After a three-year long delay in the judicial procedures, a court hearing of the case of alleged sexual assault victim, Zothansanga will be held before Additional District & Sessions Judge Court today. And after all the protests, the hashtag campaigns, the flyers and the cry for justice, the Mizo community is restless and impatient to hear the decision of court.
The latest development in the case was when the the case, registered as Criminal Case No.7272 of 2019, was dealt with at the Additional District & Sessions Court with Lalbiakzama as the Judge on 13 September, 2021. Not long after the tragic incident took place, the matter was taken up by an NGO called People’s Union for Justice, Mizoram (PUJM) who have constantly pushed the case forward. PUJM’s President, Lalhriatrenga Chhangte has issued a public statement saying that PUJM will take all possible measures to provide fair reporting of the case and make sure that justice is delivered.
The two accused, Zodianliana Sailo and R. Lalhruaitluanga, were initially charged with wrongful restraint, wrongful confinement, voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation after which they were taken to the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court. Later, the accused was additionally charged with kidnapping case as a result of which the matter was transferred from the CJM Court to Additional District & Sessions Judge Court. Today, the court will decide the fate of the accused.
According to the FIR report filed by the victim’s mother, on September 2018, 24 year old Zothansanga was brutally harassed and sexually assaulted by Zodinliana Sailo, a resident of Kanaan Veng who also happens to be the grandson of Mizoram’s former Chief Minister, Brig. T. Sailo. According to the victim’s mother, the prominent status of the family and their political influence have played a big role in the delay in the functioning of the police work and judicial proceedings. As per reports, the accused Zodinliana and his friend R. Lalhruiatluanga tricked the victim to get into their car after which he was taken to the outskirts of Aizawl city. Here the victim was harassed with shards of broken beer bottles. He was forced to strip his clothing and was made to crawl around naked. Reports further stated that the victim was forced to indulge in a number of sexual acts for more than an hour. Medical reports also mentioned “sexually assaulted” as one of the medical investigation findings. After the brutal torture and harassment, the victim had to make his way back from the outskirts of the city.
After an FIR was filed by the victim’s family, the police reportedly took statements from both victim and the accused. The mother told an interviewer that Zodinliana’s older brother and other family members have approached her to retract the FIR and let the matter be settled in an understanding between the two families. She also mentioned that the police told them not to proceed further with the case and to settle the matter as a minor dispute between two families. Though the accused was taken into custody, he was immediately granted bail by the court.
The Mizo community, especially the youths, have shown their strong support for Zothansanga. Flyers with the message “Justice for Zothansanga” were distributed all over the city, and in the months that followed, hundreds of people came together to protest and march through the city streets, demanding justice for the alleged sexual assault victim. Social media was flooded with the hashtag #justiceforzothansanga.
Three years have passed. But there has been no substantial progress in the case of Zothansanga. Now, with the court hearing commencing today, the hashtag #justiceforzothansanga is trending again as the Mizo community continues to show their support and solidarity for the 24 year old. Many are of the opinion that the political connections of Zodinliana’s family have a lot to do with the delay in court hearings and in the progress of judicial procedures. The majority of social media posts and comments have also put the blame on the police who are supposed to put criminal justice into motion by initiating investigation. As per the report of Zothansanga’s mother, the police delayed the filing of chargesheet and the FIR was left pending for a long period. The court hearing today will decide the fate of the accused Zodianliana Sailo.