A 37-year-old man was not allowed to enter his home by the neighbours even as he tested negative for the novel coronavirus, forcing him to go to a quarantine centre set up by the health authority in Tripura.
Gobinda Debnath spent over Rs 30,000 to hire a car in Assam, and then it took him three days to reach Tripura, and finally his residence at Joynagar on the outskirts of state capital Agartala.
Debnath, who works at a mechanical workshop in Agartala, recently went to Assam to accompany his father to Guwahati.
For him, a fresh struggle began when he was about to enter his home at Joynagar on Sunday night.
"Over 5,000 people, mostly intoxicated, prevented Debnath from entering his home. Police officers and health officials tried to pacify Debnath's neighbours but they became more agitated and also tried to harass us," West Tripura District Health Officer Sangeeta Chakraborty said.
She said, "We have tried to tell the people for several hours late Sunday night that Debnath has tested COVID-19 negative, but the locals remained unconvincing. With no other alternative, we took Debnath to the institutional quarantine centre in SIPARD (State Institute of Public Administration and Rural Development complex on the outskirts of the city) late Sunday night."
"By gathering in large numbers to prevent Debnath from entering his home, the crowd, who live in a small housing complex and near by, did not maintain social distancing," the health official said.
Sensing the hostile situation, Debnath's wife Mampi Debnath, a pregnant woman, also asked her husband to go to the quarantine centre. The couple has also a teenage daughter.
"As everyone asked me to go away, and prevented me from entering house even as I am a corona-free person, what can I say or do?" wondered a dejected Debath at the quarantine centre on Monday.
Debnath lives with his three-member family and in-laws in a small flat allotted to his mother-in-law Bhanu Das under a government housing scheme for the people living below the poverty line.
Following the standard practice, the authorities have tested Debnath's samples near Churaibari, a Tripura-Assam inter-state bordering point after he entered Tripura from Assam last week.
After testing negative, he was escorted by the police to his residential complex in Joynagar on Sunday night.
Debnath's case sheds light on the insensitivity and stigma associated with coronavirus. Faced with similar cases of prejudice and social boycott, the state administration has been struggling to sensitise people.