Shillong: Two unidentified men hurled a petrol bomb at the residence of Patricia Mukhim, the editor of English daily The Shillong Times, in Meghalaya’s Umpling area, the police said today. Mukhim escaped unhurt in yesterday’s attack as the petrol bomb missed the glass panes of her bedroom by a few inches, East Khasi Hills SP Davis Marak said.
The journalist, who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2000 for her work in the fields of social justice and women’s empowerment, was home when two men on a motorcycle stopped by her residence and threw the bomb at Mukhim’s house at around 8.30pm, the SP said, quoting an eyewitness.
“An FIR has been lodged in the case and the police department is on the job. We will ensure that Mukhim gets justice,” Marak, who is supervising the investigation, told PTI.
The attack was widely condemned, with Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma describing it as “unfortunate”.
“Such an act of cowardice is unfortunate… I have spoken to the Home Minister and we have coordinated with the DGP in this regard,” he told PTI.
Home Minister James Sangma said the police department was doing its best to arrest those involved in the case.
“The police are examining the case from all possible angles. Once the arrests are made, we will be able to tell the reasons why she was targeted,” the SP said.
Hours after the incident, Mukhim took to social media, urging the police to take action.
“Criminals are getting away too easily. Police should take every case of arson and attack on press freedom with the seriousness it deserves. Please rise to the occasion,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
Mukhim told PTI she saw some flames and initially thought an electric short-circuit had caused a fire.
“I tried to douse the flames outside the bedroom window thinking that an electric short-circuit had caused it. The smell of petrol and the broken bottle pieces on the floor made me realise that it was an attack,” she said.
The Opposition Congress today expressed concern over the incident and said the government should “pull up its socks to tackle the criminals”.
“Journalists are being attacked across the country. It seems miscreants are free to commit such crimes,” Congress spokesperson Zenith Sangma said.
An attempt was being made to suppress the right to freedom of speech enshrined in the Constitution, he added.
David O Laitphlang, the president of the Shillong Press Club, urged the authorities to take all measures to book the assailants.
The culprits must be given exemplary punishment at the earliest, he said “Peace has been our hallmark but we will not cower down before forces of evil and no attempt to dissuade us from discharging our professional duties and rendering our service will ever fructify,” he added.
Mukhim has been vocal on issues concerning the safety of women and children on her editorial pages and on social media platforms. In an edit piece on April 13, she had written against a government plan to allow regulated mining in Meghalaya.