A Kashmiri shopkeeper displays a wedding dress at a market. File photo/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.
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," he said.
"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.
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.
In a status-conscious society famed for its hospitality, weddings have long served as a showcase for wealth and generosity, with guest lists regularly topping 1,500 and costs running upwards of $30,000.
"Families save for years or decades to splurge on weddings," Bilal, who wanted to be identified only by his first name, said.
Parents start preparing for their child's marriage almost immediately after birth, he said.
So when only 15 percent of the invited guests turned up for his brother's wedding this month, "it was a heartbreak for the family," he said.
For others consumed by wedding preparations, the communications clampdown has made it near impossible to contact suppliers and event managers.
"Weddings are a once in a lifetime event," he said.
"As a brother I feel gutted by the thought that her wedding is devoid of the traditional colour."
Several hours of shooting rocked the Pulwama district, south of Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, after officials said four soldiers, a policeman, three militants and a civilian were killed in the latest clash.
An army major was among the dead, along with three militants from the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group which claimed last week's attack, military and police officials said.
Six senior army men including a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel were injured in the hours-long gun battle, a police official told AFP.
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