people, to understand the society more deeply. I have also learned what brings real joy to one’s life, what makes life truly meaningful. I have made the pen my own plateform. I want to construct a bridge to reach the people through my writing and to speak in favour of humanity. I have dealth with many social issues in my novels which range from abandoned children to terrorism.

The subjects of my novels have given me the opportunity to know many things, to interact with people from different walks of life, to see different societies, different lives which in turn have broadened my own horizon. At the same time these experiences have helped me to rise above the trivialities of life.

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