Srinagar: Fazila (name changed) was just 14 years old when she dropped out of school in 2000. Her family was struggling with abject poverty which forced her to take the tough decision of leaving her education.
In the following years, Fazila started assisting her artisan father in stitching work at home. However, it did not relieve the family’s poverty.
Fazila says her parents were in complete distress when they realised that she was old enough to be married.
“It was a tough situation for us. Families including of distant relatives and neighbours started approaching us for my marriage, but they would leave disappointed seeing our financial condition,” she said.
Fazila’s family was living in a mud house till 2005. They spent all their savings in constructing a single-storey ‘pakka house’ in a Pattan village.
Fazila said that after struggling for many years, a relative informed them about an initiative of “joint marriage” in which Nikah is solemnised without any extravaganza but as per the religion.
“It gave us hope. We approached the organisers last year. They fixed July 15 as the date for marriage and they arranged everything, right from our clothes to the wedding feast for guests,” she said.
Fazila got married today, along with 105 couples in the “joint marriage” initiative started by Jaffari Council of Jammu and Kashmir, in collaboration with their supporters and donors. The couples tied the knot in a simple function at Amar Singh Club here.
As per the organisers, the couples mostly belong to northern parts of Kashmir – from Uri, Pattan, Baramulla, Sumbal – and central Kashmir’s Srinagar and Budgam districts.
“Although the Jafri Council has previously held such functions, but this year the number crossed 100 for the first time,” Musadiq Hussain Manhas, Chairman Jaffari Council, told Kashmir Reader.
He says the council undertook to marry 38 couples from deserving categories of society in 2015.
“In 2016, 70 couples married at a joint function and in 2017, the number was 75. This year’s function was the biggest by far,” Manhas said.
“My whole family is elated to see me married. I am also happy that my wedding was soleminised in a simple way, without any pomp and show,” Fazila said.
Syeda Afroza, another bride, hailed the joint marriage as a fight against the menace of dowry and extravaganza.
“Poor girls are suffering due to social ills related to marriage. This initiative should be encouraged and I appeal to all to organise such weddings,” she said.
The ‘National Health Profile of 2015’ showed that the mean age of marriage for females in Jammu & Kashmir was higher than in any other state. A recent study by Kashmir University’s Sociology Department showed that about 10,000 girls had crossed marriageable age in Srinagar alone.
“There are numerous factors for late marriage, especially dowry, huge spending on weddings, and unemployment,” the study noted.
In the last three years, nearly 15 dowry deaths – due to in-laws – were reported in Kashmir.
“I would suggest other organisations to also and encourage such initiatives,” Musadiq said.