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‘Village republics’ back in vogue in Northeast thanks to COVID-19 panic

Village after village in the region has resorted to the age-old mechanism of putting up barricades to fence themselves from novel coronavirus carriers from outside.

Published: 26th March 2020 06:09 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th March 2020 06:09 PM   |  A+A-

A village in East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: Village republics are back in vogue in parts of the Northeast.

Village after village in the region has resorted to the age-old mechanism of putting up barricades to fence themselves from novel coronavirus carriers from outside. In the process, people are staying at home and protecting themselves and others.

The barricades have been put up across villages in Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. So far, the Northeast has recorded two positive cases, one each in Manipur and Mizoram, but the panic is widespread.

Hatkhola village in Assam's Baksa district

“It (barricade) reminds me of our ancestors who would wait and guard the village in their traditional fort vigil of enemies during the head-hunting era,” Sanen Pongen, who is the chairman of Chuchuyimlang Village Council in Nagaland’s Mokokchung district, told The New Indian Express.

He said the villagers were keeping vigil to ensure that “no outsider, including our own citizens settled in various towns and cities or abroad, enter our village with the deadly virus.” He said the barricading would continue till the threat from the virus was completely over.

“Traders in Chuchuyimlang town bring essential commodities from Assam. I learnt yesterday (Wednesday) that trucks were not allowed to load the items in Jorhat (in Assam). The stocks in our market will exhaust in 15 days. We are worried,” he said.

In Arunachal’s East Siang district, the locals “locked down” several villages by erecting the barricades to prevent the entry of outsiders. Nobody is being allowed to enter or leave the villages. This customary self-restriction is called “motor or pator system” in the Adi (tribe) dialect.

Phungyar block headquarters in Manipur

As the villagers imposed self-restrictions, normal activities came to a grinding halt in the villages. The village authorities passed instructions on the locals to keep their houses and surroundings clean.

Matung in Tamenglong district is one of Manipur’s many villages where the villagers put up road barricades. The locals on Wednesday did not allow a team of health officials to pass through the village despite prior information about their visit by the district magistrate.

In the state’s Kamjong district, almost all villages have put up the barricades.

“As we don’t have access to proper healthcare facilities, only we have to take care of ourselves. If one person gets infected, the whole village will be finished,” said Yarmatai, who is the president of Raizan Students’ Union, a local students’ body.

Similarly, the locals kept Hatkhola village in Assam’s Baksa district out of bounds for outsiders.

“We have closed all roads leading up to Hatkhola to prevent the entry of COVID-19-infected people into the village. We appeal to people to cooperate with the government during the lockdown period,” Dhrubajyoti Das, a villager, said.



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