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 an Indian security and communications clampdown on the Himalayan valley leaves residents on edge.
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.
Despite the fact that weeks have passed since the move, tensions still run high amid a complete shutdown of businesses, public transport and educational institutions.
But like thousands of families in the troubled Region, 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 at all. “I grew up dreaming about a grand wedding but there is not much to celebrate because of the situation,” the 29-year-old said.
Kashmir wedding invitations cancelled en masse pic.twitter.com/hzlEg9JSUW
— Baba Umar (@BabaUmarr) August 11, 2019
“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.” India’s decision in early August to scrap Kashmir’s autonomy and impose a ban on phone and internet communications has left the region reeling, cutting off its eight-million-strong population from the outside world.
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Hundreds of clashes between government forces and protesters have erupted since the order, leaving more than 100 injured. Despite the fact that weeks have passed since the move, tensions still run high amid a complete shutdown of businesses, public transport and educational institutions.
The heavily militarized region is no stranger to security crackdowns as India has always maintained a massive number of troops in the region. However, the number of troops was massively increased in the run-up to the constitutional change.
Hundreds of clashes between government forces and protesters have erupted since the order, leaving more than 100 injured.
But this time, even the usually buoyant wedding industry — a major driver of 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.
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In a status-conscious society famed for its hospitality, weddings have long served as a showcase for wealth and generosity, with guest lists regularly topping 1,500 and costs running upwards of $30,000. “Families save for years or decades to splurge on weddings,” said Bilal, who wanted to be identified only by his first name.
Parents start preparing for their child’s marriage almost immediately after birth, he said. So when only 15 percent of the invited guests turned up for his brother’s wedding this month, “it was a heartbreak for the family,” he said.
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.
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 said. Even hiring cooks and butchers was a challenge because of the communication blackout, he said.
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“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 color.”
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.”
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk.