In 1962, an unexpected and calamitous event, the India-China war of 1962, triggered far reaching personal and social overtones. It would take a few more years for the wounds to heal, to sweep intransigent feelings under the Chinese rugs, clothes and any and every thing made in China finding their way into Indian markets.
The personal effect of the war was when an uncle, a captain in the Indian Army, was injured and missing for more than a year. My aunt, who was to marry him, insisted on waiting for him much to the chagrin of my grand mother who had wanted her to get married to some one else. We were impressed at aunt’s patriotism though suspected more personal reasons.
A year later my uncle resurfaced, and though he had not divulged the facts or his role, to the family he was the brave soldier who had risked his life for the country. He had saved himself by hiding in the terrains of the north west frontier, and surviving on wild fruits, berries and a puppy.
In one act of aggression China had negated the years of friendship and sharing dating back to 2nd century B.C. and continuing through spread of Buddhism in China in first century A.D. The visits and subsequent records of Chinese monks and scholars, Fa Xian (Fa-Hsien, AD 399-414), Kumarajiva, a scholar in Vedas as well as Buddhist Sutras, Xuan Zang (Hiuen Tsang) who had visited India during Harsha Vardhana‘s reign in the 7th Century AD in search of Buddhist scriptures, became part of traditional Chinese lore.
The Five Pagoda temple (Wuta Si) in Beijing bears strong resemblance to the Bodhgaya temple in the Indian state of Bihar. The pagoda was heavily damaged during the Cultural Revolution and the earthquake at Tangshan in 1976, but has since been restored.
The ancient trade route, the Silk Route, and later the common struggle for independence from colonial rule, had further strengthened the ties. The catch phrase, Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai( Indians and Chinese are brothers) in the 1950s was the guiding force of the relationship and India felt betrayed.
One particular movie ‘Haqequat’ truth/reality, portrayed the feeling with visuals of wave upon wave of Chinese soldiers mowing down the ill-equipped and ill clothed Indian counterparts and at same time mouthing platitudes.*
Haqequat (1964): Set against the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the film’s main plot centres on a small platoon of Indian soldiers somewhere in Ladakh. The soldiers are considered dead but are shown being rescued by a brave Captain and his local girlfriend who save the Indians by holding the Chinese at bay so that their comrades can safely retreat. But the movie ends in tragedy as the soldiers are outnumbered and out maneuvered, losing their lives for the motherland.
The soulful rendering of ‘ Kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tann sathiyon Ab tumhare hawale watan sathiyonum chale…abb Tumhare hawale watan saathiyo’ ( we are going and the country is in your hands) fuelled jingoistic feelings and every Indian empathised with the brave soldiers fighting for the honour of their motherland.
Now, 50 years later, we look upon 1962 as an aberration, as a lesson learnt. We continue the political mind games and at same time continue with trade interests fuelled by economics. As developing nations we need each other, and trust can be rebuilt by appreciating the strengths of each other.
- Indian tank brigades deployed to defend border with China (chinadailymail.com)
- India and China mend their military ties (eastasiaforum.org)
- History’s Hostage: China, India and the War of 1962 (thediplomat.com)