Thursday, June 20, 2024

Regional

Electorate of ancient Himalayan village Malana gung ho over Lok Sabha polls

IANS | May 20, 2024 02:40 PM

KULLU: Nearly 1, 000 voters of the mystical and ancient Malana Village nestled in the picturesque Parvati Valley of Himachal Pradesh, where one of the oldest forms of democracies in the world still exists, are gung ho about exercising their franchise in the last phase of the General Elections on June 1.

Unaffected by modern civilisation, the secluded hamlet is full of nature’s bounty and here the legend of Alexander the Great lives on.

The village, where the locals are guided by the village God Jamlu, attracts more backpackers and travellers than tourists.

It is known for Malana Cream, the most sought-after forms of hashish globally.

As per a centuries-old tradition, the locals go by the diktat of the local deity on which candidate to vote for.

The inhabitants, known to restrict contact with outsiders, speak a peculiar language of their own, called Kanashi -- a mixture of aboriginal Mundari and Tibetan.

A spokesperson of the Election Commission told IANS on Monday that polling station 136 in Malana that falls in the Mandi parliamentary constituency has an electorate of 990, of which 487 are men and 503 women.

The womenfolk do most of household and farming work here, while the men are either chatting or smoking in small groups.

In the 2019 General Elections, the Malana polling station, exclusively for locals, saw 72.42 per cent polling, while in the 2022 Assembly elections the poll percentage spiked to 75.78 per cent.

Of late, winds of modernity are blowing through the village of nearly 1, 800 inhabitants. Even as it holds fast to its rich and unique culture and myths, changes are creeping in as is evident through the popping up of mobile towers, satellite dishes, and electricity poles.

After trudging through the treacherous mountainside with stone-laid, dusty paths, with the cellphone signal dying slowly en route, only experienced hikers can reach Malana.

This village was once known for its tower-like houses made of wooden beams of deodars and stones built in the Kath Kuni architectural style. However, these were destroyed in a massive blaze in January 2008.

Now concrete structures have taken shape, but locals are still reluctant to open doors to the outside world.

“As part of our initiative to maximise the voter turnout, we are carrying out Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) initiative across the 414 polling stations, where the voting percentage was low in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. We are carrying out awareness campaigns in villages located in interiors like Malana too, ” the spokesperson told IANS, adding, “the election material would be transported to Malana through porters from the last connected village.”

The ancient Malana Village is situated close to Jari Village of Kullu and it takes five-six hours of a steep hike to reach there. This village has its own democratic system, similar to the Ancient Greek system of democracy.

It consists of upper house (Jaistang) and lower house (Kanishtang). Jaistang, with its own executive, works like the judiciary. If no solution comes out in the both houses, the case is decided by local deity Jamdagni Rishi called Jamlu Rishi in the local dialect, who passes the order through the ‘gur’ or oracle and the decision is final and its followers are ready to obey the sacred command.

Jamlu Rishi is most revered and considered to be the king and outsiders are prohibited from touching the ancient temple of the deity.

Malana comes under the Mandi parliamentary seat, the battleground between “royalty” and “reel”.

Ruling Congress has pitted its legislator Vikramaditya Singh, the scion of the erstwhile royal family, against Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut.

Amid the clash of heritage and stardom, the sprawling constituency is one of the toughest and covers almost two-thirds of the state.

The seat is currently represented by Pratibha Singh, the mother of Vikramaditya who belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Keonthal state.

She’s a three-time MP from Mandi. However, no political party has so far visited Malana for voter solicitation.

“We are excited to exercise our franchise on June 1 even if no politician visits our village. This time the poll percentage would be higher as the maximum number of inhabitants have decided to stay back in the village on the day of polling, ” Brighu Devi, a resident, told IANS over phone.

Mandi had long remained the political battleground of late Congress veteran and six-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. After making it to the Lok Sabha for the first time by winning the Mahasu parliamentary seat in 1962 and then again in 1967, Virbhadra Singh switched to Mandi in 1971 and registered a win.

He, however, lost the seat in 1977 but was again elected from the constituency in 1980 and later in 2009.

Polling for the four Lok Sabha seats in Himachal Pradesh -- Shimla (Reserved), Kangra, Mandi and Hamirpur -- is scheduled for June 1.

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