Chinese migration to South Asia was part of the same trade and indentured labour diaspora that brought Chinese to Southeast Asia between the 18th and 20th centuries. While there is considerable scholarship on the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, there is less work done on their counterparts in India. This paper attempts a comparative study of the overseas Chinese of South and Southeast Asia between 1949 and 1979 by seeing the persecution of the ethnic Chinese in India during the 1962 China-India War as comparable to the anti-Chinese hostilities that were taking place in other parts of Southeast Asia at about the same time.
As a result of the 1962 China-India War, thousands of ethnic Chinese in India were arrested and interned in concentration camps in Deoli by the then Congress-led Indian government on suspicion of having links to Communist China. The internment of the ethnic Chinese is a less widely known fact of India’s postcolonial history. What does the persecution of overseas Chinese communities in South and Southeast Asia tell us about nationalism and state-building in twentieth-century Asia?
The research method combines existing secondary literature with oral historical accounts of former Deoli internees. Like several Southeast Asian governments at this time, the Indian government also brought into effect draconian measures which, this paper argues, enforced a particular image of the Indian nation-state along ethnic lines. The 1962 China-India War and the exclusion of the overseas Chinese identity from India’s national imaginary illustrated an ethnicization of the nation.
Joita Das, National University of Singapore, Singapore
About the Presenter(s)
Joita Das is a PhD candidate in the Comparative Asian Studies Program, National University of Singapore. Her research examines the connected histories of South and Southeast Asia as engendered by Chinese migrants to the regions in the 20th century.
Connect on Linkedin
Additional website of interest
See this presentation on the full schedule – Monday Schedule