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Are Kashmir marriages turning into vulgar display of wealth?

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The dishes kept on coming. Junaid had to unbuckle his belt. The filled-to-the-brim trami served earlier was now overflowing. Although the cold autumn evening had made its presence felt, Junaid was perspiring.
It was the warm, spicy permeation that had filled the air in the hall – a huge room where the wedding feast was served to 40 odd people that made up the groom’s party at 11 pm in Anantnag.
Minutes before the feast, Junaid and others had already gulped down a soft-drink, while munching on several varieties of dry fruits.
And then, as the dastarkhan was laid down, the race to ultimate calorie intake began. Other than those existing four or five-odd dishes that usually garnish the trami, a platter for four, the party was expecting five to seven more dishes to be served.
“But the hosts hardly stopped at seven, or even a dozen. I think they served 40 dishes or even more. We lost the count,” says Junaid.
He recalls the party being served with normal rista (a meat ball), then rista with kaju (cashewnut) in it, and then another rista with apricot in it. Dodd maaz (mutton cooked in milk), rogan josh, tabakh maaz, kabab, fish kabab, shami kabab, chicken kabab, an entire chicken, chicken cooked in milk, a huge bowl of pulow garnished with yet more chicken and kabab, at least four or five varieties of whole mutton pieces cooked in different styles, cheese in tomato, cheese in spinach, and mushrooms…
Even hearing out Junaid list was an acute gastronomical challenge.
“Only half way, I had eaten way more than my fill,” he says.
The rest was collected in the plastic bags kept in the basket which carried bottles of carbonated and mineral water, assortments of soap, toothpicks, wet tissues and other whatnots. Then there was also the almost-forgotten bowl of curd and the platter of chutneys that needed to be sorted out.
To Junaid’s and other attendees rescue, finally the decider Gushtaba arrived. The small ice-cream bowls served soon after were for calming down the hullaballoo in the stomach, or, at least, what the common (mis) understanding was.
“The party left with the bride at around 1:30 am,” says Junaid.
What he witnessed was just only a little more extravagant version of the already extravagant weddings that Kashmir is witnessing, especially, this year.
Exorbitant spending on food and newest forms of costly innovations drub the government’s so-call ‘guest control’ order it had invoked from April and, more vitally, the basic message of moderation in Islam.
The killings and maiming of last year had, to some extent, reserved this overindulgence with many marriages being conducted in a simple manner.
However, given the nature of recent weddings witnessed in Srinagar and townships of many other districts, moderation has been long checked out.
Besides, spending on food, a costly addition picking up pace this year is heavy expense on the makeup, especially that of the bride.
A Srinagar-based makeup artist (name withheld) says she charged anything between Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000 on grease-painting one bride.
“We are professionals. People are happy to pay the money if they get the right service,” says the make-up artist.
According to her, brides have to book the service in advance.
“We have several makeup plans available with us. The brides choose according to their affordability. It usually takes between six to eight hours to get a bride ready,” she adds.
Videography, which was not considered a costly affair earlier, too has upped in pomp and show.
The Kashmir Monitor spoke to witnesses of at least two such wedding ceremonies in Srinagar and north Kashmir recently where professional videographers, who were hired to shoot the entire wedding, charged in lakhs.
“This is a new trend. Hiring a professional videographer, who, unlike earlier days, gives you only 8 to 10 minutes of an output video using several cameras including the ones fitted on drones. The marriage we attended was shot by a professional wedding photographer from New Delhi,” the attendee said.
A new-into-the-field professional videographer, who shot a wedding in Srinagar recently, said he charged Rs 1 lakh for the video, adding that “the one shot by the Delhi-based photographer must have fetched him at least Rs 6 to 10 lakh, given his experience and standard”.
While there are no holds barred in lavish yet needless spending, the other issue that wedding feasts pull up is massive wastage and use of harmful disposable items.
The trend of serving water from a jug into a steel glass to guests during the feast is long gone now and even considered derisive. Instead all the assortments and drinks are served in plastic cups and bottles.
By the end of the feast, the disposable items are collected in huge plastic bags and dumped along with large quantity of rice left uneaten by most of the guests.
The Guest Control order, which limited the number of guests and dishes, on paper at least, has, meanwhile, been contested in the High Court.
“The matter is sub-judice. One Banquet Hall Association has filed a petition against the (Guest Control) order in the High Court. We are expecting a favourable decision,” said Minister for food, Chaudhary Zulfkar Ali.

 

 
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Awantipora teacher killed in police custody

Torture marks on body; city DM orders inquiry; police says deceased was ‘suspect in militancy case’

Syed Nashir Ali Gillani

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Srinagar, Mar 19: A youth from Awantipora town in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district was killed in police custody in Srinagar during the intervening night of March 18 and 19.
The deceased was identified as 28-year-old Rizwan Assad Pandith, M.Sc in Chemistry, who worked as Principal at Sabir Abdullah, a local private school, and also ran a tuition institute.
He was arrested from his home on Sunday, March 17 by a Police party led by a DSP rank officer, his brother Zulkarnain said.
“Yesterday (Monday), we went to the police station where we were told that my brother was in the custody of Cargo guys,” Zulkarnain said.
‘Cargo’ is a counter-insurgency police camp located in Srinagar.
He added that on Tuesday morning the family came to know that Rizwan was “killed in cargo.”
“It is a cold-blooded custodial murder,” Zulkarnain alleged.
“My brother was innocent. He was running a tuition center and was working as a Principal of a local private school. We fail to understand what his crime was and why was he killed?” he said.
Zulkarnain added that his brother was not affiliated with any militant organisation.
“He was associated with Jamaat-e-Islami. Is that a crime? My father too is a member of Jamaat,” he said.
The family, later in the day, refused to take back the body from Police Control Room Srinagar amid protests and clashes in Awantipora.
Mubashir, Rizwan’s elder sibling, told The Kashmir Monitor over the phone that the family was asked to receive the body from Police Control Room, Srinagar, however, they refused telling the police that they should themselves bring the body back.
“Finally the Awantipora police handed over the body along with other documentation. We will perform the jinazah by 9 pm (Tuesday),” Mubashir said.
He added that Rizwan was arrested on “frivolous” charges, slapped with Public Safety Act (PSA) on 26 August 2018, and shifted to Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu, where he was kept for five months.
The PSA, he added, was eventually quashed by a local court in Pulwama but the police kept detaining Rizwan and released him on January 6, around 20 days after the court order.
“Since then, he was busy with his routine work and was living a normal life,” he said.
Mubashir said that Rizwan’s body carried clear torture marks.
“His left eye had completely blackened, his nose was still bleeding and there were several torture marks on his body. His stomach had swollen a lot. It clearly shows he died of torture,” he said.
A police spokesperson said that Rizwan was a “suspect” in a militancy case investigation.
“He died in police custody. In this matter, while following the procedure laid down in section 176 of CRPC, a magisterial inquiry is underway. Separately police investigation has also been initiated in the jurisdictional area of the incident,” police said.
Unconfirmed reports had linked Rizwan’s detention with recent NIA raids, however, a spokesperson of NIA denied their link with the case.
“Emphatically deny reports linking NIA with Rizwan Ahmad of Awantipora. He was neither called for questioning nor was he examined at any other location in connection with cases being investigated by NIA,” the NIA spokesperson said in a statement.
In the evening, District Magistrate Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, told a local news agency that they have started proceedings into the case under the magisterial probe.
“The inquiry will be conducted by the Additional Commissioner Srinagar. We will complete the probe soon and submit the report to the government,” news agency Kashmir News Service quoted Choudhary saying.
Soon after the news about the killing was shared, youth came out protesting in parts of south Kashmir and Srinagar.
The authorities at Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) in Awantipora had already closed the varsity as a precautionary measure.
In Srinagar, shopkeepers at Maisuma and downtown areas including Nowhatta and Rajouri Kadal downed the shutters in protest.

NIA denies involvement

Srinagar, Mar 19: Amid outrage over the death of an Awantipora resident in police custody, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday said the deceased was not examined by the probe agency.
“NIA emphatically denies reports linking NIA with Rizwan Ahmed resident of Awantipora,” the probe agency said, in a statement, issued on Tuesday.
“He was neither called for questioning nor was he examined at any other location in connection with cases being investigated by NIA.”
Rizwan Assad Pandith (28) died in the custody at CARGO camp in Srinagar last night, triggering widespread condemnations and protests in Kashmir.
Separatists have called shutdown in Kashmir tomorrow to protests his custodial death.
Earlier, reports had said that Pandith was detained by the NIA few days ago.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said on Twitter that Rizwan was, as per sources, picked up by NIA few days ago and was lodged in CARGO camp.

Spontaneous shutdown, clashes in several areas

Srinagar, Mar 19: The custodial killing of a private school teacher from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district Tuesday triggered a spontaneous shutdown at many places in Awantipora and old-city areas here.
28-year-old Rizwan Assad Pandith, a post-graduate in Chemistry, who worked as teacher at a local private school and also ran a tuition institute, was killed in police custody during the intervening night of March 18 and 19.
As soon as the news of his death went public on Tuesday, all the shops and business establishments were closed in Awantipora soon and the local youth engaged in clashes with government forces.
Police said that a probe is underway while as the separate police investigation has also been launched.
The students of Kashmir University also staged a protest against the custodial death of the youth and against summoning of Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
The students assembled in the premises of Kashmir University and raised slogans.
The students demanded investigation into the death of a youth. They also termed the summoning of Mirwaiz to National Investigation Agency (NIA) as ‘interference in religious affairs’, saying such acts must be stopped forthwith.

 

His death exposes helplessness of Kashmiris: Mirwaiz

Srinagar, Mar 19: Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Tuesday said that the custodial killing of a school teacher has once again exposed the “helplessness” of the people of Kashmir.
“Distraught at the brutal custodial killing of young Rizwan Ahmed of Awantipora. The brutal killing once again exposes the, helplessness, vulnerability and insecurity of the lives of Kashmiri’s as impunity to the authorities keeps rising. (sic),” Mirwaiz wrote on Twitter.
Earlier, both the former chief ministers of the state, National Conference’s Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti lashed out at the government of India over the custodial killing of a school teacher.
On Tuesday, a school teacher, identified as Rizwan Pandith, died in police custody at CARGO camp in Srinagar.
A resident of a resident of Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, Rizwan was arrested by the police few days back from his home.
A police official said that Rizwan died during the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday.
The Jammu Kashmir Police department has asked for a magisterial inquiry.

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Joint Hurriyat calls for shutdown today

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Srinagar, Mar 19: Joint Hurriyat Leadership Tuesday called for a complete shutdown on Wednesday against the custodial killing of 28-year-old school teacher Rizwan Asad Pandith of Awantipora.
Joint Hurriyat, as per a statement, strongly condemned the killing of Rizwan, who was picked up by police a few days ago and was killed in custody at SOG camp Cargo.
Paying tributes to Rizwan and expressing deep grief and sorrow at his ‘killing’, Joint Hurriyat expressed sympathy with his bereaved family.
Terming this killing as ‘gruesome’, the leadership said that “this custodial killing is not only one of its kind but prior to this, hundreds and thousands of young and old Kashmiris have been killed in this manner.”
“This killing has actually increased the vulnerability of Kashmiri inmates languishing in different jails of India and jails of Jammu Kashmir, and jeopardized their lives,” they said.
Announcing a comprehensive protest program against this ‘state terrorism’, the leadership said “people will observe a complete and comprehensive protest strike on Wednesday, March 20, against the gruesome custodial killing of Rizwan Asad, policies of intimidation and harassment by police, SOG and other Indian investigative agencies, arbitrary arrests, slapping of draconian PSA, summoning political activists to SOG camps and thus creating atmosphere of fear in Jammu Kashmir.”
Joint Hurriyat appealed all segments of society including traders, lawyers, bar association, civil society, and others from different walks of life to peacefully protest against the custodial killing and assaults on Kashmiris.
On Friday, March 22, after Friday prayers, people at all Masajid, Khanqahs and Imam Baras will raise their voices peacefully against this custodial death and continuing policy of ‘oppression, Joint Hurriyat said.
Joint Hurriyat said that those who raise their voice against the killing of youth, their arrests and slapping with PSA are branded as “anti-national “and threatened with dire consequences and intimidation. “While crackdown and arrest spree against political and religious activists and youth continues unabated on the other hand SOG has been calling political activists and youth to SOG cargo camp to intimidate them and create an atmosphere of fear among people in general,” they said.
Joint Hurriyat said through their investigative agencies NIA and ED, the authorities have let loose a reign of terror to instill fear among people and harass them.
“People of Kashmir have borne tremendous hardships and suffering for the last three decades especially, all because they are asking for an end to the conflict through peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute as per the people’s wishes but instead people are being crushed,” Joint Hurriyat said.

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Thing of our dark past: Omar, Mehbooba, ors condemn killing

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Srinagar, Mar 19: The mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday condemned the custodial killing of a youth from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, who was arrested in connection with a ‘militancy case’ on Sunday.
Soon after the news about the death of youth in custody spread, the political parties and leaders took to the micro-blogging social networking site and condemned the custodial killing.
Former chief minister and National Conference Vice President, Omar Abdullah said the custodial death was unacceptable and must be investigated in transparent and time bound manner.
“I had hoped custodial deaths were a thing of our dark past. This is an unacceptable development & must be investigated in a transparent, time bound manner. Exemplary punishment must be handed out to the killers of this young man,” Omar tweeted.
The former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief, Mehbooba Mufti said GoI’s repressive approach leaves young educated men vulnerable who are forced to take up arms, saying ‘we have suffered enough’.
“Innocent men hauled up from their homes for interrogation return home only in coffins now. GoI’s repressive approach leaves young educated men vulnerable who are forced to take up arms. Stop using Kashmir to exhibit your sick chauvinistic nationalism. We have suffered enough,” Mehbooba tweeted.
Peoples Conference (PC) chairman and former minister Sajad Gani Lone in a tweet condemned the custodial death of a youth, saying ‘this is what the sanctity of human life has been reduced to in Kashmir.’
“Condemn in strongest terms the death in police custody in Pulwama. This is what the sanctity of human life has been reduced to in Kashmir. My thoughts r with the family of the deceased,” Sajad tweeted.
Peoples Conference (PC) General Secretary and former minister, Imran Raza Ansari condemned the custodial death of a youth from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district today.
Ansari demanded time bound inquiry into the custodial death of a youth. He expressed solidarity with the bereaved family and also for their courage to bear this loss.
Former finance minister Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari also demanded a time bound probe into the ‘extra judicial killing’ of the youth.
Expressing serious concern over the incident, Bukhari expressed his heartfelt sympathies with the bereaved family and prayed for eternal peace to the departed soul.
“It is highly unfortunate that a young man, teacher by profession, has lost his life in police custody and it needs to be thoroughly investigated to know what went wrong and who are responsible for his death in custody,” Bukhari demanded.
Demanding judicial enquiry into the alleged custodial killing of a 28-year-old Awantipora school teacher, CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said no civilized society can tolerate such acts.
“The custodial death of Rizwan Pandith must be investigated in a transparent and time bound manner and government must order a judicial enquiry into the incident immediately. Custodial killing isn’t acceptable to any human being and whosoever is involved Pandith’s killing must be given exemplary punishment. Custodial killing is a brutality and brutalities are unacceptable in whatever form they are,” Tarigami said.
Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) chairman and former MLA Khansahib, Hakeem Muhammad Yaseen also condemned the death of a youth in custody, demanding time bound inquiry into the incident.
In a statement issued, Hakeem said, “Such killings are unfortunate and are highly condemnable. We have been raising voice that repressive measures will yield no results. We demand a time bound judicial inquiry to be ordered and the persons involved in it be punished so that such incidents are not repeated,” he said.

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