In a restive state where killings of innocent civilians are often not probed –the government is set to file criminal cases against those resorting to extravagance in wedding celebrations, thanks to a diktat on the guest control that has empowered the cops to knock kitchens or sniff the utensils.

On February 21, the J&K government issued “Guest Control Order to impose restrictions on the injudicious use of essential commodities during social, government and private functions, besides putting a complete ban on the use of amplifiers, loudspeakers, and firecrackers in such functions.”

Choudhary Zulfkar Ali, Minister for Food, Civil Supplies, and Consumer Affairs (FCS&CA) said in an announcement that only limited number of guests would be allowed to attend a wedding. “The number of guests to be invited for the marriage of daughters, including the baraat, should be restricted to a maximum number of 500, while for the marriage of son, the number of guests should not exceed more than 400. For functions like ring ceremony of the son, daughter and other small functions, the number of guests invited should be 100 only,” the Minister said adding that the number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes should be restricted to a maximum of seven each, besides, two stalls of sweets or ice cream.”  Ironically, there’s no mention of the wine brand that can be served to the guests!

“There are various measures under CrPC under which action could be taken against violators. We have informed our Deputy Directors to keep a strict vigil on any such violations,” the minister said.

The crux of the development is that cops and other government officials have been empowered to scrutinise social celebrations.  It is for the third time that the state has issued such orders. The guest control was first enforced in the 1980s, when special squads were constituted for inspections.

Many say that the “Inspector Sahib” leading the inspection team would carry a stick with a nail at the tail end. While inspecting the open-air kitchen, where the Waza or traditional Kashmiri chef prepares the food, the “Inspector Sahib” would look for the special utensil in which the gushtaba or big mutton balls were prepared for the baraat. The officer would instantly fish out the gushtaba with the nail on the stick to satiate his taste-buds. Others would similarly follow their boss and carry home the booty of wazwan-a set of traditional Kashmiri dishes. Given the complaints of corruption, the “guest control” couldn’t last.

In 2003, then the Peoples Democratic Party-led government had reintroduced the “guest control” orders by fixing the maximum number of invitees at 150. The order was quashed by the state High Court. But the new order looks ahead to file criminal proceedings against violators.

Also, in a place like Kashmir where preparing Wazwan Trami (four servings) costs atleast Rs 5,000, a common man may obviously not afford to entertain more than 500 guests, as prescribed by the government.

It’s the mainly the big guns who host a fat guest list.  In 2016, National Conference leader Tanvir Sadiq was scheduled to entertain over 5,000 guests at his lavish wedding. However, he had to cancel the mega festivity due to unrest. Will policemen dare to inspect such functions where the guest-list includes the powerful and the mighty?

But then people too are at fault. Over the years the social and religious leaders including Imams who wield influence in Muslim dominated society have failed to bring an end to the “sinful” extravagance, seen as the main cause of delayed marriages, as prospective families can’t afford the lavish celebrations.

What was supposed to be a social initiative is now a government diktat. Marriages are made in heaven but celebrated on earth. And are now approved by the cops!