In rural Kashmir, traditional bone-setters walk the tightrope between believers and sceptics

Traditional bone-setters, or 'wattan gor' in the Kashmiri language, are indigenous specialists who have never studied medical science or attended any medical institute, and yet treat hundreds of patients a day. This practice to most of the bone-setters has come down from their ancestors.

Despite the advancement in modern medicine and technology, many in Kashmir rely on this centuries-old conventional orthopaedic treatment for ailments such as muscle spasms, dislocation of bones and joints, and even fractures. These bone-setters not only massage the affected body part, but also cover it with cloth and recite the holy verses. In many cases, they prescribe medicines — mostly ayurvedic —as well to their patients.

The trend is more common in rural areas of the valley, where these bone-setters are revered. People believe they have the spiritual touch in their hands which helps in healing. These bone-setters practise from their homes and witness huge inflows with people coming from far-away areas. The treatment is financially nominal for the patients with no extra medical examination nor a stay at the hospital. Many patients with whom this reporter spoke were satisfied with this "prompt" treatment. And especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, these bone-setters had a lot of patients to attend to as ostensibly people fear contracting the virus in a hospital or in the absence of proper public transportation.

On the other hand, allopathic doctors along with some of the educated youth in Kashmir denounce this treatment. They say these bone-setters neither use any tests nor X-Rays; and believe that without medical examination the exact ailment cannot be detected. Allopathic doctors say this form of treatment is full of complications and have never been fruitful.

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