Script of unity
The virus knows no caste or creed, but it is feeding existing social prejudices
- COVID-19 does not recognise “race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or border” before striking, was axiomatic but essential.
- The pandemic has fanned the flames of communalism instead of dousing them, as it has compounded economic woes. The fact that countries and societies can no longer afford to face off with one another and the future can be secured only through togetherness and resilience.
- The backdrop of criticism of the apparent communal strand in the response of some sections to the COVID-19 challenge.
- The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the UN expressed concern over stigmatisation, in India, of a particular community. India sought to reject these concerns as external interference, which they were.
- There have been reports of religious discrimination towards patients. The situation was aggravated when a vocal section of the Indian diaspora, often touted as proponents of India’s interests in their host countries, was seen as Islamophobic in the UAE.
- The Indian Ambassador to the UAE reminded expatriates that discrimination was against “our moral fabric and the rule of law”. The narrative of the pandemic as a communal conspiracy against the nation began to take shape immediately after a Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi in March turned out to be a prodigious source of the contagion.
- The Centre and the Delhi government appeared to be using the unfortunate episode scripted by an irresponsible and ignorant group to fend off scrutiny of their own shortcomings.
In an environment that is already rife with fear and uncertainty, the official communications strategy must focus on building trust and offering reassurance. The extremely inadequate messaging has led to stigmatisation of patients and their families, and despicable incivility towards even the bodies of unfortunate victims.