The Himachal Pradesh police has booked around 200 residents of Spiti, mostly women, who protested at the entry gate of Kaza earlier this month upon the arrival of area MLA and State Agriculture Minister Ram Lal Markanda, demanding that he observe quarantine.
The protesters have been booked under sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 143 (unlawful assembly) and 188 (disobedience of public order) of the IPC at the Kaza police station.
On June 9, members of Kaza Mahila Mandal, Beopar Mandal, Yuva Mandal and others had gathered near the entry gate to discuss an ongoing issue regarding the transfer of a road from the BRO to the state government, which they thought threatened the livelihood of workers employed by the BRO in road clearing work.
When Markanda arrived there, the residents demanded that he be placed in quarantine since all people entering Spiti are required to do so as decided by the local committees.
Lahaul-Spiti SP Rajesh Dharmani told The Indian Express that the residents singled out the MLA in enforcing this rule. He said, “Around 1,000 people enter Spiti every day, including military personnel, BRO workers and others. But they are not being stopped while the minister was stopped. Isn’t it wrong?”
He added that the state government’s rules do not restrict intra-district or intra-state movement, and rules made by local committees cannot override the government’s rules.
Meanwhile, the Kaza residents said that they were forced to adopt these rules to prevent the onset of COVID-19 in the remote valley which lacks adequate public health facilities. “Since the pandemic began, our expert committee comprising representatives of the five monasteries here and other leaders unanimously decided to restrict the entry of outsiders. When lockdown restrictions were eased, we decided to ask those, including locals, who are entering from outside to observe a 14-day quarantine,” said Kesang, president of the Yuva Mandal.
Residents said that a team stands guard at the Kaza entry gate every day to enforce these rules.
Kaza SDM Jeewan Singh Negi said that bus service to the sub-division has also been suspended following a written request by the residents.
Spiti sub-division has not reported any Covid case so far. The entire district of Lahaul-Spiti was Covid-free until Monday, when a worker in Lahaul who had come from outside the state a week ago tested positive for coronavirus.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines