June 2004 News

Kashmir Wedding Controls Shelved

2 June 2004

Srinagar: Kashmiris can continue to stage lavish weddings - for now - after an outcry scuppered plans to limit the number of guests and the amount of food consumed. Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir put on hold their crackdown - aimed they said at preventing families racking up huge debts. The Guest Control Order, due to come in on 6 June, would have carried a maximum three-year jail term. The authorities now say a new committee will 'examine the matter afresh'. The Guest Control Order, announced last week, would have limited the bride's family to inviting no more than 75 guests and the groom's guests to 50. It would also have limited the amount of meat and rice cooked to 90kg for each woman getting married. Some Kashmiris had been forced to advance the date of their wedding while others said they would defy the ban. Ridicule Minister for consumer affairs and public distribution, Taj Mohiuddin, said the order was to check what he called the social evil of extravagance. It would also curb price rises caused by high consumption of mutton, chicken and other essentials, he said. But Kashmiris were immediately hostile. Weddings are the only occasions when relatives and friends get together in Kashmir Mohammad Ashraf, teacher Most newspapers heaped ridicule on the minister. A leading English daily, The Kashmir Times, called the order 'controversial and infamous'. Urdu daily, The Mashriq, labelled it 'Tughlaq-Shahi' after the Indian king Mohammad Tughlaq Shah, who was known for issuing whimsical and stupid orders. Most Kashmiris said the order was unrealistic. Mohammad Farooq, a resident of Srinagar, said: 'I have five brothers and sisters and my wife has as many. Their families put together add up to more than 50 people. 'That leaves no room for second cousins, neighbours and friends.' The food limits were equally ridiculed. Large quantities of food - the Persian-style 'wazwan' - is the traditional fare. Ms Farhat, a housewife, said: 'Wazwan is a rich part of culture and should be preserved.' Mohammad Ashraf, a college teacher, said: 'Weddings are the only occasions when relatives and friends get together in Kashmir.' He said the wazwan hardly ever impoverished any family as guests brought gifts in cash and kind. The government said it would seek wider public opinion to make the order more 'people-friendly and effective'.


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