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Citizenship Amendment Bill: Echoes of 1962 India-China war and an unjust incarceration

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In October-November 1962, India and China fought a bitter war over their contested border. Over a month, China delivered a crushing defeat to India, then withdrew its forces to pre-war positions. The border issue has stayed unresolved since, though at least not fought over on the same scale as in 1962.

This much is known. What is much less known is that India rounded up a few thousand Indians of Chinese origin, largely from our northeastern states, and incarcerated them in a camp in Deoli, Rajasthan – some for up to five years. The charge? None, except for the suspicion that they were loyal to China. The evidence? None, except that they looked Chinese.

There was a precedent for this, of course. The US did the same to some 1,00,000 of their Japanese-American citizens during World War II. Both that episode and India’s effort in 1962 raise a question: How, in an era of the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other such efforts at a shared humanity, does a country – even if at war – justify imprisoning thousands of its own citizens solely for the way they look?

Easy: with legal fig-leafs.

The US’s fig-leaf was President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order #9066, “authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas”. From these prescribed areas, read the order, “the right of any person to enter, remain in or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War…may impose in his discretion”. Note that Order #9066 made no mention of Japanese-Americans. Nevertheless, it was used to remove........

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