COVID-19 stigma: Indians have distanced themselves from rationality

Coronavirus COVID stigma ostracisation
While many Indians see such racist attacks and religious hate as "acts of ignorance and poor knowledge of how the virus spreads", some believe that such prejudice runs deeper among the middle class and elite Indians. | Illustration - Immayabharthi

In the first week of April, 19-year-old Revathi's (name changed) visit to a primary health centre (PHC) made her a target of angry neighbours and strangers in Madurai district’s Ellumalai village.

Revathi was experiencing headache and cough. The PHC doctor told her it was a normal cough and gave some medicines. "But somebody took a picture of us in the PHC and circulated it among villagers saying my daughter has acquired COVID-19,” says the father of the 19-year-old.

Since the villagers made it very clear that they would not allow the family to enter the village, Revathi and her family could come home only after she tested negative for coronavirus in a government hospital in Madurai.

Somewhat similar to Revathi's experience, a passenger travelling on Chennai-Guwahati Express recently became a victim of collective panic and vigilantism. His co-passengers raised an alarm and informed railway officials at Andal station in West Bengal when they found him coughing. The passenger was forced to get off the train as a team of doctors took him to a hospital in Asansol, only to be released later.

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