Is half a century enough to forget a pain inflicted in another millennium? Not so for the Northeastern population of the country.
50 years ago when the Chinese marched into Arunachal Pradesh and threatened to swamp Assam, an exasperated Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru accepting defeat and as if giving up the region, said, “My heart goes out to the people of Assam.”
The pain point for the Northeasterners of India is not as much the Chinese aggression as the fact that their leaders abandoned them. As the region commemorates the 50th anniversary of this momentous invasion, not a day goes by when this quote of Nehru isn’t repeated in some or the other newspaper here.
Yet, what is most entertaining, are the stories still told by people of the time.
One such is the story of the youths of the city of Tezpur (read the Assam Tribune story here) who formed a group called Youth Emergency Organization under the leadership of Hiren Choudhury after the Chinese invasion. Even as people fled their homes deserting the city, they stayed back and guarded the streets day and night.
Apparently they had no problems with food or shelter, because most of the fleeing population – grateful to these guards - had not only left their homes open, but also kept back food supplies. All that these guardian angels had to do was walk into any house whose door they found open, cook and eat their meals and rest if they had to.
As the days passed, and the Chinese occupied Arunachal Pradesh and menacingly moved towards Assam, these young brave hearts of Tezpur, many in their teens and many of them young women, waited for the Chinese with nothing but sticks in hand, anxious but unafraid of what the Chinese would do to them.
Thankfully, instead of the Chinese, came Chinese whispers that they were planning a retreat and on 20 November, 1962, the Chinese declared a ceasefire and returned.
These brave souls, many of whom are still alive, have apparently never been rewarded for their courage, which seems braver still when one considers that even government officials in the region abandoned post in the onslaught of the Chinese.
Image: A chinese soldier and his Indian counterpart at the Nathu La border crossing.
Text: By Satyen K Bordoloi