With last year’s devastating floods completing a year today and victims of the deluge finding themselves in high and dry in absence of any adequate compensation from the government, another “disaster of equal magnitude” seems to have gripped Kashmir this season – extravagant wedding ceremonies. Extravagance, show-off and lavishness are all what defines a marriage in Kashmir these days. While rich can afford all this, a poor is left high and dry by the society’s new definition of marriage. Conscious civil society members, who came to report about the negative trend to the KNS office, rue that “mindless extravagance” is on full display in many parts of Srinagar and in other places of Kashmir in the marriage ceremonies. They said that a good number of businessmen, bureaucrats and others are spending over lakhs and crores on receptions (wazwan) and on dowry of their sons and daughters. The civil society members quoted an example of a businessman in Soura who last week spent many lakh rupees in marriage ceremony of his daughter. People accompanying groom to the bridegroom’s house for reception were not only served a sumptuous wazwan, but a golden gift worth Rs 23,000 was handed over to each. Another person in downtown Srinagar has reportedly spent many lakh rupees in wazwan and other paraphernalia on marriage of his son. In a clear attempt to flaunt his wealth, a trader of Humhama boastfully claimed to his neighbours that he has also spent many lakh rupees on wedding ceremony of his son, much to the discomfiture of the neighbours who say such people force poor to eat a humble pie. This rich man paid ten lakh rupees only for a tent-house for few days. The trend of lavish wedding and extravagant spending in a place hit only last year by a devastating floods rendering thousands on the verge of penury goes against the spirit of humanity and brotherhood, Arshad Ahmad, a social activist said. “How humane it would have been if all these people have minded spending the money in the rehabilitation of flood victims instead of wasting lakhs in wazwan and other extravaganzas,” he said. Ahmad’s assertion that corers of rupees spent on lavish marriage ceremonies and other social functions by Kashmiris could have helped to rehabilitate scores of not only flood hit victims but also destitute and poor if the money was channelized for a constructive cause. For this he said that government needs to make legislations to check the extravagance in marriages and other such functions, so that negative repercussions of such “mindless spending” could be avoided. Government seems to have totally failed in this regard, as no tangible step has ever been taken by authorities that could have helped in preventing the crores of money going to the drain in such functions. Although few years back government made some noises about spending and waste in marriages, but those noises faded away with the aroma of wazwan. To be precise, it was in 2004 during the earlier stunt of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as Chief Minister that his administration invoked the 41-year-old Essential Commodities Act (ECA) to curb excessive spending on marriages and waste. The act had mandated the parents of both the bride and groom to submit their wedding plans to the Food and Supplies Department for approval. The bride’s side was allowed 75 guests, the groom’s just 50. The menus too have to be approved by government officials and per the rules only seven dishes were being allowed in a wazwan. But never did the order was implemented on ground. It is high time that the society wakes up to this realization that extravagance on marriage has to be stopped. This can help not only in reassuring the have-nots that their children can also marry respectfully in this society, but also will help those people to channelize the money in some constructive purpose instead of wasting it in show-off. “With conscious members of our civil society, Molvis who ceremonies the nikah have to play a yeoman’s role in ensuring that every marriage function is celebrated keeping social norms and limit in the consideration,” said Mohammad Ashraf, a social worker. Mohammad Ramzan, a daily-wager, who has four unmarried daughters, said that he is afraid if he would be able to see his children married off in wake of such a negative trend of extravagant spending in marriages. “I appeal all those rich people who spend in marriage functions of their wards without giving a thought for poor to please let us also to live in the society,” said emotional Ramzan. “We are not against them for spending lavishly, but they are boasting it off which causes huge problems for poor parents as their children also dream of such lavishness which is practically not possible for poor people,” he added. “I had thought after last year’s flood anything will change for good in our society. But we are going from bad to worse.” Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq expressed serious concern over the trend. “I am aggrieved with this trend. This sgould not happen in our society. We will launch a campaign against extravagance in weddings from next Friday,” he told KNS.
2015 Kashmir Despatch