PART III: Kashmir Survived Past Epidemics | Kashmir Mission Hospital: Rulers' Indifference towards the Subjects

Greater Kashmir

On historical record, the earliest entry by any “accomplished physician” of Church Missionary Society of England into the valley was by Mrs. [Dr] Clark accompanying her missionary-husband, Robert Clark, in spring 1864. Initially, the couple faced non-cooperation & threats by the rulers & the ruled. But soon, against all the odds, she succeeded in setting up the first medical dispensary in the history of Kashmir in Srinagar, in May 1864 in a rented house near 6th bridge [Nawa Kadal Srinagar] which was always crowded by the patientsThe following, 1865, Church Missionary Society of England appointed Dr . William Jackson Elmslie who arrived in Srinagar on 4th May, 1865, but he too faced the problems from the authorities forbidding locals from letting out accommodation to him. So, on 9th May the same year, he started dispensary in a large tent. As there was no hospital, he had to perform his operations & examine patients under the shade of the trees. Hepitched the outer covering of the tent for the use of his out-patients, and the inner part for in-patients. From thereon, Dr. William Jackson Elmslie visited the valley three times and the widespread cholera of 1867 gave him great opportunity to serve the cholera stricken Kashmiris during the epidemic. Arthur Brinckman, the author of  Wrongs of Kashmir, & co-author of Kashmir Oppressed, with Robert Thorpe,  has recorded chilling details about the obstructions that were created to stop great humanitarian & healthcare activities of Dr . William Jackson Elmslie  by the Maharaja & his Diwan Krippa Ram which forced all the European travelers during the epidemic of 1867 to leave the valley. But Dr. William Jackson Elmslie “remained at the post of duty and visited the sick in Serinaghur. He tried to organise the Hakims, but was left single-handed. A missionary of the Propagation Society alone assisted him”. Before his death in 1872, he had won confidence of local inhabitants for the immense amount of medical relief work he had done for the sufferers who lovingly called him Dr. Padre Sahib. He was succeeded by Dr. Theodore Maxwell. By this time much of the opposition of the monarchy against the Kashmir Mission Hospital was withdrawn & in 1874 the State granted site for construction of a building at Drugjan Srinagar at Rustum Garhi hill, at the foot of Takhat-i-Sulaiman, & the construction of sheds/huts for the Kashmir Mission Hospital was completed with the donations of the State & Church Missionary Society of England.  Dr. Theodore Maxwell departed from Kashmir after two years due to his poor health & thereafter the Kashmir Mission Hospital was run by John Williams, T. R. Wade & Dr. Edmund Downes. It is rightly said thatDr. William Jackson Elmslie planted the Medical Mission, Dr. Theodore Maxwell found it a permanent home at Drugjan, Rustum Garhi hill, Dr Edmund Downes consolidated and extended it & built a great surgical reputation, besides T. R. Wade did splendid work during ravaging famine of 1877-1878. Compelled by ill health,Dr Edmund Downes retired in 1882, which was followed by the arrival of Neve-brothers. Dr. Arthur Neve in 1882 & Dr. Earnest  Neve in 1886, the two brothers who brought  vaccination for epidemics in the valley of Kashmir under the programme of Kashmir Mission Hospital.

It has been mentioned above that Dr. Mrs. Clark began a medical dispensary activities in Kashmir at Nawakadal Srinagar & at the same site she had also started a separate dispensary for women. In 1897, a regular Diamond Jubilee Zanana Hospital for women was built & it did all services of obstetrics & gynecology. “At present the Government Girls College for Women Nawakadal, Srinagar stands at the riverside location of the erstwhile Diamond Jubilee Zenana Hospital”. In subsequent years few more dispensaries of Kashmir Mission Hospital were established in Srinagar including one at Rainawari in 1908, south Kashmir & Baramullah.  Hence, setting set up noble traditions in selfless service to the people, the Kashmir Mission Hospital brought much-needed relief to the suffering masses of the valley.

Word about State Hospital:

It is already stated above that Dr. Rai Bahadur A. Mitra made Srinagar Municipality popular among the natives but it has to be mentioned that he was not associated with Kashmir Medical Mission of the Church Missionary Society of England. He was Chief Medical Officer of the government that ran & managed a State Hospital at Hazuri Bagh [presently Iqbal Park] Srinagar, which [Hazuri Bagh] included then the area from the Bundside of the Jhelum where Lal Ded hospital is presently built, & that  was State’s Kashmir Medical Mission.  Dr. Mitra did great service in treating patients suffering from various diseases at State Hospital & also Srinagar Central Jail. He performed surgeries too & did not charge patients in his private examination.  State Hospital was a small healthcare facility as compared to the Kashmir Medical Mission of Church Missionary Society of England. When Dr. Elmslie was in Kashmir, the Maharaja had opened three dispensaries in the city of Srinagar but the natives declared that was “a ruse” they had “no faith in them”, writes Arthur Brinckman. The State Hospital at Hazuri Bagh was shifted to present SMHS Hospital in 1945. The foundation stone of the SMHS, Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, or “Hadwun Haspataal” at Karan Nagar, Srinagar was laid by the Marquis of Linlithgow, the then Viceroy of India on 15th of October, 1940. The hospital was inaugurated by his successor, Lord Wavell on 11th of October 1945.  The land for the construction of SMHS was donated by an Australian, namely, Major C M Hadow to the government. In 1888, his father Mr. K C Hadow had established the factory under the name of Hadow Mills Carpet Factory at the site of the SMHS to produce hand-made carpets, Polonaise rugs and other textiles for export to the West.  The factory gave jobs to the local carpet weavers & carpet weaving scripters; and it was Mr. Hadow Senior who introduced first Kashmir carpet at international exhibitions in London, Paris & Chicago. The weavers (Karigars) & locals “mispronounced”, which was usual with most non-English speaking people of that time,  his name & lovingly called him Hadow Saab & his factory as “Hadow” or “Hadwun” factory.After his death, the factory came to be run by his son, Major C M Hadow.Following the footsteps of his philanthropic father,Hadow Juniordonated the site to the government for construction of SMHS Hospital.  It may be mentioned here that Hadows were not doctors nor associated with Kashmir Mission Hospital. They were manufactures of carpets who had branches of carpet business elsewhere too. There is no record that there was any dispensary inside their Hadow carpet factory. Had it been so, it would have been part of Kashmir Mission Hospital & not outside that. Major C M Hadow, his wife & other European manufactures were expelled from India in 1948 & later C M Hadow died in Victoria in 1978.  But, in view of services of Hadows for the Kashmiris, in the Kashmir carpet industry, the locals, till date call SMHS as “Hadwun Haspataal”.Later in 1959, the Government Medical College Srinagar was also established at the same site by Bakshi GM.

Rulers’ Indifference, Subjects’ Sufferings:

At the time of their earliest entry in the valley, the missionary doctors, as noticed above, faced tremendous opposition & hostility against their healthcare activities, at the hands of not only native Kashmiris, their pirs & mullahs, but by the opportunist & callous rulers who had little sympathy towards their subjects for several reasons. One, the Rulers were more concerned with the land & its resources/revenue than wellbeing of the Subjects.  (Robert A. Huttenback, Kashmir and the British Raj 1847-1947; Mridu Rai, Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects) Second, like any other monarchial governance, the Dogra Rulers did not want “interference” by the British through the appointment of their Permanent Resident in Kashmir, (Madhvi Yasin , British Paramountcy in Kashmir)  even if it was intended at bringing reforms in health, education & agrarian sectors of the valley, (P N Bazaz; PNK Bamzai; Mridu Rai)  but under condition 10th of the Treaty of Amritsar, 16-03-1846 Gulab Singh & his successors had accepted supremacy of the British Empire in running the affairs of the Darbar.  The exercise of powers of the Council of Ministers of the Darbar was made subject to the supervisory powers of the British Resident. (Mohammad ud Din Fauq) Third, they too believed in superstitious practices & traditions of their [Brahman] priests.  ( Lieutenant Colonel Torrens,  travelogue, titled “Travels in Ladak, Tartary, and Kashmir” )

Even though the highest number of epidemics in Kashmir, with greater detail, are reported during Dogra Rule of 100 years, the epidemic & other calamities visited the valley before 1846 too.  On the one hand, there were endless misfortunes of the subjects such as plagues, cholera, earthquakes and famines, and on the other hand, there was avarice & fiscal exactions, on the part of the rulers & their officials. (M. A. Stein)

The sufferings that the Kashmiris endured during the infighting & misrule of the Durrani Empire of Afghanistan (1761-1819) crossed the line when First Sikh Ruler of Kashmir, Ranjit Singh, appointed a Pandit bigot  Birbal Dhar, as “most powerful” Taluqdar, Collector of Revenue, of Kashmir, under the governorship of a kind-hearted Governor, Diwan Moti Ram. Birbal Dhar was a close aid of Ranjit Singh as it was he who with a delegation of Pandits had invited Ranjit Singh & made it possible for the Sikh Ruler of Punjab to invade & occupy Kashmir. ( Prem Nath Koul Bamzai, Culture & Political History of Kashmir, Jia Lal Kilm, History of Kashmiri Pandits, P N Bazaz, The History of Struggle For freedom, & Moorcroft )  “The end of Afghan Rule heralded the end of Muslim Rule in Kashmir which had lasted for 499 solar years”. (Chitralekha Zutshi, relying on notes in Gh Mohammad Nabi Shah Khanyari’s Wajiz-ut –Twarikh (Urdu tr) The “genius great” of the Kashmiri Pandits, Birbal Dhar, remained in Taludarship of Kashmir for 14 months (1819-1820) only but during that brief period he changed the Muslim history of Kashmir  “till date for the last two hundred years” w e f 1818.

“His coming to power meant start of bad days for Muslims of Kashmir”, writes Kashmiri historian, Pir Ghulam Hassan Shah Khuihami. Apart from well recorded anti-Muslim orders of his, Birbal Dhar was “indifferent”,   during terrible famine & cholera of 1820 that caused huge deaths when dying & hungry people were selling their infants. (Mohammad Din Fauq, op cit, Tarikh e Kashmir )

During the Sikh Rule in 1822, when William Moorcroft was in Kashmir, he witnessed everywhere people subjected to extortion of money & oppression by the officials that caused “gradual depopulation” of Kashmir & “rapid thinning” of people in the city due to extensive poverty & disease. The inhabitants starving at home in “great numbers” were driven to the plains of Punjab.    (William Moorcroft, 2: 123-124)

The ferocious intolerance & oppression during 27 years’ Sikh Rule which was the darkest period of Kashmir’s history, as held by overwhelming majority, that forced hundreds of Muslim families of Kashmir to migrate & settle in Punjab. (Dr GMD Sufi , Kashir, Moorcroft) The cruelty continued till the end of their rule in 1846. Diwan Krippa Ram was governor of Sikhs from 1827-1831. Though he was a pleasure-loving, lavish & non-serious man by nature, there is an interest episode that occurred during his governorship in 1827 which needs a mention here.  In 1827 an earthquake shook the valley which was followed by a few months later by the outbreak of a severe epidemic of cholera for six months.  As the epidemic began, Diwan Kripa Ram retired to Nishat Bagh, away from all people.  After some days, when he enquired about the cause of the epidemic & resultant deaths, he was told by Muslim Molvis that the calamity has visited as mosques & Adhan were shut under the Sikh Rule. Apparently convinced he allowed both the requests but as the epidemic was still ravaging he re-imposed ban on Adhan & prayers in masjids.  ( Ferguson; Mohammad Din Fauq)

During the Dogra Rule in 1846-1947, the sufferings of “Kashmiri Muslims” continued unabated. (Tarikhi Hassan) It was during the reign of Ranbir Singh (1830-1885, ascended throne 1856), second Dogra Ruler of Kashmir, when famine of 1877-1899 proved annihilating for the Muslims of Kashmir & a single Pandit did not die of starvation.  Wazir Pannu, a local Pandit, was the Prime minister of the Maharaja. According to a report received by Lawrence, Wazir Pannu declared “there was no real distress and that he wished no Musalmam might be left alive from Srinagar to Rambhan”.  It showed the callousness & extreme cruelty of Wazir Pannu towards Muslim subjects. (Mridu Rai, quoting letter dated 2-12-1988 of Lawrence to British Resident)


“Kashmir has always been a land of tragedies and great disasters”, writes Dr. Earnest Neve.  The tragedies by epidemics, natural calamities & manmade disasters come & go, but what is left for the present & future generations is how they express historical understanding of their past suffering.