Conspiracy of Silence


Dear Ezra and Lian,

You heard the word “conspiracy” yesterday. You asked me what it meant. I told you it meant a “secret plan”. I never told you that I have been part of a conspiracy.

In India and in particular, the state of Mizoram, there is a conspiracy. It almost involves too many people to be considered a conspiracy. It includes government, both politicians and bureaucrats. It includes business people and police. It even includes church leaders. It includes the friends and families of all these people. It is a Conspiracy of Silence.

The average person, especially those far away from the capital city Aizawl, are led to believe that those working for the public good are for the most part honestly doing a good job. They are told they have Christian men and women serving their community. No one stands for election unless the church first gives their approval. We, their friends and family are pressured to not tell the truth.

We are never to question the impossibility of the finances of these people. We are to politely accept their dinner invitations and never ask how the meal was paid for. We are to sleep in their beds and sit in their houses and never marvel at where they got enough money for all this. We get money to go to good schools, wear fine clothes, live in luxury, but never to question how someone could afford this on a government salary. Business contracts that yield great wealth are to be called God’s blessings and not the obvious outcome of bribes.

Even when we see envelopes stuffed with cash; Even when we see meetings with known corrupt criminals; Even when they confess with their own mouths the crimes that they have committed; Even when they tell us how to do it; Even when they invite us to join them; Even when they call us a fool for saying no; Even then we stay silent.

If we speak, their shame will be our shame. We have stayed silent for so long, we are accessories to the crimes committed. They stole for our benefit. We own their crimes. We dare not upset the common people. We can’t let the poor know how the rich have stolen from them. For social harmony, we politely smile and shake the hands dripping with blood.

A few send me private messages. We can have frank conversations over tea. Are any of them brave enough to risk their whole lives by testifying to what they know? Will they ever confront their family member with their well-justified suspicions? Don’t judge them too harshly if they stay silent. We can “easily” move on to a new life. Their way forward to an honest life is much more difficult.

Children, don’t ever hold me blameless. Don’t ever think me better.  I sit here far away from the conspiracy. There is no one else who will have an easier time of leaving it than me. The costs to me of speaking up are quite low compared to those still trapped in silence. I do not face a loss of income, a loss of status, or a loss of family. I can walk through the shopping malls here and no one will talk behind my back. I won’t hear any verbal accusations. I have a passport that let me travel the world. For others, their world has only ever existed inside this conspiracy.

Ezra, Lian, I renounce the works of this conspiracy and leave it behind. It has no hold on you. Be free and enjoy your future.