Saturday, June 3, 2023

Himachal People


Crime and Punishment

People in Himachal are simple and peace loving. Stealing, killing or taking away some one else's share is considered sinful. Long litigations are sometimes caused due to land or women related problems. Among the lower castes abducting someone's wife or the wife's elopement causes minor scuffles but none of them are very serious. People here forgive easily. The women are more prone to suicide as the social pressures are more intense on them.

The quarrels within a caste or community are usually decided by Doom or Khumli (the community panchayat). The local priest and Kardar (head) are members of this. The Kardar signifies the date and the priest calls the assembly. An emergency meeting is known as Thek, Dadhi or Dal in which each absentee has to pay a fine of a rupee. In some areas of Kulu, Kinnaur and Mahasu, the gods are called upon to decide matters. In Malana, the god Jamlu and the god Mahasu in Dodra Kwar decide the cases through their devotees. Their judgment are final and irrevocable.

People who defy the caste laws are ostracised. This custom is known as Chekka or Banaj. A family which has been ostracised is not visited by the fellow villagers. Such people or families can be accepted back into the community only if the whole community assembles in the village and agrees to call the defaulter. He is then made to drink the holy Panch Gava ( a holy mixture of five products of the holy cow comprising of her milk, butter, ghee, urine and dung) and then he may sit with the members of his community at a feast. After this he offers a gift to the god. The local king is also given a gift (shojir) of money.

Killing a cow is considered the biggest crime and sin. A man who commits it, is debarred from the village till he goes to holy  places like Mattan or Haridwar and has a Havan performed at his house. People trust each other and often leave their property and animals in each other's care without any formal written documents. To dig into someone else's savings is considered highly sinful. Charging an interest on a loan, selling milk or charging a rent for lodging someone in one's house are all looked down upon. These customs are undergoing changes now.

The village money lender usually takes advantage of the illiteracy of the villagers by charging them exorbitant interest rates. Some of such loans can never be paid in full. The system of opening banks in villages by the government has improved the situation. Now each village has a Panchayat and most of the reforms and litigations are affected by these. People cast votes to choose the members of this assembly. Fallow land around the village is known as Shamlat. This is a common property and can be used as grazing land for cattle. The village fairs, festivals and folk-plays take place here.