Nations urged to promote acupuncture for benefit of patients

Chairman Mao Zedong (center) meets Indian Medical Mission members during China’s National Day celebration reception in Tiananmen Square of Beijing in October 1957. Dr BK Basu (left) introduces Mangesh Kotnis to the Chinese leader. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

NEW DELHI – Some professionals in India are calling for joint efforts of the world’s most populous countries to promote and exchange programs for acupuncture to foster peace and humanity and bring people closer together.

Doctors of Dwarka Nath Kotnis Health and Education Centre, a charitable acupuncture hospital, placed a proposal in early May to Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang when Qin met relatives of Dr Dwarka Nath Kotnis and Indian doctors on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Goa. 

With more and more Indians accepting the form of traditional Chinese medicine in recent decades, it can serve as a bridge of friendship between the two nations, said Dr Inderjit Singh, who has been practicing in Dr DN Kotnis Health and Education Center in Punjab since 1975.

Dr Singh, 70, a renowned Indian acupuncturist, has been practicing and popularizing traditional Chinese medicine or TCM for long in the city of Ludhiana in India's northwest state of Punjab.

Indeed, the tiny needle is playing a larger role to knit the cultures of the world's two most populous nations together, coupled with the resurgence of acupuncture in India, doctors of the hospital highlighted.

Acupuncture has played a unique role to promote people's friendship between India and China, said Dr Sandeep Chopra during the interaction, another doctor from the hospital.

Both countries should kindly pursue exchange programs for the promotion of acupuncture in India so that this tiny needle and the mission of Dr Kotnis can bring people to people relations closer, the doctors said.   

Nowadays, with a growing number of Indians being treated and cured by TCM and the ancient therapy is gaining popularity in South Asian countries, Dr Singh pointed out.

“The Chinese delegates applauded the work of the doctors of the hospital which has been helping to strengthen the friendly relationships between the two nations and moreover it has helped to promote the traditional Chinese medicine in the country,” claimed the doctors of the hospital.

Dr Singh said acupuncture can cure as many as 338 diseases, including body pains, gynecological problems, paralytic dysfunctions and arthritis pains. Each day, there are 70 or 80 patients coming to see the doctor at the hospital.

This traditional treatment should be promoted in India, and China in collaboration with India, should set up more centers throughout India to provide the best medical care in India, Dr Singh said. 

Acupuncture therapy in India is related to the story of the Indian Medical Mission or IMM. Five doctors were dispatched to China to provide medical assistance during the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis arrived in China in 1938 with four other physicians M Atal, Dr Bejoy Kumar Basu, M Cholkar and D Mukherji, as members of the IMM.

Dr Bejoy Kumar Basu, as a colleague of Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis and a torchbearer of the IMM, stayed in China for nearly five years during 1938-43 as an IMM member. Kotnis saved the lives of numerous Chinese soldiers. Adverse weather affected Dr Kotnis and he died at the age of 32 in 1942, considered a symbol of friendship between India and China,

After returning to India Dr BK Basu had been working relentlessly to carry forward the ideals of IMM throughout his life for next 43 years until his death in 1986.

In 1958-59, Dr Basu stayed in China for six months to learn acupuncture before introducing the needle techniques to India. In 1973, Dr Basu was invited to China to learn newly-developed acupuncture anesthesia.

From the very beginning Dr Basu tried to spread acupuncture to doctors by free teaching and disseminate science for broad masses of people.

Late premier Zhou Enlai (right) and senior leader He Long take photo with Dr BK Basu (left) and Dr Debesh Mukherjee in Kolkata in October 1956. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Dr Basu, who established Dr Kotnis Memorial Committee and the Acupuncture Association of India to preach the ideals of the medical mission, even donated his house and savings to the government of West Bengal state for the purpose of development of acupuncture.

Members of All India Dr Kotnis Memorial Committee started Acupuncture system in Ludhiana, Punjab in 1975 and Dwarkanath Kotnis Acupunture Hospital was founded under the banner of Dr DN Kotnis Memorial Committee or KMC. The Aim of All India Dr Kotnis Committee was to spread the message of friendship and brotherhood between two countries and to popularize this traditional treatment in India. 

The All India Kotnis Committee was formed in 1972 and Dr BK Basu was elected as president and Gian Singh, father of doctor Inderjit, was vice president. Later, Dr Inderjit was sent to Kolkata at Dr BK Basu residence to get proper training in acupuncture.

In 2019, the acupuncture hospital organized a 10-day training program in association with the World Federation of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Societies of China in Ludhianahere. A team of ten Chinese experts came to India to train doctors in acupuncture.

Early on 1978 a group of students of Dr BK Basu, including Dr Debasis Bakshi and Dr Mrigendranath Gantait, took proper training from Nanjing University of Traditional Medicine in China. Later KMC founded Indian Research Institute for Integrated Medicine or IRIIM and Dr Gantait founded BK Basu Memorial Research and Training Institute of Acupuncture in Kolkata, two oldest and popular acupuncture centers, located in Kolkata and recognized by the government of West Bengal, India’s eastern state. 

West Bengal and Maharashtra are the first two Indian states which recognized acupuncture and its doctors officially. In 2019 the federal ministry of health and family welfare (Department of Health Research) also released an order recognizing acupuncture as a system of healthcare and therapy.

In 2019, an apex committee comprising experts from acupuncture was formed by the ministry to officially devise rules, regulations, and act for setting up government-affiliated acupuncture hospitals and colleges. But so far still no act, rules, or regulation has been announced by the federal ministry for setting up government-recognized acupuncture hospitals, experts of the committee lamented. 

There are more than 100,000 acupuncture practitioners in India, according to a survey carried out by the Acupuncture Science Association last year, a largest professional nonprofit organization of acupuncture practitioners, said Debasis Bakshi, general secretary of the association. 

“We integrated the two traditional treatments of acupuncture in India and China. We continue to provide students the same note that we were given while we were being trained by Nanjing University,” said Dr Bakshi of IRIIM. Using both Indian and Chinese needles for acupuncture, the drug-free therapy has been drawing accolades from patients everyday, Dr Bakshi said.

Government leaders and organizations of India and China can organize meetings and symposiums jointly to commemorate the birth and death of Kotnis and popularize this traditional treatment in India, said Dr Gantait.

“Dr Kotnis is no more. But many more Kotnis should come in future to safeguard human civilization. We all must cherish the spirit of Kotnis and of IMM for world peace and progress,” Dr Gantait said from Kolkata. 

Praising the Indian acupuncturist efforts, Chinese Consul General in Kolkata Zha Liyou told China Daily, the acupuncture can cement the ties and it can promote viable medical and cultural exchanges between the two countries.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.