The repatriation program caused tension. "There were fights in the camp over leaving. The people who wanted to go to China argued with those who preferred fight until the Indian government released them," Cheng says. Most of those who chose to stay had strong roots in India, like businesses and homes. It was their life you know, they didn't want to leave."
Not to be outdone, the Republic of China government in Taiwan also assisted the internees, and it was the Taiwanese who ultimately came to the aid of Cheng's family, placing them in Calcutta (now Kolkata).
There the family struggled, but those who stayed in the camp were far worse off. When Deoli closed in 1968, the remaining internees were transported back to their old neighborhoods, where they were then imprisoned by a government that didn't know what to do with them.
"A girl in one of those jails wrote to the prime minister," Cheng says. "When the jailor read the letter he said 'Hey, you guys are not supposed to be here this long'. So he got involved and they were finally released."
Others weren't so fortunate. Surviving internees speak of seeing people, particularly the old and infirm die in these jails, sometimes mere yards away from their homes. Other lives were significantly shortened by the ordeal. One internee said that his father was kept in an Alipur jail for over a year where he became seriously ill -- possibly as a result of a botched medical procedure -- and died three weeks after he was released. There were deaths in the camp as well. Wong Ying Sheng's father died there, as did many other older internees -- deaths that were largely preventable.
In the decades since, Sino-Indian relations have stabilized, and the Indian government would rather the internship program be forgotten. A stone plaque outside the Deoli camp, now an army training ground, mentions that it was once used to house German, Japanese, and "Chinese" prisoners, lumping the Chinese-Indians in with foreign combatants.
"There's no monument to the people who died in the camp, no memorial. They didn't even issue a death certificate for them. India has lots of things hidden like this, and it's difficult for them to own up to them. If they admit to one thing they would have to admit to everything, like a domino effect," Cheng says, though he hasn't given up trying to get the Indian government to account for its actions at Deoli.
He's had some help. The Association of India Deoli Camp Internees (AIDCI), registered as a non-profit in Canada in 2009, seeks to pressure the Indian government into issuing an apology similar to those issued by the U.S. for the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Ex-internees and their children also wish to erect a monument in Deoli "in honor of those who lost their lives at the camp."
AIDCI wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009, outlining the ex-internees grievances.
"Of course," Michael says ruefully, "nothing happened. So a year later we sent a second letter."
They're still waiting for a reply.