Fear, Stigma and Othering: The Impact of COVID-19 Rumours on Returnee Migrants and Muslim Populations of Nepal

Pramod R. Regmi, Shovita Dhakal Adhikari, Nirmal Aryal, Sharada Wasti, Edwin R. Van Teijlingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The paper explores how COVID-19-related moral panics have led to fear and othering practices among returnee Nepalese migrants from India and Muslims living in Nepal. This qualitative study included in-depth interviews with 15 returnee migrants, 15 Muslims from Kapilvastu and Banke districts of Nepal, and eight interviews with media and health professionals, and representatives from migration organisations. Four themes emerged from our data analysis: (1) rumours and mis/disinformation; (2) impact of rumours on marginalised groups (with three sub-themes: (i) perceived fear; (ii) othering practices; (iii) health and social impact); (3) resistance; and (4) institutional response against rumours. Findings suggest that rumours and misinformation were fuelled by various media platforms, especially social media (e.g., Facebook, YouTube) during the initial months of the lockdown. This created a moral panic which led to returnee migrants and Muslim populations experiencing fear and social isolation. Resistance and effective institutional responses to dispel rumours were limited. A key contribution of the paper is to highlight the lived experiences of COVID-19 related rumours on marginalised groups. The paper argues that there is a need for clear government action using health promotion messages to tackle rumours (health-related or otherwise), mis/disinformation and mitigating the consequences (hatred and tensions) at the community level.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8986
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume19
Issue number15
Early online date23 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022

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