Ane’s narrative of ’62 Conflict
[As family huddled together to celebrate sister, Jarjum Ete nee Gamlin’s 50th birthday on September 28 last, memory jogged me back to childhood narratives.]
‘My fourth and the first girl child was born on September 28 1962 when the first news of Chinese invasion at Menchuka-Tato reached Aalo,’ tells my Ane (meaning mother in Galo language) while recalling few weeks before being evacuated to a relief camp at Dibrugarh as result of the “Chinese Invasion in 1962” .
Like her, many witnesses of the “1962 Indo-Sino conflict” died with the belief that Chinese were the aggressors; and many have endured through these past 50 years to narrate how Indian government evacuated them to safety, against the evil Chinese. Most of such witnesses were never educated about Nehru’s quixotic misadventure called “Forward Policy”, by design. Not once they were informed of government’s blunder.
‘On the dusk of the sixth or seventh day, as we started performing the traditional ritual, celebrating the fall of umbilical cord of my new born child; we were informed of the evacuation plan to Dibrugarh for the next day’. That’s how she narrates the account of the first week of October 1962.
‘We were huddled into a big air-craft from Aalo airfield and dropped at Dibrugarh,’ she tells with objectivity of her ordeal in a ‘relief camp’ where she spent about a month and half, with four toddlers-three boys (Jarkar, Jarbom and Jarken) and a girl (Jarjum).
Abo (meaning father) could not join the family at the relief camp. As a political interpreter (PI), he was busy with official relief work during the conflict period. He was the happiest man when my sister was born because his first three born were male; and all his siblings were male- tells Ane.
‘Whole day, we would sit idle with no work. Initially, we were treated well but with the passage of time, hospitality standard started falling to pitiable low: the place was cramped, children were getting rashes and people were falling sick with no medical help,’ narrates my Ane with a caveat that no one should ever be in a relief camp, especially with toddlers.
With Chinese gone back and Couple of weeks into December, they returned home to find the entire house was ransacked and looted; Pigs were missing so were the cows.
‘Not even a feather of poultry was left. Everything was looted by our own, not by Chinese,’ rues Ane while adding that she should not have left home at the first place. Chinese never came upto Aalo; Much later, we were told that Chinese did reach certain villages near Tato, after crossing Mechuka,’ tells Ane and adds that Chinese were friendly, warm and generous to the locals; and while retreating back into their side of McMahon line, Chinese soldiers gave away knives, spades, shovels and other tools for agriculture which were used during the conflict period.
I, as a child, too had seen a Chinese shovel with our neighbor, Tabu Tangu. He used to flaunt the spade and say, ‘This is a gift from the Chinese army.’ I too had seen and used “that Chinese spade.
‘I would have gone over to Chinese side, if not for this red-coat,’ he used to tell us while flaunting his uniform of PI. I reminisce Tangu was drafted into the service of government as political PI after the 1962 conflict and he retired more than a decade back and settled at Kaying (near Aalo) yet I could never pin-point why he wanted to cross over to China. I recall the poignant story of how his only brother was sold-off as Pakbo (meaning slave) to a rich Chinese family, after the death of parents, by own uncle. ‘He must have been around 8 years and I was around 5 years when we parted,’ he’d narrate and add that last few hours were spent together in river bank washing pork for the Chinese guest. With moist eyes he’d tell, ‘Brother promised to take me with him when he grows up; which never happened.’
Maybe he had an innate desire to locate and reunify with his lost brother!
[Writer is the CEO-Eastern Sentinel as well as the Partner-Radio Ooo LaLa. He can be reached at email@example.com]