Before 1947, thousands of lives were devoured by epidemics in J&K

Inspection posts were set-up at Kohala bridge, Domel, Uri to screen visitors, there was hardly any house where deaths were not reported: British medico on 1892 cholera

Srinagar, Mar 23 : Amid scare over outbreak of Coronavirus, a throwback at history reveals that thousands of lives have been devoured by deadly epidemic diseases in Jammu & Kashmir before 1947.

According to records accessed by the wire service—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), the deadly epidemics frequented J&K before 1947 due to imported diseases, unsanitary conditions and absence of adequate health facilities. Harvey, who was deputed by the British India, to the investigate deadly epidemic cholera of 1892 in J&K, writes that past history of cholera in Kashmir is imperfect and no information can be obtained from state records.

“Twenty thousand persons are said to have died of it in Srinagar, the capital, in 1846. There was severe outbreak in 1867 after the great fair at Haridwar and another bad epidemic in 1879.  In 1888, 10000 people are estimated to have died, of whom 3500 were in Srinagar,” reads the record note of sixth general meeting of British Medical Association held in Nottingham in July 1892.

About the 1892 epidemic, Harvey says the first case in Kashmir was reported on April 24 at Domel( Gilgit- Baltistan) where the two roads from Pindi and Hazara met.

He says that 5376 deaths were reported in Srinagar in 1892 due to the deadly disease. “The total number of registered cases in Srinagar was 8928 and of deaths 5736, out of population of 124000,” he states.

According to him, the highest number of cholera cases was recorded in Srinagar on May 23 and highest number of deaths on May 28. “Every part of the city suffered and there was hardly a house where there was not one- or many- dead, while families were swept away,” Harvey states.

According to records, the plague of 1903-1904 also devoured several hundred lives in Kashmir. A.M. Mitra, then Chief Medical Officer of Kashmir, states that first case of plague came to Kashmir in 1903 from Rawalpinidi. “There were arrangements for examination of travelers coming to Kashmir from Jammu and from Rawalpindi. One case, very probably of plague, coming from Rawalpindi, died near Uri, 60 miles from Srinagar, on 8th October 1903 and was cremated there. Soon after this elaborate arrangements for disinfection of clothes by disinfector were about to be made at Uri when on the 13th November a Tonga with a veiled native woman and two servants passed Uri.

In this Tonga came the first case of plague in Kashmir. The inspectors failed to detect the disease. The order to them was to  take the temperature of every traveler(sic).

Their subsequent report showed that all the occupants of the tonga at the time of inspection had normal temperature,” he says. He says the plague lasted in Kashmir from November 1903 to August 1904.

“In the city of Srinagar its duration was for one and a half month only; the total number of cases were 56, all fatal. In the districts there were altogether 1,443 cases with 20 recoveries,” Mitra writes,according to KNO.

As per records, whenever epidemic broke out, the authorities would observe quarantine measures to prevent spread of the disease in J&K.

The government would set-up inspection posts at Kohala Bridge (gateway of Muzaffarbad, Domel (Gilgit Baltistan), Baramulla, Uri to screen those entering Jammu and Kashmir, the records In 1875, 1,385 persons were detained at Kohala post for eight days to prevent outbreak of cholera in J&K—