"Weren’t we Indians?": A Photo Essay on Yin Marsh's "Doing Time With Nehru"

27 March 2016

During the Sino-Indian Border War of 1962, over 2,500 ethnic Chinese Indians were rounded up without trial or due process, and transported to the Deoli internment camp in Rajasthan. Yin Marsh was a thirteen-year-old living in Darjeeling when she and members of her immediate family—including her eight-year-old brother and infirm grandmother—were arrested, incarcerated in the local jail, and sent to Deoli. In this excerpt from her memoir Doing Time With Nehru, Marsh narrates how the police came for her family and her. 

Accompanying the excerpt are images by the photographer Vidura Jang Bahadur, who returned to India in December 2005 after spending three years in China. Bahadur's initial interest in the Chinese community in India came from a personal desire to interact with them, a way to bridge his years in China and subsequent return to India. Even though the Chinese have had a presence in India for over 200 years, they started settling permanently after the communists came to power in in China, in 1949. In 1962, during the Sino- Indian border conflict those suspected of having links with China, were interned in Deoli, Rajasthan. Scarred by the memories of this era and the subsequent struggle for survival, several chose to leave India. Many who chose to remain in India were forced to start life afresh. This period brought with it significant economic and social change within what was once a closed community. Even though they still share a bond with China, India is a part of their lives and identity. To the Chinese here, India is home.

In the end, we had only one friend who still came to see us. She was the same Chinese girl I had met in Mother Dolores’ elocution class during the last year in school. She was the younger of the two sisters I sat with at the back of the classroom. She and I became close when I became a day scholar and even closer after school ended. She dropped by our house frequently when Papa was home and often stayed for dinner. After Papa was taken away she brought us news about the Chinese community, usually bad news.

Yin Marsh is a journalist. She grew up in Darjeeling and was forcibly incarcerated in an internment camp in Deoli, Rajasthan, as a reaction to the Sino-Indian Border War.

Vidura Jang Bahadur is a photographer. He spent three years traveling in China, where he taught English and studied Chinese.

Keywords: Sino-Indian War internment racism