By Rabi Sankar Bosu
"Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong..." John Denver
No one can really fathom the suffering of separation unless they go through it. His tearful story could be an amazing movie or novel tinged with sadness. His sad story has attracted a lot of attention from the media across the globe. His heartbreaking saga of life has moved people to tears across India and China after his plight had become viral over the social media sites. His painful story of separation and yearning for home has attracted the attention of the both governments - China and India. The Chinese Government wants his early return. But his long cherished dream to meet his family had been lost in red tape over the five decades, due to "official procedures" on the part of Indian Government. However, the joint diplomatic efforts of both governments, he had left for his native country after 54 years stranded in India on February 11, 2017 along with his family members. Left home young and return old!
He is 77-year-old veteran Wang Qi, now better known by his Indian name Raj Bahadur. He was an ex-Chinese Army surveyor who got stuck in India for 54 years. He was recruited in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in 1960 and was tasked with building roads for the Chinese army on the border with India. The Sino-Indian war of 1962 changed the course of his life. Weeks after the edgy war, on the New Year's Day of 1963, he got lost in the woods in the darkness near the border of China and India. He was 23 then. And that is where his long painful story begins.
According to news reports, Wang Qi strayed erroneously into India's territory, Assam where an Indian Red Cross team handed him over to the Indian Army. He spent seven years in prisons on the charge of "espionage" across India, including Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh before the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered his release in March 1969. He was handed over to the police of India's central state, Madhya Pradesh for rehabilitation in Balaghat district's Tirodi village. Since then the nondescript village has been Wang Qi's adopted home to a different land, losing his home and beloved family behind.
Wang Qi has spent most of his life in India. He started working at the paper mill as a watchman. He married a local tribal girl named Sushila in 1975 and formed his own family with three children and grandchildren. Living thousands of miles away, for 54 years, he has not lost his yearning to return to his family in China's Shaanxi Province. Despite making all efforts to travel to his birthplace at least once, he was denied permission to return to China due to his lack of official documents and his complex identity.
Unfortunately, he was unable to see his mother who passed away in 2006, waiting for him. The travel permission was not granted by the bureaucratic Indian authorities since certain documents pertaining to his stay in India from 1963 to 2013 were not available. In May 2013, the Chinese embassy in India issued a 10-year Chinese passport to him.
Indian media has previously reported Wang's painful story and most recently, a BBC report brought up his plight again, drawing international attention to the subject. Since the news broke, the Chinese media widely reported the issue causing social media stir in China, especially on Sina Weibo where it's trending with "Chinese Veteran in India" with more than 5 million views so far. An Op-Ed article in the Global Times said: "Although it's unclear whether Wang is a prisoner of war, it is inhumane to have isolated the elderly man from his family for such a long time."
Surprisingly, the officials of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in India took almost 54 years to travel to remote Tirodi village to meet their ex-Chinese soldier Wang Qi. They assured him all possible help to visit China. It is learnt that the Chinese Embassy officials have been trying hard to facilitate and accommodate the return of Wang Qi. They had sent several communications to the Indian government for clearing documents. Chinese Ambassador Mr. Luo Zhaohui in New Delhi had a telephonic call with him and assured all help. In his conversation, Ambassador Luo expressed sympathy over the suffering Wang underwent over the years. "I instructed the Embassy to keep in touch with you, to know your ideas and provide assistance as much as possible, including the replacement of your passport," he said.
Following the media uproar, the Ministry of Home and External Affairs of India decided to intervene to help his family find their way back home. Mr. Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry of India said on Feb 9, 2017, "The Ministry is helping Wang and his family members ¡ª his son, daughter, daughter-in-law and grandson ¡ª to visit China to meet his extended family." Wang Qi has finally received an Indian passport from India's Ministry of External Affairs allowing him to leave the country. He has finally returned to his native land to meet his relatives on February 11, 2017. His accompanying family members are his son, Vishnu Wang, Neha Wang, his daughter-in-law and his granddaughter Khanak Wang. However, it is still not clear why Wang's repeated petitions to leave did not elicit any response in previous years.
Upon arrival in the evening on his homeland again in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Wang said, "Today is my happiest day in 54 years. Finally I have come back to this beautiful lovely country. Words cannot express how I feel now." After visiting his relatives in China, he has repeatedly said that he wants to return back to India to be with his Indian wife, children and grandchildren. There is no doubt that Wang's story is a positive expression of India-China cooperation, specially at a time when the two BRICS members are making unswerving efforts to further develop bilateral ties. Wang's life is a drama of pain. It is an incredible story of suffering humanity winning our hearts. Surely, the return of Wang Qi will help the Sino-Indian ties.