On a normal day, a senior journalist being called an “evil witch” at the behest of a religious institution in a state would have grabbed national and international headlines. However, Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim being called the same by a bunch of Church-going fanatics has failed to hit the headlines at a scale the development should have. Mukhim’s crime? That she, and the Shillong Times publish rather uncomfortable news pieces and editorials regarding the functioning of the church, its malpractices and the rampant corruption therewith. For the same, Patricia Mukhim has been caricaturised as ‘Jezebel – the evil witch’.
Since the advent of Christianity, Jezebel, the 9th century BC Pagan queen of Israel, has been epitomised as a wicked woman. In modern usage, the name of Jezebel is sometimes used as a synonym for sexually unrestrained and dominating women, and Patricia Mukhim went a step further by calling out the elements who caricaturised her, for indirectly insinuating that she was a ‘prostitute’.
In a Facebook post, Mukhim said, “In recent times The Shillong Times has been publishing articles that are calling out the Church for its conspiratorial silence on issues affecting the state and its people…So if you point out all these deficiencies you become a prostitute like Jezebel…Whoever has done this must be a strong votary of church politics and it’s insidious functioning.” The editor of Shillong’s most read daily then added, “The church has no appetite for any kind of criticism — Rs 4.67 crore was missing from the particular church in Mawkhar, and till date, they haven’t done an internal inquiry, which they should have done in the first place before going to the police.”
Mukhim was referring to a money embezzlement scandal which had hit the Mawkhar Presbyterian Church, Shillong in 2019, and how despite an FIR, action to reach the truth in the case was progressing at a snail’s pace. Only earlier last month, the Shillong Times also carried an editorial, in which the Church was thrashed left, right and centre for its seeming ‘hibernation’ on issues which concern the people. Although the author made no secret of his far-Left inclinations and called on the Church to speak against the three farm reforms passed by the Modi government and the rising fascism in India, he did make it a point to tear into the Church as a whole.
The name-calling and depiction of a journalist as a ‘witch’ simply because she questions the Church is a glowing testament to the intolerance prevalent among Church authorities. Whether it be cases of sexual assault, corruption, or any other malpractices occurring within the Church or its affiliated institutions – people are simply expected to turn a blind eye and not question those who have gotten used to not being held accountable.