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Attacked Meghalaya editor says she received ‘death threat’ on Facebook 4-5 months ago

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The Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim claims she had filed an FIR against an unidentified person, but Facebook has not closed the account yet.

New Delhi: The Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim, whose house was attacked with a petrol bomb Tuesday, said she had received a ‘death threat’ on social media four-five months ago and that she had filed an FIR in this connection.

According to witnesses, two masked men on a motorbike threw the “bomb” on the wall of her house in Shillong Tuesday night, causing a minor fire.

“I heard an explosion and saw the flames rising,” she wrote on a Facebook post. No one was hurt in the incident though.

“There are people on social media who disagree with me very vehemently. One guy used to say, ‘she should die’,” Mukhim told ThePrint, speaking over phone from Shillong.

“About 4-5 months ago, I even filed an FIR but I have noticed that his Facebook page is still there,” she added.

Mukhim, a veteran journalist who was awarded Padma Shri in 2000, claims she reported the matter to Facebook authorities as well, but the company has not taken any action yet.

This is the first time that Mukhim, fondly called ‘Kong Pat’ (Sister Patricia) by her peers and younger journalists alike, has faced such an attack. She said it’s hard to identify a group or any individual, who may have been offended by her writings.

Wall of Patricia’s house showing burn signs from the petrol bombing | Facebook

Editorials on illegal mining

“I write on issues like unregulated mining and culture of violence and impunity where certain groups take out processions and attack non-tribal traders. There are a host of enemies that one makes in one’s professional journey,” she said.

The issue of coal mining or rat-hole mining — which was banned by the National Green Tribunal following complaints about rampant violation of environment norms in 2014 — became a major issue during this year’s Meghalaya assembly election.

On 16 April, chief minister Conrad Sangma met Union coal minister Piyush Goyal in New Delhi seeking his intervention to lift the ban that is reportedly causing a loss of Rs 700 crore to the state exchequer.

A few days prior to this, Mukhim wrote two editorials criticising the illegal and unregulated practices in the mining business.

David Laitphlang, president of the Shillong Press Club, said that journalists in Meghalaya feel relatively safer than their counterparts in the rest of the northeast. However, Mukhim is known for her outspokenness, which could have angered some people, he said.

Past incidents

“She has received warnings from militant groups like HNLC as well as Khasi Students’ Union in the past,” Laitphlang said.

A KSU spokesperson, however, told ThePrint that the confrontation between the union and Mukhim was limited to a “war of words” only.

Meanwhile, the state police are analysing the criticism of Mukhim on her Faceboook posts to see if there’s any connection to Tuesday night’s attack.

“There are some cases in which ‘miscreants’ have not been identified so who do we take action against,” Davis Marak, superintendent of police, said.

“We faced a similar problem 2-3 years ago. But Facebook people did not cooperate with us citing privacy laws,” Marak added.

Mukhim claims the police are ill-equipped to handle such threats.

“It’s an attempt to silence the voice of reason, sanity…the liberal voices. This is a new threat we’re facing and we don’t seem to know how to handle it. This is very intimidating,” she said.

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