Community values in Arunachal Pradesh, high literacy in Mizoram ensure strict adherence to coronavirus lockdown
The Arunachal Pradesh populace constituted by 26 tribes has managed to survive the wrath of epidemics for centuries following this simple ritual of lockdown.
Strong community values among the members of the civil society seem to have helped Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram in containing the spread of the global coronavirus epidemic within the states. The two northeastern states till now have managed to confine the case of coronavirus infections to one patient each, showing a remarkable feat in containing the spread of the epidemic.
Interestingly, when the police force is having a hard time in a number of metropolitan cities in restricting the civilians in their homes, traditional reverence to community values have helped these two sates in preventing the spread of the epidemic.
Kahfa Bengia, a resident of Arunachal Pradesh who belongs to the Nyishi tribe in the state said to Firstpost that a number of tribes in the state have the history of following an ancient ritual of lockdown during the outbreak of an epidemic.
These traditions were followed to ensure that the epidemic does not enter the villages. Interestingly, many tribes invoked these rituals once again soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a lockdown and have followed them religiously, as they believe these rituals to be sacred.
“During a break out of any epidemic, Nyishi villages follow a traditional lockdown ritual where villagers self-quarantine in their homes and ensure that no entry and exit to and from the villages until the epidemic ceases. This has always helped us in surviving such tough times,” said Bengia.
In the Nyishi society, this tradition is called ‘Arrue’, observing which results in self-quarantine. Before the traditional rule of self-quarantine is imposed upon a village by its residents, a ritual named ‘Parh’ is followed in which the deity ‘Khayasang-Ratar’ is invited to the village to protect its residents from diseases.
Many villages in Arunachal Pradesh are dotted across the unmotorable foothills of the Himalayas. The state populace constituted by 26 tribes has managed to survive the wrath of epidemics for centuries following this simple ritual of lockdown.
Goi Sagro, another resident of Itanagar said to Firstpost that people tend to follow these rituals to a fault.
“You will hardly see a villager coming out of the village after they announce self-quarantine during an epidemic. They normally store an adequate supply of food, medicine and other essential before announcing self-quarantine in the village to ensure that it is followed strictly,” he said.
The ritual of self-quarantine is not limited to one village or one tribe only, rather it is distributed across different districts. A good number of tribes spread across the states announced traditional lockdown as soon as the national lockdown was announced by the prime minister.
“Districts such as West Siang, Papum Pare, East Kameng have also followed similar rituals sealing villages following the ritual of self-quarantine,” said Bengia.
He also said that such rituals have helped the state in reviving the community values and thus resulting in the successful implementation of the lockdown.
Mizoram, another hill state in the region showed a similar feat in containing the epidemic by effectively following it.
Chuanteya, a leader of the Young Mizo People’s Association said to Firstpost that the state has followed lockdown to the extent that not a single civilian can be seen on the roads for kilometres.
“In fact, Mizoram announced lockdown a day before the national lockdown was announced. The state government formed a state-level committee to enforce the lockdown. Members of various NGOs and Church leaders were inducted in the committee,” he said.
Amid the lockdown Mizoram, a Christian-dominated state recently observed Palm Sunday, a popular religious festival which involves gathering of people in the streets with palm leaves in their hands without a single person outside his homestead.
Solomon, a resident of Aizawl, the capital city of the state said that to celebrate the festival people, stood on their terraces and balconies with palm leaves in their homes and listened to the prayer that was streamed from speakers installed across the city to address the public.
“Lakhs of people chanted religious slogans along with the priest reciting the prayers from their balconies. Not a single person was seen in the churches forget about roads. The same procedure was followed in each and every village, but well within the regulations of the lockdown,” he said.
Recently, a video was released by filmmaker Mapuia Chongthu recording the Palm Sunday celebration in Mizoram amid a national lockdown delivers a surreal experience at a time when religious institutions are seen as major contributors to the spread of the epidemic.
Significantly, Mizos who are known for their law-abiding nature have often been in the news for successful implementation of traffic rules to a fault. The successful rollout of the lockdown plan is also seen as another example of the disciplined social life of the Mizos.
Chuanteya attributes this success to the high literacy rate of the Mizos, which is third-highest among the Indian states at 91.3 percent.
“High rate of literacy also ensures a greater number of people who understand the meaning of the government orders and also the reason behind the orders. Moreover, it also enhances the community feeling among the members of the society,” said the leader of the Young Mizo Association.
Mizoram’s first case of coronavirus infection was reported on 25 March when a person travelled to the state from the Netherlands.
“Soon after the person tested positive the Mizoram government took over the responsibility of his treatment as per norms and quarantined his co-passengers,” said Pachuau Lalmalsawma, official spokesperson of the state’s Health and Family Welfare.
He also said that more than 2,600 persons have been home quarantined.
While restricting entry or exit to the state before the national lockdown, the state effectively prevented transportation of the epidemic to the state.
On the other hand, the state of Arunachal Pradesh, which found its only case of corona infection on 2 April when an individual returned from Tablighi Jamat held at Markaz Nizamuddin.
As per an official statement released by the state’s health department more than 4,000 persons have been home quarantined and 237 persons have been quarantined in the quarantine facilities.
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An official of the Mizoram Home Department said the date for the next round of minister-level talks between the two states, scheduled to be held in Guwahati next month, is yet to be fixed