By Adam Halliday
Relatives of the two women told The Sunday Express that they "wept for joy" at the Centre's gesture, which came after former members of the Mizo National Army (MNA), the armed wing of the Mizo National Front (MNF) that fought a guerilla war against Indian armed forces between 1966 and 1986, lobbied with Union home ministry officials for compensation for the women.
Sources said the ex-MNA members, who were helped by retired Mizo IAS officer H V Lalringa, visited Home Secretary R K Singh in New Delhi on May 16. Singh is learnt to have advised them to open bank accounts for the women in order to channel the compensation.
Official sources confirmed that the money was recently paid from a secret fund after clearance from the highest authorities in the home ministry. The home ministry declined to comment officially on the matter.
"I wept when I heard the news from bank officials on Wednesday evening," J Laldula Sailo, a brother of one of the women told The Sunday Express over the phone from East Lungdar in Mizoram's Champhai district.
"I immediately hugged my sister and told her God has been kind to her after all the suffering," he said.
Sailo, who retired as a teacher from a government middle school and the son of the erstwhile tribal chief of Mualcheng village where the alleged sexual assaults took place, said that his sister these days sits around smoking most of the time, with a blank expression on her face.
He said she can do almost nothing by herself, and needs help to go to the bathroom or relieve herself. "She eats very little, and can only perform small tasks like putting her plate in the sink after she has eaten," Sailo said. "But she is generally not at all troublesome. She just sits quietly in a corner."
Sailo said his sister and her childhood friend were raped one night in November 1966 at Mualcheng, after Army personnel advanced towards the village after being fired upon by MNF rebels in East Lungdar. The soldiers were fired upon again as they came close to the village, and in retaliation, they herded all the villagers together and set fire to their homes.
Lalnghakliani Lailung, a state government employee and the younger sister of the other woman who was raped, said the two girls were kept separately in a small shack, where soldiers allegedly took turns raping them. Both the victims were daughters of prominent villagers — while the father of one was the erstwhile chief, the other was the daughter of the head of the village council.
"Since our parents died long ago, my siblings and I take turns to look after my sister. She has extreme paranoia, and for many years after she was raped, she would sew together long nightgowns and refuse to sleep alone. Even now she keeps talking of a big dark man she sees in nightmares, and is very suspicious of everyone. She says we are impostors who have dressed up like her siblings to harm her," Lailung said over the phone from Kolasib, the headquarters of a nothern district, where she plans to build a house to live with her sister. Her sister currently stays with relatives in another small town.
"I was so happy that I wept and prayed when I was told the compensation had come. The former MNA men have been very kind to us, pursuing the issue all these years," Lailung said.
"In a sense, we feel this gesture is an acknowledgment and an apology by the central government for the atrocities committed during those troubled times," she said.