What Malana can teach Indian democracy


By: Vivek Mohan

A famous quote from an equally famous personality, but not from that famous (now) nation goes… “A government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. This nation is described as the best working democracy of the world – America – while India has to do with the tag of being the largest democracy in the world, not the best. But very few of us know that a ‘living fossil’ of ancient Indian republics lies isolated in Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh. – Malana! Yes, you sure have heard of it for its Malana crème and maybe stories about their Greek ancestry. As India goes to polls shortly, it is important to reiterate that Malana is still the best living example of how a democracy should work. Let’s get down to brass-tacks…without going into the history (rather His story!) and geography of Malana. We’ll talk about its civics – how distinct and similar it is to the ‘modern’ democracy.

Ours democracy centres around who has got the numbers, never mind ‘end justifies the means’! We’ve the ‘vote-bank politics’…majority vs. minority and this has translated into our social milieu too – majority vs. minority or vice versa!

Malana stresses on consensus. Only exceptional cases go to the supreme ruling deity Lord Jamlu (not to be confused with Jamdagni Rishi!) Their entire lives are woven around discussions and more deliberations till a consensus is arrived, unlike our “high command”! Between meetings life goes on … the daily chores, periodic religious functions and other social obligations. The’ve a bicameral parliament (Ra Deo – rule in the name of God) having upper (Jayeshthang – elders) and lower house (Haryang – all heads of family whether man or woman).The upper house has eight elected members, two each from four different (our diversity) clans in upper and lower halves of the village plus three top officials, namely, Gur (mouthpiece of the deity), Kardaar (the PM) and Pujari (the religious priest). All adult head of the families, including women, vote. They all have terms, including other official functionaries like our ministries, and parliamentary committees. For most of us democracy is ‘once-in-five-years’ official holiday with no accountability in between. But here they live it every day.

Any disputes beyond the village parliament is referred to Lord Jamlu via a special procedure, which is binding (we disregard even ‘party whips’) of all and sundry. The point is that they believe in the true spirit of democracy and abide by it. Yes, we too have a Supreme Court which is running this country anyway! Another thing…they don’t throw slippers, mikes, furniture, etc. during even heated debates!
‘Note’ has taken over ‘Vote’ in India, and I remember my English teacher (Prof Bharadwaj) saying,  “The govt OFF the people, BUY the people, FAR the people!”
Anyone disagrees?

The word ‘democracy’ is Greek, and our system a British legacy, but a real democracy has been thriving right here for centuries. All we need is to look within – literally!
“(So) help me God (Jamlu)!” (US Prez’s final line during oath).

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  1. A very informative article. Thank you Vivek ji.

    I wonder till how long this exclusivety will be maintained. With winds of change sweeping around, this place will also some day merge in the Indian Union, culturaly. I mean, I used to really feel proud to be one from the Land of Gods, till Aman Kachroo got murdered. I hope these people stay away from the ills of Indian "Demo<big>n</big>cracy".

  2. A very well written article. But needs to be publicised more, hoping the people ot our State ( At least) learn some lessons to be a part of a civilised and fair democratic setup.

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