Mro people reinforced the village lockdown to curb coronavirus spread as the government declared a 10-day general holiday
The entrance to the community is barred with bamboo so that none can get in or out.
The ethnic Mro people of Bandarban have retrieved their age-old traditional practice of isolation to protect themselves from the spread of novel coronavirus while the country is struggling to keep people off the streets.
Photos of the bamboo-barricaded Ranglai Mro village of Chimbuk hill – 18 kilometers away from the Bandarban town – are circulating in the social media. Many have appreciated the move of the ethnic community, which lags behind the mainstream lifestyle.
Epidemics are nothing new to the remote hilly areas of the country. Therefore, ethnic communities' practice of community isolation traces back to ancient times.
Archeologist Lorenz G Löffler introduced the self-protective measures of the Mro in his research paper titled "The Mru," and used terms like "lockdown" and "home quarantine" to elaborate his explanation.
Ranglai Mro village chief (karbari) Lengpung Mro described the age-old system to The Business Standard, "Recently we heard about a virus which is super contagious. Therefore, we took up measures to protect ourselves.
"Many Mro died of measles and chickenpox in the past. These are highly contagious diseases and can spread rapidly if proper measures are not taken immediately. We used to barricade the roads and entrances to the village with bamboo or tree logs."
Lengpung Mro further explained, "Mro people are adopting the measures from ancient times. If any emergency appears during the lockdown, one would inform his or her neighbours for any exception of the lockdown rule."
Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura, chairman of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board, commented to a picture of the Mro village.
"A Mro village of Bandarban, unique example of community Lockdown," he wrote in his comment.
Human rights and development activist Daw Nai Prue Naly wrote, "They do not have academic education, but they have no lack of knowledge. City dwellers with academic certificates are yet to be aware of the virus' spread, while the Mro community has taken up measures to protect their village."
"It is good to know that my beloved hilly people have retrieved their traditional lockdown amid the coronavirus satiation," wrote a multinational company staffer Kong Chai Marma.
Meantime, one Marma A Mong shared the pictures saying, "Countrywide Lockdown is the best way to save our lives."
Ahmed Aman Masud, a Dhaka dweller, shared the pictures and echoed the above facebook comments.
Wild Watch, a facebook-based group who work to save the environment and wildlife, also shared the photos to their facebook page.
"Mro people are the most marginalised. They even demonstrated what is a lockdown," commented the green activists.
Apart from village lockdown, Mro youths have been distributing leaflets to other communities since March 23 to build social awareness.
Former Chattogram University student Youngung Mro, who led the awareness building initiative, said most of the Mro people do not understand Bangla and they are usually in the dark about what is going on around. Therefore, the leaflets distributed were written in Mro language.
"Our leaflets have covered many remote areas in Bandarban district," said Youngung Mro.
In the meantime, Bandarban Zila Parishad Member Singyoung Mro said that if someone arrived to the locked gates of the Mro village during the shutdown, he or she will be asked to stay at a temporary shelter outside of the village, so that the village remains isolated and intact.
"Mro people have been resorting to the age-old isolation arrangements and regulations during the crisis period," said the zila parishad member.
According to the 2011 population census, Bandarban is the home of 39,656 Mro people. However, social organization Mro Social Council in its several censuses claimed that the population size is around 80,000.