| Guests feast during a wedding ceremony in Srinagar in August. (Reuters)
Srinagar, Nov. 1: A union of expert waza chefs has announced an indefinite strike against a recent guest control order issued by the Jammu and Kashmir government.
In order to force the government to rescind the order, the chefs have decided not to cook for any marriage or ring ceremony and also boycott official functions, where the traditional Kashmiri feast, wazwan, is served to visiting dignitaries.
Raiding squads of the chefs recently caught some of their union members cooking wazwan in 'violation of the union directives'. They destroyed all the preparations and imposed a fine on the members. They did not spare a local chef who had prepared a wazwan for the chief minister's iftar here last week.
The government recently came up with a comprehensive guest control order recommended by a cabinet sub-committee headed by deputy chief minister Mangat Ram Sharma.
Earlier, the state administration had imposed a guest control order but had withdrawn it because of legal complications. The wazas also stepped in, with their union imposing a dish control order of its own liking. The chefs said they would prepare only seven dishes at marriages and other functions, thereby throwing out of the menu at least 23 other dishes that are part of the traditional ceremonial Kashmiri feast.
Since the wazwan cannot be cooked by an ordinary chef and there are just a few dozen families of expert chefs who specialise in preparing the dishes, people had little choice but to accept the decision of the chefs' union.
According to the government's new guest control order, no more than 50 people can accompany a groom during a wedding and no more than 200 people should be present at a marriage ceremony, including the groom's party and the relatives and friends of the bride.
The quantity of mutton, which is the basic ingredient of almost all the dishes of a wazwan, must not exceed a hundred kilos at each such function, it said.
'The guest control order would deprive around 2.5 lakh local people who are directly and indirectly connected with the profession,' said Mohammad Rafiq, a spokesman of the Anjumane Ashpazani Kashmir (Union of Kashmir Chefs). 'We appeal to the state government to make alternative sources of livelihood available to us as the existing guest control would deprive us of our ancestral profession.
'We favour the dish control order enforced by our union, which has curtailed both lavish expenditure and quantity of mutton during marriage ceremonies,' he added.