A remote primitive little village in the Himalayas, Malana was isolated from the outside civilization for thousands of years. Was never invaded or ruled by an external administration. The people there had been living in harmony with nature, an innocent pure existence with their own language, their own world, their own democracy. Their people’s republic has been governed by a village council with an upper house and a lower house like the bicameral assemblies of our parliament. The council members are chosen by the village folk through a process of unanimous selection - not an election! Their court has been resolving all their internal disputes. No manipulation, no favoritism, they have their God in front. All decisions have been unanimous; every individual’s opinion is considered – unlike the present form of democracy that leads to dictatorship of the majority. And the secret of their civilization has been trust. the democracy of trust. Since a given word is taken as absolute, they have never felt the need for formal education.
In popular belief they are supposed to be the descendants of some deported Greek soldiers of Alexander, yet some traces their existence rooted deep in Hindu mythology. Their ancestral roots may be debatable but their democratic setup with participatory court procedure has similarity to that of ancient Greece.
And they have been producing some very good quality hashish. Blessed by Lord Shiva good quality cannabis plant grows in abundance there. For ages the use of cannabis has been an integral part of their lives, from medicine to footwear. But in the past they had never traded it; neither did they know the value of it. Their only trade with the outside world had been sheep wool.
In the seventies came some white men. They taught the villagers how to rub the cream – the cleaner and more potent hashish suitable for an international market. Those foreigners drew them into business. Malana cream became an international brand. Hashish production grew like a home industry for each household. The poor villagers started earning money and they didn’t know the value of money either.
The Indian government took notice of a hidden backward tribe who as par laws of the state were into criminal activity. The outlaws were to be brought under the rule of our mainstream democracy. Malana became a part of our national electorate, a part of our mainstream administration.
And the invasion begins… To give them the light of our civilization government starts building a series of dams, tunnels through the mountain to generate hydel-power. Malana gets electricity, Television, satellite dishes, mobile phones, a vehicular road. With them comes all the vices of a modern world, comes money, comes greed. The incursion of political parties also means creation of political polarity among the beautiful people of a peaceful hamlet. With no knowledge or perspective of the outer world innocent illiterate villagers take sides of political parties and create a divide within.
And the fire strikes… In January 2008, in a devastating fire, caused by an electrical short circuit, half the village including four ancient temples gets completely destroyed. The villagers comprehend that the political divide has disturbed their unity so the God is angry. The people who haven’t lost their houses accommodate those who have lost theirs. But the fire annihilates; the curse of the modern world has hit hard upon the hidden treasure of this ancient civilization - their trust.
The rebuilding of Malana witnesses transition of an ancient civilization. Rules of the modern world, which promote homogenization and convenience, force replacement of traditional methods and practices. In our democracy it’s illegal to cut trees, so the villagers are forced to build concrete houses instead of their traditional stone and wood ones. Poor villagers cannot understand how come the government can destroy their jungle to built the dam or the road and they themselves are prohibited to cut a few trees to rebuild their homes! Concrete house means outside knowledge, outside people, more money; so comes outside aids with their political interests! An age-old traditional society crumbles; the influential individuals turn corrupt, families break apart, brothers fight.
For the poor villagers hashish still remains their only means to earn some money, and it’s a very little money, not even enough to make their living forget about rebuilding their homes. Their production is very restricted now because of police watch. They don’t understand why they have to give away something, which has been so special to them for thousands of years! For them governance is for the people, so why can’t the government make special sanctions for these poor people in crisis! They don’t realize why they have to become a part of India and loose their sovereignty!
We can see the end is very near. In the name of progress of human civilization, like thousands others, another ancient civilization is getting engulfed by a modern one, loosing its unique identity to homogenization. When the whole world is looking for an answer to the shortcomings of the present form of democracy, we witness a beautiful model of self-governance, one of the world’s oldest forms of democracy for the people being obliterated by the rule of the majority.
I feel destined to record such a reality… some moments of truth, some disappearing myths, some wisdom of trust… a dying account of an obscured victim of human progress!