On Wednesday night, 58-year-old Ho Yuet Ming will undertake a train journey from here to her birthplace Makum, a small town in upper Assam’s Tinsukia district, in search of her childhood friends she was separated from about 50 years ago. Ming and her friends were deported to China in the aftermath of the 1962 war, and they belong to the seven-member “Assamese people of Chinese origin” group living in Hong Kong.
On the eve of this train journey that will take them to their childhood haunts, they have mixed feelings. The horrendous seven-day train journey they were forced to undertake on the eve of the signing of the India-China treaty is still etched in their memory.
About 1,500 Assamese people of Chinese origin had been rounded up on November 19, 1962 at Chinapatti in Makum and taken to the Deoli internment camp in Rajasthan. Ming, just eight then, was studying in Makum Chinese School in Makum town.
Now, the delegation has arrived in the State to proceed on its dream journey to Makum at the invitation of Sahitya Akademi Award winning novelist Rita Chowdhury. Dr. Chowdhury traced some of the displaced “Assamese people of Chinese origin” in Hong Kong while penning her famous Assamese novel Makam (meaning Golden Horse in Chinese) on their plight of forced displacement. Ming’s mother, the late Parbati Gowala, is a character in the novel.
“We are very happy to have come to Assam, our birthplace. I was born here. I still remember the names of some of my childhood friends. I am going to Makum and will be meeting them...” Ming, whose Assamese name is Anjali Gowala, said in Hindi during an interaction with the delegation.
Ming’s father Ho Kong Wa was an artisan brought to Assam by the British, along with other Chinese labourers, artisans, tea growers and tea planters.
The delegation arrived in the city on Saturday and went to Shillong to meet some old friends. It returned here on Sunday.
Before a public felicitation, arranged by the Asom Jatiyabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, the Assam Tea Tribe Student Association and Adharshila, a socio-cultural and literary organisation, the delegation watched a documentary — “The Divided Soul” — on Assamese people of Chinese origin, produced by Dr Chowdhury and directed by Dip Bhuyan.
Other members of the delegation are Ho Man Hing, Ho Yuk Mui, Ho Fung Oi, Chan Yuet Ho, Fung Kan Wan, Ho Choi Fung.