- Arunachal Pradesh, the State geographically closest to China’s Hubei province where the COVID-19 outbreak began, has seen a comeback of a tribal lockdown ritual.
- The border State’s West Siang district ceremonially entered the Arr-Rinam phase recently. The ritual ended with the community leaders sealing five major entry points of the district.
- Arr-Rinam is the Galo equivalent of lockdown imposed by consensus for 48 hours whenever an epidemic strikes. The Galos, one of the 26 major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, dominate West Siang district.
- Arr-Rinam, which follows the Ali-Ternam ritual to ward off an epidemic, has been a part of the Galo culture.
- Ali-Ternam - Ali means epidemic and Ternam forestall - and Arr-Rinam were last performed almost four decades ago when a water-borne disease had affected many members of the community.
- The community has been performing these rituals periodically for livestock, primarily the semi-wild mithun, that are prone to contagious diseases.
- This is for the first time in 30-40 years that the ritual has been performed for the safety of humans.
- The Bos or deputy priests perform the Ali-Ternam under the guidance of a Nyibo (shaman).
- The Adi community inhabiting East Siang and Lower Dibang Valley districts too performed a similar ritual called Motor that they believe lets shamans with legendary powers to locate wild herbs to combat an epidemic.
- In districts such as Papum Pare and East Kameng, the dominant Nyishi community observed Arrue involving self-quarantine. Rituals such as Khyasang-Ratar and Merii are performed for preventing the entry of an epidemic to a village.
Coronavirus has not yet attacked the district, but the lockdown is a part of the precautionary measures. Making a departure from tradition (as in the past, the community used to lock itself in and banned the entry of anyone from outside) by adhering to the government’s social distancing guidelines, ensuring more people participates.