You might have heard of politicians using money power or liquor to fleece the voters in their favour.
However, some politicians in interior and remote areas of hill state bank on age old traditions as ‘Loon Lota’ (putting salt in water kept in small brass pot) to influence voters.
It may sound astonishing in modern era when elections have moved on to EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) from ballot paper.
But customs as ‘Loon Lota’ still hold significance for innocent hill folks of Trans-Giri area of Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
The custom which was used for solving disputes and act as a deterrent for criminals, has been used as a tool to secure votes.
In ancient times, the ‘Loon Lota’ custom was used to extract truth from a person and find out the guilty in a village.
In case of any theft or make an agreement, a village panchayat meeting was called and water from source outside the temple compound of presiding local deity was brought.
The person who is suspected of having committed a theft or crime or persons who wants to make an agreement were then asked to put salt in the brass water pot.
“The entire ritual signifies that the person or persons on their free will testify truth and honour the agreement made in front of the witnesses. Or else they would face wrath of local deity in form of misfortune (demise by diseases) for the entire family like salt vanishes in the water,” Brij Lal, a local from Trans-Giri area of Sirmaur district told The Statesman.
However, the custom is being used for political gains by few who ask the voters in these areas to swear allegiance and promise to vote for them.
The areas of Trans-Giri along with some interior areas of Mandi, Kullu districts and Bara Bhangal area of Kangra district still witness the practice, though there may be some minor deviations in observing it.
“Under the custom, the locals are asked to swear by ‘Loon Lota’, though with changing time and spread of education has limited its area,” Hem Singh Thakur, a Mandi based social activist told The Statesman.
Another custom which is still observed, is voting for Royal family as traditional society of higher hill areas of the state still considers the erstwhile King’s family members as ‘second deity’ (Presiding local deity is considered first).
The locals belives that if they don’t vote for politicians who belong to Royal families, it will bring the wrath of their deity or misfortune for him and his family.
And as per the custom, atleast one member or all members of the family mandatorily cast his/their vote in favour of the candidate if he belongs to Royal family, irrespective of the party from which he is contesting.