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Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

Amid shutdown in Valley, weddings put on hold

The revocation of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status last week, an associated communications clampdown, and restrictions on the assembly of four or more people has forced the Wanis to scrap the wedding functions.

india Updated: Aug 14, 2019 00:42 IST
Mir Ehsan
Mir Ehsan
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
A section of the Greater Kashmir newspaper shows announcements by families about the cancellation of the wedding functions of their family members owing to the prevailing conditions in the valley, in Srinagar, India, on Sunday, August 11, 2019.
A section of the Greater Kashmir newspaper shows announcements by families about the cancellation of the wedding functions of their family members owing to the prevailing conditions in the valley, in Srinagar, India, on Sunday, August 11, 2019. ((Photo by Waseem Andrabi / Hindustan Times))
         

For the past two months, Omar Wani has been busy planning the wedding of his only sister, 26-year-old Saima Wani. A family of lawyers in north Kashmir’s Baramulla town, the Wanis had fixed the dates for August 23, 24 and 25, printed and distributed invitation cards, and collected clothes, sweets and gifts for a lavish three-day ceremony comprising three big events and a traditional seven-course meal (Wazwan) for at least 1,200 guests.

But it was not to be. The revocation of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status last week, an associated communications clampdown, and restrictions on the assembly of four or more people has forced the Wanis to scrap the wedding functions.

“It was to be the first marriage in our family after two decades, so everybody was upbeat. Now we don’t know what to do because we have no idea how long the situation will continue,” said Wani.

The restrictions in place currently made it virtually impossible for many of Wani’s extended family and friends to reach Baramulla, roughly 55km from state capital Srinagar, because modes of transport are sparse and many roads have been blocked. Even cancelling the wedding has brought forth its own set of problems – Omar has been forced to dispatch personal messengers to relatives and friends living nearby, hoping that everyone else relays the message.

Wani’s younger brother Adeb flew down from Bangladesh, where he is pursuing an undergraduate degree in medicine, but is now planning to go back next week. “Till last week, we used to sing songs every evening. Now, everything has stopped,” said Wani’s mother, Shahida Begum.

The Wanis are not the only ones. Hundreds of such weddings across Kashmir slotted for August or September either stand cancelled or downgraded to barebones ceremonies with no Wazwan, and only a serving of Qahwa (Kashmiri green tea) to close family members.

The three months that follow Eid are Kashmir’s traditional wedding season, mostly because of the temperate climate that allows for big ceremonies to be held outdoors. Ceremonies last for three days, families spent lakhs of rupees on gold, traditional pherans and lehanga, pashmina shawls, and gold embroidery. Traditional songs in Kashmiri enliven the three main ceremonies -- Mehndi, Nikah and Wallima.

With landlines, mobile phones and Internet snapped, it is impossible to ascertain the exact number of weddings cancelled. But over the past week, the classified pages of many local English and Urdu newspapers have sported messages of wedding cancellations.

“Due to prevailing situation in Kashmir, we have decided to cancel the marriage party, which was scheduled on 16th, 17th and 18th August, 2019. However, the Nikah ceremony will be performed as per programme with simplicity,’’ read a posted in three local English and Urdu dailies by Abdul Majeed Zargar, an advocate based in Budshah Colony in Srinagar. On August 11, Kashmir’s largest-selling English daily, Greater Kashmir, dedicated a full page for these messages.

Another message published in an Urdu newspaper, Tameel-i-Irshad, from Abdul Gani Bhat, a resident of the old city of Srinagar, read,” The marriage ceremony of my son Suhail Bashir which was fixed for August 17 has been cancelled. Those who have been served invitation cards are informed there will be no function on that day.’’

Roadblocks and barbed wires, in addition to restrictions on movement, mean that many newspapers do not reach a wide readership. Hence, when Zaffar Altaf, a resident of Murtuza Colony in Srinagar, had to cancel his son Altaf’s wedding on August 18, he turned to the local cable network.

“Under the present circumstances, we can’t arrange even a small function as everything is shut. I requested the local cable network to flash message on the television so that people will come to know about the cancellation of my son’s marriage,” he said.

The cancellation and downsizing of weddings has hurt many businesses, for whom the August-October period was a boom time.

Farooq Ahmad Sofi, who runs a catering service at Jawhar Nagar in Srinagar, said that 90% of wedding bookings had been cancelled after the government revoked special status for Jammu and Kashmir. “Usually our business is at its peak after Eid. We had all dates booked for the next three months. Now, everything is under a cloud, most of the booking orders for August and September have been cancelled or postponed,’’ he said.

The political uncertainty has also forced him to let go half of his 20-strong staff.

Shops selling weddings materials are also affected. “This was the time when people used to throng our shops. Before Article 370 was revoked, we had a beeline of consumers buying marriage items and now there are none. Big functions have been converted into simple occasions where people don’t need anything from us,’’ said Zahoor Ahmad, a shopkeeper in Srinagar’s Gonikhan market.