Srinagar (India) (AFP) – 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.
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.
“I grew up dreaming about a grand wedding but there is not much to celebrate because of the situation,” the 29-year-old told AFP.
“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.
Hundreds of clashes between government forces and protesters have erupted since the order, leaving more than 100 injured.
Authorities have eased the security restrictions in parts of the valley but tensions still run high amid a complete shutdown of businesses, public transport and educational institutions.
Government forces use steel barricades and coils of barbed wire to block roads while protesters stop private vehicles from using the roads, forcing many to remain at home.
Already in the grip of a decades-long insurgency against Indian rule, the heavily militarised region is no stranger to security crackdowns.
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.