The world is battling hard to fight the COVID-19. Thecoverage and commentary about statistics related to the number of peopleinfected, died and recovered has flooded mass media outlets. The devastatingeffect of the pandemic has stretched beyond these staggering numbers. Countingthe cost, stigmatization emanating from misconceptions and ignorance is acolossal challenge that is to be fought at par with the deadly pandemic
Understandably, any unknown and unexpected calamity of agigantic magnitude like the corona pandemic is likely to be carrying a heavyload of fear. The chain reaction triggered by fear psychosis propels rumourmongering so rampantly that the ripple effects are experienced by peopleimmediately. An infected person all of a sudden becomes stereotyped based onher or his identity related to region, religion, race or even occupation.Suspecting and blaming one particular group and then virally unleashing ashameful media campaign is not only derogatory but extremely dangerous.Germination of hate and hostility leads to high voltage currents of anger thatis unleashed on stigmatized groups in direct and disguised forms of abuse,intimidation, social boycott, and violence.
Amidst the ongoing war against corona pandemic, instances ofstigmatized violence and offences have brought voluminous amount of shame andcriticism that was highly embarrassing. Unfortunate incidents of healthcareprofessionals being harassed and heckled by abuse and brute violence by unrulymobs were highly disturbing and discouraging.
The ugly manifestations of social stigma are metamorphosingand currently the recovered patients are bearing the brunt for no fault oftheir own. Being successfully treated and then tested properly, the recoveredpatients back home find themselves distanced and discriminated. Even those whocomplete their quarantine are not being spared from the wrath of social stigma.This callous attitude makes such people vulnerable to being targets of verbal,emotional and physical abuse.
Ordinarily a patient recovering from any ailment deservesunconditional care and assistance to recuperate well and return to normalliving. Contrary to this humane and empathetic consideration, stigmatization ofrecovered patients with discriminatory and disrespectful treatment speaksvolumes about our immaturity and ignorance.
The snowballing of stigmatization based on misconceptionsand sheer ignorance inflating out of proportion makes people behave in bizarreways. The increasing reportage about maltreatment of recovered patients is amatter of grave concern for all us as we are the part and parcel of the samesociety reeling under the pandemic threat. The deadly virus can attack anybody,but does that mean we should behave inhumanely towards those who are infectedor who have recovered?
Recovered persons are the real heroes who courageouslybattled and defeated the virus and emerged victorious. Those who died are now ahistory and the recovered persons provide a promise and a ray of hope in thesedark circumstances. Plasma therapy, which incorporates the utility of plasmafrom a covid recovered person, is under consideration to be a breakthrough inexploring the possible treatment of corona disease.
At a time when the world community is struggling to findvaccine for the corona virus, the need of the hour is to shun stupidity anddissociate and distance from all forms of misconstrued and misleading notions.Credible sources and authentic institutions need to be accessed and approachedfor reliable information and updates about the disease. All media outlets mustimbibe professional standards and disseminate information based on scientificfindings and avoid being involved and instrumental in rumour mongering to curbthe menace of stigmatization
There is an emergency to raise the level of social immunityagainst the contagious infection of social stigmatization. Collective thinkingneeds to be sanitized from contaminated myths and misinformation. Scientifictemper is indispensable to boost social immunity and only proper education canguarantee the much needed transformation of thoughts. It is time to break thechain of stigmatization once and for all and ensure everyone has a right tolive with dignity.
Bilal Kaloo is Assistant Professor, Department of Education- South Campus – University of Kashmir