Two cases of COVID-19 infection have been reported so far from the Northeast, a region characterised by remote settlements. To prevent a large-scale outbreak, several village communities have introduced their own ways to enforce the nationwide lockdown.
In Arunachal Pradesh’s Lower Dibang Valley and East Siang districts, there are reports that people are sacrificing dogs and hanging the carcasses at the village entrance, believing that they will ward off evil spirits. The district administration has now issued a warning against killing of animals and ordered removal of carcasses.
In Mizoram, the scare has intensified after a 50-year-old pastor tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. In some villages, the names of those loitering around despite the lockdown are being announced on the microphone. Some villages have also formed task forces with members from the village councils, local wing of the influential NGO, Young Mizo Association, and churches in the area. The primary goal is that if any family needs essential items, the task force will source the material and supply it to the family. The task forces are also keeping an eye on those asked to remain in home quarantine.
In Nagaland and Manipur, communities have barricaded entries to villages.
From Manipur’s Churachandpur district, a photo has emerged that shows two youths posing as guards in front of such a barricade with rifles. The Food Corporation of India faced difficulties in delivery of essentials due to the barricading by local communities and had appealed to the police to remove these. In several villages of Manipur, the barricades have now been removed.
At the entrance of Tripura’s Boiragi Para village in Mohanpur subdivision is a barricade with posters that read “Lockdown Boiragi Para” and “No entry without Permission”. What sets this barricade apart is a bucket of water and soap. Isak Kaipeng, a youth from the village, said, “We have decided that whoever comes from outside our village has to wash hands and then go inside.”
Near the Bangladesh border in Assam’s South Salmara Mankachar district, panchayat secretary Abdul Rashid has a different reason to worry. Most people in the villages in the panchayat work are now out of work. “There is money and food now. But 21 days is a long period,” he said. Several families will be eligible for the rice scheme announced by the government, but Rashid says getting that rice in a remote border village during a lockdown could be difficult. —With Jimmy Leivon in Imphal and Debraj Deb in Agartala
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