The 1896 Plague in Bombay and the Riots it Caused

Share this Post on :

(Following is a reproduction of a report published in ‘The British Medical Journal’ on November 28, 1896 from London. This report specifically talks about the riots caused because of government policies of quarantine and the caste problems in dealing with it.)


Riots and Blackmail – Recent Returns. 

PLAGUE still holds sway in Bombay. It must, however, be gratifying to the authorities that it is being kept within bounds, and we congratulate them upon the fact. 

There are, however, elements to be dealt with besides the mere medical treatment of the disease, and at times these threaten to be serious.

 Numerous riots and disturbances of more or less magnitude are constantly being fomented, but they seem to be encountered on the whole with success. Blackmailing is common, and the – Government have made several arrests and inflicted severe punishment when the perpetrators can be identified. 

The whole of the troubles arise in consequence of the attempts that have been made to procure segregation of the plague-stricken, and the Government, wisely or unwisely, have modified the stringency of the restrictions put inforce. It would appear that there are no General Laws for India in connection with this subject, and the local authorities have no rules to guide them in their dealing with the matter now in hand. 

A sensible way out of the difficulty would be to obtain imperial regulations, and in the event of evasion being requested in accordance with “caste” prejudices, to throw the responsibility on the particular “caste” or class demanding special consideration, and require of them to carry out at their own expense such modifications as they wish. These would still require to be under well recognised sanitary rules, so that the public health should not be endangered. 

The returns to hand are as follows: 

October 31st …… 11 attacks and 6 deaths. 

November 1st …… 11 attacks and 10 deaths 

November  2nd …… 10 attacks and 8 deaths 

November 3rd …… 21 attacks and 18 deaths 

November 4th …… 6 attacks and 10 deaths

November 5th …… 8 attacks and 5 deaths 

November 6th …… 13 attacks and 10 deaths 

November 7th … 10 attacks and 9 deaths 

This table shows but little variation from the returns of the previous three weeks, which have been recorded.

Share this Post on :
Saquib Salim

Saquib Salim is a well known historian under whose supervision various museums (Red Fort, National Library, IFFI, Jallianwala Bagh etc.) were researched. To his credit Mr. Salim has more than 400 published articles on history, politics, culture and literature in English and Hindi. Before pursuing his research and masters in modern Indian History from JNU, he was an electrical engineering student at AMU. Presently, he works as a freelance/ independent history researcher, writer and works at