India

The India-China Conflict And The Ghosts Of 1962

For some, anti-Chinese rhetoric following the killing of 20 Indian soldiers is conjuring up memories of a dark and mostly forgotten chapter in India's history.

Protests against the Chinese attack in India.
Protests against the Chinese attack in India.
Dilip D'Souza

MUMBAI — Ramdas Athawale hit the nail on the head. Again.

Narendra Modi's minister for social justice found fame earlier in these virus times for a viral video in which he and a number others — including a Chinese diplomat — chanted "Go Corona Go!" Now, in the wake of our recent border clash in which China killed 20 Indian soldiers and injured dozens more, Athawale made the news again. "Restaurants selling Chinese food should be banned," he urged. "I appeal to people to boycott Chinese food."

It is, of course, a thoroughly misconceived appeal. Chinese cuisine and restaurants in India have nothing to do with China. And even if they did, this will hurt Indians — cooks, waiters and other employees — more than China. But if that's too intricate for those who like their blacks and whites, it's also a disturbingly dangerous appeal.

We've been down this road before, with tragic consequences. And the people who suffered that tragedy are, today, shivering in fear that they will suffer it again. All because of calls like this for a half-baked sense of patriotism.

Forget border clashes. We fought and lost a war with China in October and November 1962. We learn that history in school and, no surprise, it is invariably described as Chinese perfidy and betrayal. That characterization itself is worth examining in greater detail, but leave that for another time.

What is indeed a surprise to most Indians today, though — for this history isn't taught to us — is that because of the war, we incarcerated about 3,000 Chinese-Indians in a prison camp in Deoli, Rajasthan. Some were kept imprisoned until 1967 — five years after the war itself had ended. (The irony is that the incarceration itself also began after the war end: in late November 1962.)

We've been down this road before, with tragic consequences.

These were residents of India, all of them, mostly from our Northeastern states. Their families had been in the country for generations. They spoke largely English or Assamese or Hindi. In some cases, family roots led back to immigrants from China who had married locals and become locals themselves. Yet months of increasing hostility and scuffles along the border made plenty of ordinary Indians suspicious of our giant neighbor to the north, and it wasn't hard to turn that into anger against neighbors who merely looked like they were from that country.

When border scuffles turned into full-scale war, Indian lawmakers gave that prejudice legitimacy, with a series of laws that allowed for the arrest and incarceration of people who "looked Chinese." Entire families were rounded up; or just the husband; or just the wife and kids; or three brothers but not the fourth; on and on like that, the arbitrariness alone a testament to the irrationality of this effort.

In early 1963, a pregnant mother from Hasimara in West Bengal was also sent to the camp, and when her baby was born months later it was her one moment of joy in her otherwise gloomy, demoralizing camp existence, so she named the child Joy and when Joy grew up, she and I wrote The Deoliwallahs about this forgotten page of our history.

Indian President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan during his visit to the casualties of the China-Indian war in 1962. — Photo: Keystone Press Agency/Keystone USA via ZUMAPRESS

In the book, Joy tells her and her mother's stories of the camp, as well as those of some other camp survivors. Apart from the prison experience, the thread that runs through them all is the distress and betrayal they feel to this day. Betrayal because a country that was theirs as much as that of any other Indian did this to them. Betrayal too because the country has so completely forgotten that this tragedy even happened.

With hostilities between the countries ratcheting up once more, camp survivors and the rest of the Chinese-Indian community feel that 1962 fear knocking on their doors all over again. This is no off-the-cuff observation, because calls for boycotts carry traumatic echoes for Chinese-Indians.

Exactly the same happened in 1962: "Chinese" restaurants and other establishments were boycotted, then vandalized. "Chinese" people on trains going to the Deoli camp had abuse and stones flung at them. "Chinese" people spent those years locked away. Such is the logical end, if you start with the curious belief that not eating Chinese food is suddenly the patriotic thing to do.

Nor is the 1962 fear taking shape only now. China and India — the two Asian giants — have been unwilling or unable to solve their border argument for decades, which means that tension between them has become a constant that they seem content to live with. Of course they issue statements, like after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met China's foreign minister Wang Yi in Chengdu in 2018. The pair "resolved to intensify their efforts to achieve a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the India-China boundary question at an early date," we heard. They "agreed that an early settlement of the boundary question serves the fundamental interests of both countries."

China and India — the two Asian giants — have been unwilling or unable to solve their border argument for decades.

That was the 21st such meeting between Chinese and Indian officials to search for answers to the "boundary question." And that number itself isn't enough of a marker of futility, now we have a new number to hammer home the point: 20. That's how many of India's finest were killed on our border.

After the killings — as they started inflaming Indian tempers — Joy wrote to someone she knows in the community in Calcutta to ask if she was fine. The lady replied: "Thank you dear. Yes, I doubt we are all fine and I guess history is repeating itself again from 1962. It is now 2020 and no different. May God save us. Amen."

*The author, based in Mumbai, has written multiple books, most recently The Deoliwalahs: The True Story of the 1962 Chinese-Indian Internment, with co-author Joy Ma. He tweets at @DeathEndsFun.

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

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📣 VERBATIM

"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

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