The attack on Patricia Mukhim and generally on the Fourth Estate


Another thread of violence woven …

All forms of violence have existed as long as humans have. While over time, some individuals and groups of individuals have learnt the futility of violence, others have remained stagnant in the culture of violence. Both categories cut across race, religion, cultures, class, caste, region and everything divisive and discriminatory. These two broad categories are also the fundamentals of the cultures and politics of societies and states, on which laws and implementation and enforcement thereof are founded.

Against this brief background of how violence is perceived and perpetrated, we can place exactly where Northeast, indeed India, on a scale of 1 to 10. It is bad enough that the entire country is enraged at the rampant rapes and murders of little children and women across the country and the infringement of the rule of law by such crimes particularly in the recent years and is demanding justice to the victims and survivors — as if not satisfied with the appalling level of crimes against women and children, some believers, practitioners and perpetrators of violence have hurled a bomb at the residence of the Lady Editor of The Shillong Times, Shillong, in the evening of April 17, 2018. This is a blatant attack on women and the Fourth Estate.

It doesn’t matter how crude the bomb was —  the fact is that an act of violence was perpetrated. Thankfully, the Lady Editor, who was at home at that time along with her Helper, was unhurt. It is possible that this act of violence was committed to frighten her but even that is an act of violence and is called intimidation — against which there are several laws. Obviously what these perpetrators of violence don’t seem to realize is that any attempt to silence is always a futile exercise and that one doesn’t become a Journalist and get to be an Editor for nothing. Fearless is the middle name of Editors — it is Patricia Mukhim’s middle name too.

Patricia Mukhim’s track record as a Journalist, Columnist and Editor, besides the several hats she wears in the social, cultural and academic realms at the national and international levels, needs no introduction ~ nor her courage and her in-depth understanding of the regional, national and international political, social, cultural and economic currents and under-currents. She is one of our most erudite Editors and to attack her is nothing short of the attempt not only to silence her but also to silence the increasingly rare voices of sanity, icons of courage and advocates of the rule of law and justice particularly in the region. No Journalist, no Editors — heck, no sane person — expects to be agreed with all the time but there are civilized ways of disagreeing — and hurling bombs, threatening, intimidating or even hurling verbal diatribes, especially on social media now, at Journalists, Editors and the entire Fourth Estate aren’t civilized ways of disagreeing.

We also have Courts and other fora such as the Press Council of India, National Broadcasters Association, etc., to address and redress issues of disagreement. As HG Wells has said: the first to perpetrate an act of violence is the first to have lost all ideas, is validated every day. The attack on the Lady Editor is evidence. In fact, seeing all kinds of violence in the Northeast for decades, HG Wells’ statement holds even more significance for us. For decades, the threads of violence have woven the tapestry of the Northeast narrative — even now the heirs of violence continue unabashed, mindlessly and with impunity. That women are so brazenly and blatantly attacked in some form or the other, underscores the Northeastern misogynistic mindsets and cultures despite our claims of being unlike “others” in the rest of the country.

That practitioners of the Fourth Estate are easy targets also belie the claims of the age-old democratic culture and traditions of Northeastern tribal communities. And these determine where we stand on a scale of 1 to 10 vis-à-vis violence. Indubitably, the Meghalaya Police will make all out efforts to nab the culprits but their success is also dependent on the ruling dispensation’s commitment to safeguard women and the Fourth Estate in Meghalaya. For the state Government, recently installed in Meghalaya, how it handles the attack on Meghalaya’s only Lady Editor, cracks it and ensures unambiguous delivery of justice, will be telling on its calibre and the quality of governance the people of the state can expect in the next five years.

Monalisa Changkija is Editor of Nagaland Page.