A virus emerged in China and people called it the ‘Chinese Virus’. Thousands of miles away, two sisters of Chinese origin were racially and physically abused in a street in Sydney – they hadn’t been to China recently.
Arguments on the web are rife with why one should be allowed to call the virus a ‘Chinese Virus’ – while we are not arguing that you cannot call it that, maybe we can urge you to think of the ramifications of calling it that?
For example, in 2018-2019, an Indian artist based in Nepal, Kurchi Dasgupta spent 6 months studying the impact of the Second World War in a Hitler-led Germany. “After the war, a majority of German people who had no role in the war whatsoever were and till date continue to be discriminated against”, Dasgupta shared. Similarly, to name the virus a Chinese Virus automatically discriminates against the billions of Chinese people who have no role in its dissemination.
We have digressed.
In Nepal, as neighbouring India reports a spike in cases, much of which is attributed to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi, fear of community spread has risen in Nepal too. Thanks to widespread access of Indian media on our television sets. Take the weekend example of Janakpur for example:
On Friday, residents on Janakpur reported sighting a couple of Rs. 10 notes on an isolated street. The police arrived, the area was cordoned off, and the notes were sanitized for inspection. Immediately, a police investigation was launched. Dhanusha police extracted images of two women – screenshot of CCTV footage.
Meanwhile, users had already taken the matter upon social media – accounts varied to a great extent. The first reports said two women had deliberately scattered the notes on the street, second person said the women had spat on the notes before dropping them on the street. A third account swore they saw the two women run away after scattering the notes.
Several media companies caught the story – headlines ‘two women flee after scattering notes in Janakpur’ were splashed across our walls. The investigation leads the police to two women – sister in laws. They are taken into custody, and the media spares no expense in sharing their names (Amuna Khatun and Alina Khatun) and their location (behind a local masjid). The contents are shared widely by social media users.
Further, on Saturday evening – one of the accused tests positive for antibodies via Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT). Yet again, online and social media is on fire – several incorrectly stating both tested positive for antibodies.
On Sunday, the PCR tests arrive – both test negative. The news isn’t met with the same fury, we wonder why.
Furthermore, in the evening, police say they made an error in their investigation. “The duo actually didn’t deliberately drop the money. They had gone to the bank to withdraw some money, and were hurrying back home to avoid authorities, when the money accidentally slipped”, the police said, and a few media outlets relayed.
Meanwhile, public lost interest in the story – it had lost its sizzle. And for the police and media companies who reported the false news – an official apology is awaited.