Returning the Debt

   

Within less than seven decades after the British Christian Missionaries introduced the modern allopathic system of medicine to Kashmir, a Srinagar-based doctor, Dr Ghulam Mohuddin – one of the first to have MBBS, moved to England and felt coerced by the devastation wreaked by World War II to settle there and eventually died in Yorkshire.

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Dr Mufti Ghulam Mohiuddin, aka Dr GM Din, was one of Kashmir’s earliest doctors who settled and died in England.

One of Kashmir’s first Muslim medical doctors had donated his rich personal library to the Government Medical College in Srinagar before he breathed his last in 1984. He had graduated from a medical school in Lahore in 1930.

Mufti Ghulam Mohiuddin, who is known to the medical world as Dr GM Din, was a scion of the respected Mufti family of Wazpora. A religious scholar, his father, Mufti Saududdin, is said to have been a courtier of the Nizam of Hyderabad. GM Din was the eldest of his two sons. The other one was Mufti Rafiuddin.

Mufti GM Din was born at Wazpora in Srinagar on January 1, 1903, and was educated within Kashmir up to Intermediate. He was amongst 52 graduates who got an MBBS degree in 1930 from the famous King Edward Medical College of Lahore. He was perhaps the first and the only Muslim from Kashmir who was part of the batch.

Two other prominent doctors of Kashmir, Dr Ali Mohammad Jan and Dr Naseer Ahmad Shah graduated from the same college later in 1937.

Informed sources said Dr GM Din pursued MBBS under Maharaja’s scholarship scheme of 1927.

After coming out of medical school, Dr Din became a popular, and successful medical practitioner of Kashmir. Soon, he was appointed to Jammu and Kashmir’s Health Department on January 26, 1931. His first assignment was to be the doctor-in-charge of the Travelling Dispensary in Kashmir. His work, especially during the cholera epidemic of 1931 fetched him the position of Assistant Surgeon. In 1937, he left for England to obtain further experience and higher qualifications. He completed his postgraduate studies and obtained the MRCP (Member Royal College of Physicians) in 1942.

In England

In London, Dr Din was a consultant physician at Kingston General Hospital, Hull. Then, he wanted to return home but World War II prevented his return to Kashmir. Later, when Britain set up the National Health Service during the war he was actively involved in medical services in Hull and was one of the first Asians to be appointed a consultant physician. He was the first Kashmiri doctor to settle and die in the UK.

Mrs Jean Din, his wife, told Kashmir doctor and author of Kashmir In Sickness and Health, Dr Gulzar Mufti that while in Edinburgh Scotland, Din offered to be a volunteer doctor in Hull town of Yorkshire the Germans had bombed.

Now, it was clear that he was unlikely to return home. He married his Registrar, a local Irish doctor, Jean Mtchel of Hull in 1955. His wife used to call him Mohi.  In 1965 he was elected FRCP. He retired from the British medical service in 1968. During his years as a consultant Dr G M Din was well known for the guidance and help that he provided to many visiting doctors from the Indian subcontinent. He was well respected by his colleagues at work and always had a kind heart for people from Kashmir some of whom enjoyed hospitality in his home on their arrival in this country until they got a job.

Dr Din was a keen gardener and spent a lot of his spare time creating and maintaining a very beautiful garden around his home.

Connected With Roots

Keenly interested in charity work, he was a regular supporter of Oxfam, Mother Theresa’s fund, and the Salvation Army. However, in his support for good causes, he did not forget his homeland, where he created in 1971 the Fallah-I-Aam Charity Trust (not the one banned in Kashmir). Apart from providing poor students scholarships to pursue education, the Trust would financially help poor girls to marry and settle in their lives. It ceased to exist many years after its launch in 1971. Its sole trustee was Din’s close friend, Pirzada Ghulam Ahmed.

Dr Din died in Hull North of England at 80 years of age in 1984. He was buried in a Muslim cemetery which he had bought from his own savings. He was survived by his wife Jean and their daughter Sarah who now lives in Switzerland. His death was widely mourned in Kashmir as the news was broadcast by Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan Srinagar

Dr Gulzar Mufti has recorded that a handful of Kashmiris were present as he was laid to rest in a Hull cemetery. In his book, Mufti has paid a befitting tribute to Din by writing, “He was the first Kashmiri doctor to pay back to Britain what the first Christian British doctor William Elmslie had given to the Kashmir in earlier times. In less than 70 years the wheel of give and take had moved a complete circle.” The author terms Dr Din to be the “the first Kashmiri Muslim to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP), the first Kashmiri doctor to be appointed as a consultant in the UK, and the first Kashmiri doctor to settle and die in the UK.”

William Jackson Elmslie, the missionary who was the founder of vaccination in Kashmir

William Elmslie was the first qualified medical doctor who reached Kashmir in 1865 and did the spade work for introducing the allopathic system of medicine to Kashmir against the odds. He has to fight the system as the Maharaja disliked his presence in Kashmir.

Nizam’s Intervention

Apparently briefed by Jean, Dr Mufti has offered rare insights into the evolution of Din as a top professional offshore. For studies, the book suggests Din would take his lunch and paddle on his bicycle to Shalimar Bagh for studies.

“Despite achieving high merit in the intermediate examination his nomination for MBBS was rejected, apparently on health grounds, although he was almost six feet tall, was well built and quite healthy, and went on to live up to a mature age of 80 years in a sound state of health throughout,” Mufti wrote. “His father, who was a courtier at the Nizam of Hyderabad’s courts, approached the Nizam for help. The latter was luckily in Srinagar as a guest of the Maharaja. A word in Maharaja’s ear resulted in Dr Din’s nomination for MBBS degree course to Lahore, which he completed from King Edward Medical College in 1930.”

Dr Ghulam Jeelani Drabu, the Rajpora Kashmir-born doctor, who graduated from the same Lahore College in 1948 and arrived in Britain during the early 1950s published Din’s obituary in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). He has stated that Din never forgot his homeland. Apart from donating his personal library to Medical College Srinagar, Drabu wrote Din put a major chunk of his life’s savings into the Trust. Drabu died in 2019.

(MJ Aslam and Dr Farooq A Wandroo contributed to this obituary)

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