Bamboo, the ‘golden grass’ vital for all aspects of life across the northeast, is now being used by local residents in the region’s rural areas for erecting makeshift barricades that have impacted the delivery of essential services and goods during the ongoing nationwide lockdown.
Arterial corridors in some of the region’s hill districts have been cut off by barriers made of bamboo and thorny vines that the locals have used to block roads leading to their villages. This has affected the supply of essentials and medicines by local authorities.
A health team in Manipur’s Tamenglong district ran into one such barricade. Residents of Matung village refused to remove the bamboo barricade and let their vehicle carrying life-saving drugs pass.
“The vehicle was forced to return to (district headquarters) Tamenglong avoiding more such barricades elsewhere,” the district’s Chief Medical Officer Chambo Gonmei told newspersons.
The Food Corporation of India has also been facing problems in accessing some of its depots because of barricades by people of some leikais (localities). Some of the corporation’s trucks have as a result been stranded at Jiribam, Koirengei and other strategic places.
In Arunachal Pradesh, many villages and localities have hemmed themselves in with bamboo barricades. Ganga in the State capital Itanagar is one such locality where the predominantly Nyishi community has pasted instructions barring the entry of outsiders. Even grocery shops in the locality have been allowed to open for only three hours a day.
The scene is similar at Boha and Painaktang villages in West Kameng district inhabited by the Monpas. “It is crucial for our minuscule community not to be affected by the killer virus,” said A. Sang, a Boha village elder.
The scenario is similar in Assam. Villages such as Laopati in Tinsukia district and Kolajan Peeyang in Dhemaji district have not only barricaded themselves but also armed small squads of locals with bamboo sticks to keep unwanted visitors and “potential virus carriers” out.
In Nagaland, there have been instances of villagers passing “laws” not to allow entry to even their own people who have returned from studies or jobs from other coronavirus-hit parts of India.
But several other rural communities have been more accepting of their own. Lothavi village in Dimapur district recently welcomed nine boys who returned from Bengaluru. The villagers have had them quarantined in a sanitised community hall and have been providing their basic needs.