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Are Kashmir marriages turning into vulgar display of wealth?

Monitor News Bureau

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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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Circle of life

Monitor News Bureau

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By Zafar Meraj

There is an old Kashmiri maxim “Anem suie, wawum suie, lajem suie pansie”. The broad translation of this maxim can be that whosever sows the seeds of the nettle is bound to be bitten by it himself.

And this maxim today fits the detention of Farooq Abdullah, the three time chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, a former union minister, seven-time member of India’s lower house, Lok Sabha, under the provisions of the dreaded Public Safety Act. With this Act of the state establishment, Farooq Abdullah, one of the most vocal votaries of India in Kashmir, has been placed under the category of timber smugglers and drug peddlers, for which the dreaded provisions were supposed to be enacted with later expansion of these to separatists and hardened stone pelters and ‘anti-national’ elements.

 

Never in his dreams would have Farooq Abdullah ever imagined that he would fall victim of the same which his father had imposed to deal with his political opponents and which he and later his son (mis) used with impunity to silence the voice of dissent in a brazen attempt to please their political masters.

It was in 1978, when Sheikh Abdullah was riding a wave of his popularity post 1977 assembly elections, he introduced a bill titled Public Safety Act that provides for the detention of a person for a term of two years without being produced before a court of law.

The law was strongly opposed by the minuscule opposition in the then state assembly that termed it undemocratic and highhanded that exposed the dictatorial tendencies of the Sheikh. The Sheikh who was adamant to enact the law at the earliest defended it on the ground that it was aimed at to curb the growing activities of timber smugglers and drug peddlers.

He dismissed the criticism of the opposition and the fears that it would be used to curb the voices of dissent and silence the opposition.

It was a time when Janata government had come to power in New Delhi and the atrocities and undemocratic measures adopted by Indira Gandhi to silence her political adversaries were still fresh in the minds of the people at large.

Immediately on assuming the power, Morarji Desai led Janata government had abrogated all the laws that were against the liberty of the people and freedom of speech and expression. Laws that were used to detain Indira Gandhi’s critics without any valid ground were removed from the statute book. I still remember the speech of the then union Home Minister Chaudhry Charan Singh in the Lok Sabha pleading with the Sheikh to soften the harsh provisions of law lest it could be misused. “Mairi Sheikh sahib say binty hay ki woh is qanoon kay zehreelay daant nikaal dain (I request Sheikh sahib to remove the poisonous teeth of this law).

But in Kashmir the Sheikh was not moved at all by the pro-democracy and pro-liberty approach of New Delhi and went ahead with enactment of Public Safety Act, which soon confirmed the fears of opposition that this would be used against critics of the state government.

And soon the fears of the opposition turned to be true when the provisions of this law were invoked against Ghulam Nabi Untu, not a timber smuggler or drug peddler but a political activist. The only fault of Ghulam Nabi was that during 1977 elections, he had dared to oppose Sheikh’s National Conference and came out to support late Mohiudin Qarra, who then fought election from Amirakadal constituency on Janata Party ticket. As far as timber smugglers were concerned, they continued with their activities only changing their patrons from erstwhile Congress to the ruling National Conference.

The other notable victim of the Safety Act was Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami, then a young Communist, in mid-seventies, who was lodged in Srinagar central jail for a long time for the fault of raising his voice against the undemocratic and anti-people policies of the National Conference.

Both Farooq and son Omar in their regimes continued to use this law against political opponents as their predecessor had done and whosoever posed a threat to their government or was vocal in his opposition was slapped with the provisions of this law. Never did Farooq or for that matter would have thought that a day would come when they too would fall victims to this black law.

And today when Farooq has been forced to languish into his house, turned into sub jail and Omar subjected to solitary confinement in the infamous Hari Niwas, one wonders what their thoughts would be and will the treatment they have been subjected to bring some change in their thinking?

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Traffic violators to pay huge penalties as JK implements MV Amendment Act 2019

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar: Beware motorists! Next time you flout traffic rules, you may have to shell out huge fines and penalties.

Post the abrogation of Article 370, the amendments made in the Central Motor Vehicle Act 2019 have been implemented in Jammu and Kashmir as well. This is for the first time that the amendments made in the central law have directly been implemented in J&K.

The Centre has notified 63 provisions of Motor Vehicles Amendment Act 2019, which specifies huge penalties for various traffic offences.

 

Under the new rules, the penalty for drunk driving is six months imprisonment or fine up to Rs 10,000 for first time offence. For the same offence committed second time, the penalty includes imprisonment up to two years or fine of Rs 15,000.

The penalty for driving without a license has been increased from Rs 500 to Rs 5,000. Fine for not wearing a seatbelt would attract a fine of Rs 1,000 as against Rs 100. The over-speeding penalty has been increased from Rs 400 to Rs 1,000-Rs 2,000.

Senior Superintendent of traffic police, Tahir Gillani told The Kashmir Monitor that the amendments in the Motor Vehicle Act have been implemented in Jammu and Kashmir from September 1.

“Traffic department is filing challan according to the new rules of Motor Vehicle Amendment Act 2019,” he said.

Sources said that those who are not able to renew the insurance and pollution under control certificate due to the internet blockade are being given relaxation.

Traffic police department has also started series of awareness programme to inform the commuters and motorists about the amended Motor Vehicle Act 2019.

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Govt rolls out e-procurement policy amid internet clampdown

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar: Amid the ongoing communication blockade, the government has rolled-out the much-hyped e-procurement policy in the restive Jammu and Kashmir.

The ongoing internet blockade in Kashmir is the longest ever, crossing over 980 hours and surpassing 2016 record of 240 hours.

Notwithstanding the internet clampdown, the authorities have directed departments to implement e-procurement policy in the state.

 

“It is mandatory for departments to receive all bids through e-procurement portals in respect of all procurements. Departments which do not have large volume of procurement or carry out procurements required only for day to day running of offices and also have not initiated e-procurement through any other solution provided so far, may use e-procurement solution developed by NIC,” read the directives issued to the departmental heads.

The departments have also been directed to prepare annual procurement plan and upload it on the website before January next year.

“Every authority delegated with the financial powers of procuring goods in public interest shall have the responsibility and accountability to bring efficiency, economy, and transparency in matters relating to public procurement and for fair and equitable treatment of suppliers and promotion of competition in public procurement,” the directives read.

Government has however exempted those cases from e-procurement where national security and strategic consideration demands confidentiality. This, however, needs prior approval from the competent authority with concurrence of Finance Department.

Shabir Ahmad, who works as a contractor, questioned government’s move to implement e-procurement policy at a time when Kashmir is witnessing communication clampdown. “It is not possible to submit documents online in Kashmir. How can we apply for any work online when internet services are often blocked here?” he asked.

Ishtiyaq Ahmad, who supplies goods to government departments, said: “We welcome this decision of government but the authorities should also consider the situation in the valley. All online businesses have collapsed in Kashmir because of internet ban.”

Government spokesperson Rohit Kansal, however, said that internet kiosks will be opened in every district so that people can access websites.

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