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Ending stigmatization is the way forward

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By Firdous Khan

Earlier this month, humanity was shaken in Jammu. It was when the news of a two-month old baby who had tested positive for Coronavirus at SMGS hospital was abandoned by its parents. It died the same day, the parents untraceable. The news sent shivers down the spine of masses.

And as India reels under a devastating wave of coronavirus with its already fragile healthcare system overwhelmed and local governments stretched to their breaking points when it comes to saving lives, such shameful and insane acts have become a new normal. At the receiving end are those affected by the contagious Covid-19. While the living (affected by Covid) are dying due to plummeting Oxygen in blood and its non availability in hospitals, the dead are piling up around crematoriums and graveyards. There have been reports of dead bodies floating the Ganges.

 

Amid this sea of grief, the word ‘Humanity’ is at stake. It is very much unfortunate to see that at this very juncture of human catastrophe, when people are supposed to be unified and supporting those in distress, (though there are some organizations associated with it) the reality is the exact opposite. Patients battling Covid-19 and those helping them have been highly stigmatized and pushed to the wall. There have been reports of people abandoning their loved one’s as soon as they come in contact with the contagious disease of Covid-19.

There is no denying the fact that Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives like never before. But the kind of behaviour some people have developed is beyond sanity. The very first immoral incident occurred with the outbreak of Covid-19 virus itself. It was when many countries of the world named it as ‘Chinese Virus’, due to its origin from China. In the back drop of this, Chinese citizens in various countries were attacked, abused and discriminated. These incidents undoubtedly left them traumatized. Minority Blacks in many White-dominated countries were labelled as super spreaders of virus and targeted. In India, the sole blame for the spread of virus was put on members of Tablighi Jamaat when few of its members tested positive last year. The wrath of which was experienced by Muslims across India. Poor Muslim vendors and shopkeepers were attacked, abused and threatened.

Even our frontline heroes (doctors and paramedical staff) who are working 24×7 to save lives of people battling novel corona virus were not spared. They were blamed to be carriers of virus and boycotted, thus forcing them to live away from homes.

This labelling and stereotypical behaviour of masses against those battling Covid-19 or people treating/ caring them has forced World Health Organization to come up with a five-page document to counter such uncalled behaviour. It encourages people to shun their bias and be a supporting leg at this very point in time so as to overpower this Stressful and unpredictable disease that has already silenced lakhs of people across the globe.

We know that Covid-19 has created havoc among masses since its outbreak. Everyone is running for his/her own life as the crisis rages. People are threatened and traumatized because of its deadly nature. But segregating people and blaming those with Covid does not yield anything. We have to approach the situation with empathy. One must put himself in shoes of those battling Covid, in order to understand their anxiety. Taking care of ourselves and supporting others who are at the forefront will enable us to win over this deadly pandemic and not creating stereotypes and bias. That is the only way we, as a society can survive and thrive.

Views expressed are personal. Firdous Khan is a student at Nelson Mandela Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution, JMI Delhi. Feedback at [email protected]