IT is very sad to learn that conscientious citizens, who inform the government authorities on persons suspected of suffering from coronavirus in their locality, are being attacked by persons close to the suspects. A young man from Navelim was attacked by the members of the family of a Tablighi Jamaat follower for informing the health authorities about a suspected case of coronavirus. There have been similar instances in other parts of the country. At Khopoli in Maharashtra, individuals who informed the health authorities on residents who had come from overseas were living under threat of vengeance. The police must take criminal action against those who attack informants, who are only acting in public interest.
However, vigilance should not be stretched to shunning one’s own countrymen, especially those from the North East whose Mongoloid features make them vulnerable to being stigmatized as “Chinese,” an identity which has become an object of racist slur since coronavirus started in China. Such instances have been reported on the campus of a college affiliated to Delhi University and in parts of Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kerala. There have also been cases of social boycott of people even though they tested negative for coronavirus. Faced with social boycott, a man from Una district in Himachal Pradesh, who happened to be a friend of a follower of Tablighi Jamaat, committed suicide. People must remember that those infected should not be subjected to stigma and discrimination, as it can have a bearing on their mental health.
Caution should not be used as a vehicle for promoting racism and religious bigotry. The government must protect those who inform them of possible carriers of the disease from any threat or attack. With cases increasing day by day it is necessary that ground surveillance is increased by deploying health personnel to track those with symptoms. However, at the same time, the government must protect suspects from social boycott and stigmatization.