‘Cursed’ Paralkot village in Poonch has 80% people deaf & dumb

A villager sitting with his deaf & dumb children at his home at Paralkot near Mandi in district Poonch. -Excelsior/Ramesh Bali
A villager sitting with his deaf & dumb children at his home at Paralkot near Mandi in district Poonch. -Excelsior/Ramesh Bali

‘No Medical team ever visited area to conduct survey, study’

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, Nov 28: It may sound incredible to many but it is true that at least 80 % population at a village near the Line of Control in Mandi Sub Division of district Poonch is deaf and dumb.
The affected village- Paralkot, inhabited by about 300 odd souls is located at the beautiful mountain, scenic beauty all around, several springs and thick forest, just opposite infamous Cobra Post at the LoC, about one hour on-foot journey from Khet village in Sawjian area of Mandi Sub Division. Most of the people at the village speak Kashmiri or Urdu. It is learnt that during 1990-91 about 30 families from here and adjoining village- Chhamber Kenari had migrated to Pak occupied Kashmir, on other side of the LoC, apparently due to this problem.
The villagers of the area are feeling dejected and totally neglected by the respective Governments during past 4-5 decades. They alleged that the problem is too old. But the State Government has never sent any expert Medical team to find out the cause of this problem and conduct a thorough survey or study about the issue. Many youth in the area including girls, have turned over age. The parents are unable to get them married. Many of them have even crossed 35-40 years of age. No special teachers were ever deputed there to teach deaf and dumb children in the local Govt Middle School during past over 50 years.
Excelsior team which visited the area a few days ago, interacted with the locals of the area and tried to find out the cause and know about the hardships of the people. A 65-year-old woman- Taj Begum and several other elderly persons sharing their experience revealed that there are said to be fairies in the nearby beautiful mountain. Some people have also seen them. But it is said that those who have ever see them, they turn deaf and dumb.
Another elderly person said that some evil spirit is there in the area. He said quite often, they hear some unpleasant sounds and acts which are hard to be believed. He said some time they feel that somebody is following or walking with them, but when they turn to see, nobody is noticed there.
One Mohd Ismail of Paralkot village said that majority of the population of the area used to consume water from a large local spring (Bowli). Some `wise people’ of the area thought that people may be turning deaf and dumb after consuming water from this mountain spring. So, for the last about 30 years, nobody is consuming water from there. That source has been abandoned by the villagers. Now, water supply to the village is being provided through PHE pipes from another source, away from this village. But even after this, no change was witnessed in the ailment and such cases went on increasing.
Mohd Tariq, another villager said some village elders during early 1990s assembled to discuss the issue. They thought since they were marrying their children within the close relatives in the same village and this ailment is spreading within the specific area due to this practice. They stopped marrying their children within the close relatives. He said for the last about 3-4 decades, they are mostly marrying their wards outside, but even then this problem could not be controlled or get stopped.
One Mohd Hafiz of the same village told the Excelsior that initially a child borns healthy in a family here but after few years of the birth, he or she losses hearing and speaking power. Many families got their children checked up in Poonch, Srinagar and Jammu hospitals and even in Delhi in some cases but the doctors also failed to come to any conclusion. He said till today, the State Health authorities or Government never sent a team of experts to conduct survey or study and find out the cause. Even the Social Welfare Department has not been providing pension to such disabled children. He alleged the attitude of neglect on the part of past local public representatives.
Hafiz further said he has a grown up daughter who is 8th pass and a minor son but both are deaf and dumb. ” I am unable to get a match for the grown up girl because no family would accept her in this condition. This is the problem here, which most of the people are facing in this `strange and cursed village’. Most of the minor and major children are dependent on their parents or other family members who are in sound health. Once an NGO had provided hearing aids in the village but the machines being of poor quality hardly worked for few months. Majority of the people are poor and do labours’ job. Some of them are involved in tailoring or knitting job,” Hafiz maintained.
A lady teacher at the local Govt Middle School told the visiting team that more than 50 percent of the children in the school were deaf and dumb. She said for routine teachers, it is very difficult to teach such children. ” They neither can hear or speak. They need the services of specially trained teachers. Some families do not send their such children to school. The Government must provide facilities to such children. It is their right,” she added.
Chief Medical Officer, Poonch Dr Mumtaz Bhatti when contacted said that the matter has recently come to his notice. He claimed that he would write to higher authorities in the State Health and Medical Education department to send a team of experts from Govt Medical College Jammu or outside to conduct thorough study and find out the cause. He dismissed the claim of the elderly members at the village with regard to some curse or shadow of evil spirit in the area or spotting of fairies there. He said there may be some scientific reason behind the matter.