The India-China War (1962) inaugurated a specific form of nationalism in India, one that mobilized a range of anti-Chinese sentiments and, over time, codified them into state policies. This ethnic nationalism targeted both an external neighbor (China), as well as India’s ethnic Chinese people, as hostile enemies. A series of ordinances, special orders, and citizenship policy reforms institutionalized by the Indian state brought a new status for those of Chinese origin in India; they were now deemed as ‘aliens’ affiliated with an enemy nation. The state’s unequivocal codification of exclusions and expulsions, justified exclusively on the basis of ethnic origin, were thus stamped on to the blue-print of national belonging through the suspension of various civil liberties, mass arrests, revocation of citizenship papers, deportation, and finally, internment in detention camps and jails. In addition, ordinary Indian citizens’ felonious conduct against the Chinese — public harassment, larceny, arson, physical assault, even homicide — constituted the ‘extra-judicial’ corollaries of the state’s discriminatory actions. Drawing primarily upon memoirs and oral histories published recently by authors of Chinese origin about their experiences in India since 1962, and supplemented by certain Indian state documents pertaining to the war, this paper privileges the perspectives of India’s Chinese community to render tangible the dynamic between national sovereignty and the politics of dispossession — material, legal, and social. The essay begins with an outline of the specific laws and policies that targeted the Indian Chinese, and then draws out, to the extent possible, the intimate realm of the community’s emotions, memories, and visceral responses to public and state actions. The paper subsequently focuses on the lives of those detained at the Central Internment Camp in Deoli, Rajasthan, to bring into view the carceral politics of nation building.
Payal Banerjee (PhD, Syracuse University, Sociology) is an Assistant Professor in Sociology. Her research is on globalization, labor, and migration. Her publications, in Critical Sociology, Race, Gender, and Class, IFJP, and in other edited volumes have focused on Indian immigrant IT workers in the US, immigration policies, gender, race/ethnicity, and citizenship. Banerjee's research on Chinese minorities in India has appeared in Huaqiao Huaren Lishi Yanjiu (Overseas Chinese History Studies, in Mandarin) and in China Report.
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