Chinese in Assam


 October 28 2013

This article was shown in “Indian Tea”

Little China in Assam’s Tea history

October 28, 2013 2:35 am

By Abdul Gani

Her forefathers were forcefully brought from China by British to work in the tea plantations in Assam during early 19th century, and fell victim to the war between India and China in 1962 before they were deported to China. Later, they made Hong Kong their home.

Ho Yuct Ming, a 60 year old lady from Hong Kong cannot be happier than this when she stepped on her birth place after 50 long years. Her memories may not be best, but definitely it made her cry when she stepped at Makum, a silent hamlet in Assam’s Tinsukia district. She is one of the 1,500 odd Assamese-Chinese born in India.

It was the tea which brought this bunch of people from neighbouring China but they are the victims of brutality of war. Ming who is rather happy to be known as Anjali Goala, her original name, along with her friends of the fraternity is visiting their birth place for the first time since they were forced to leave the place of their love.

“It’s different kind of feeling to be back here. I always wanted to see the place once in my lifetime and this is why I am here. I remember going to Makum Chinese School in our locality and my fiends – Lakhya, Bhuda, Suji, Kalu, Jay Lal and others,” said Ming whose passport name is also Anjali Goala in Guwahati after their arrival from Hong Kong. Her father used to work as a carpenter in the neighbourhood when they left the state.

Sahitya Akademy award winning Assamese author Dr. Rita Chowdhury brought the story of these people in her novel Makam (meaning Golden Horse in Cantonese) in 2011. Makam is the significant history of these Assamese-Chinese people, who had been forced to uproot themselves from the country of their birth because of their Chinese origin.

These people had assimilated with mainstream Assamese society and married local women. In the due course of time they had even forgotten the Chinese language. Yet, these people were accused of being Chinese spies during the war and forced to leave India in November 1962.

They became emotional as they recalled how policemen came and put them under house arrest during the war time. “We were then taken to detention camp in Deoli, Rajasthan and then to Madras (now Chennai). From there we were forced to board a ship and deported to China,” said Goala in Hindi who has been living in Hong Kong since 1978. Interesting, Hindi is still their connecting language among the community.

They also celebrate a ‘Chinese Indian party’ among the community in Hong Kong every year and eat Indian food and dance and sing old Hindi songs on that particular day of the year.

The author Rita Chowdhury is also happy to facilitate their journey to re-visit their motherland. “I am very happy to facilitate these people to come to Assam to fulfil their dreams to see their ‘motherland’. They are a society which had assimilated with locals in the best possible ways but unfortunately deported due to political reasons. Now, I want them to go back to Hong Kong with fond memories of their motherland,” Chowdhury who maintains a close relation with these people said.

According to the author Chowdhury the community had to go through immense humiliations during the Sino-Indian war in their own place, which they had adopted as their ‘home’ after living for generations and finally their own people discarded them only because of their Chinese origin. This group of 10 people went back to Hong Kong on October 25 after visiting Makam and its neighbouring areas.