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Makam, which means “golden horse” in Cantonese, is a fictionalized historical account of the Chinese Assamese people in North-East India. The novel, by award-winning writer Rita Chowdhury, documents the struggles, suffering, and tragedies of the Chinese Assamese over the past two centuries, culminating in their wrongful expulsion from India during the 1962 Sino-Indian War.
Based on interviews with more than one hundred Chinese Assamese, Chowdhury’s moving narrative blends nineteenth century history with the tragedy of 1962, revealing how the Chinese were brought to India decades earlier by the British in order to work as laborers on the tea plantations. Once there, the Chinese married into different communities and began to speak with a mix of their native and local languages. However, during the Sino-Indian war, the Chinese Assamese, though now completely assimilated, were brutally and unjustly forced to leave India because of their Chinese origin. Around fifteen hundred Chinese Assamese from Makum, a small town in upper Assam, were imprisoned as spies and prisoners of war, before being deported to China. The untold story of this terrible incident, captured here in Makam, created an uproar in India when first published.