‘Can’t have dreams in Kashmir’: Kashmiris trim big weddings after communication restrictions


India, All India

For others consumed by wedding preparations, the communications clampdown has made it impossible to contact suppliers and event managers.

Even Kashmir's usually buoyant wedding industry is buckling under the strain of India's decision to scrap the region's autonomy and impose a lockdown. (Photo: AFP)

Srinagar: After a year-long countdown, Arshi Nisar's wedding plans are in tatters, with the Kashmiri bride-to-be fearing for her guests' safety as security and communications restrictions are still in place at some areas in Jammu and Kashmir.

The marketing manager had originally planned a three-day extravaganza, including a special make-up session, music, and a huge canopy to accommodate more than 700 guests invited to partake in the traditional 10-to-15 course Kashmiri feast known as wazwan.

But like thousands of families in the state, Nisar has resigned herself to an austere event, with no more than 40 guests in attendance - if they are able to venture out of their homes.

"I grew up dreaming about a grand wedding but there is not much to celebrate because of the situation," the 29-year-old told AFP.

"Now we have decided on a very simple ceremony but I am still worried (about) how my in-laws and my family will move around in these tense times."

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The centre's decision in early August to scrap special status from Jammu and Kashmir and impose restrictions on phone and internet communications has partly cut off Jammu and Kashmir's eight-million-strong population from the outside world.

The authorities have eased the security restrictions in parts of Kashmir valley. Steel barricades and coils of barbed wire to block roads remain, forcing many to remain at home.

This time, even the usually buoyant wedding industry - a major driver of Jammu and Kashmir's economy - is buckling under the strain, with hundreds of notices appearing in newspapers and on television in recent weeks, postponing or cancelling ceremonies.

"Families save for years or decades to splurge on weddings," Bilal, who wanted to be identified only by his first name, told AFP.

So when only 15 per cent of the invited guests turned up for his brother's wedding this month, "it was a heartbreak for the family," he said.

For others consumed by wedding preparations, the communications clampdown has made it near impossible to contact suppliers and event managers.

Days before his sister Tehmina's wedding, Muntazir, who declined to give his last name, is struggling to procure everything from a wedding bed to jewellery and clothing for her trousseau.

"I had placed an order for a bed and given clothes for stitching to the tailor. Both the stores are closed and there is no way to contact them," the 41-year-old told AFP.

Even hiring cooks and butchers was a challenge because of the communication blackout, he said. "Weddings are a once in a lifetime event," he said. "As a brother I feel gutted by the thought that her wedding is devoid of the traditional colour."

For bride-to-be Nisar, her September wedding to her boyfriend of five years came after a hard-fought battle with their parents to overcome resistance to the marriage.

"We had a tough time convincing our families for the relationship and this was the time to be happy," she said. But, she added: "you cannot have dreams in Kashmir."