Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate.
March 13, 2011
By Dipak Kumar Dash
It’s not everyday that the father of the bride gifts a helicopter to his new son-in-law. But could it become standard procedure at Gujjar weddings in Delhi and its suburbs? Among the land-rich Gujjars, there are baraats stretching miles with the biggest, most expensive cars. Farmhouses are luxurious wedding venues. Huge cash gifts are the order of the day. The guest lists run to at least 10,000 people.
Land is the reason this band-baaja-baraat is booming. Property prices are rising in the suburbs. In the last 10 years, much of the agricultural land in the NCR has been converted to residential use. This is particularly the case in Gurgaon, Noida and Greater Noida. The Gujjars traditionally kept cattle and sold milk. Now there’s new wealth in the hands of a few even though much of the community remains poor, landless and uneducated. The Gujjar minority is having a blast. Mega weddings, big spending — it’s setting a trend for a community that is anxious to show it has ‘arrived’.
The big fat Gujjar wedding just got fatter. In Delhi, there was the Rs 100-crore wedding of the son of Delhi-based leader Kanwar Singh Tanwar and the daughter of Sukhbir Singh Jaunapuria, ex-MLA from Sohna, Haryana. The gift of a chopper may have set a new benchmark for the display of new wealth. But much of the Gujjar community agrees that extravagant weddings are becoming the norm. The worldly wise Gujjar says every month sees at least two high-profile and expensive weddings. Vedpal Lohiya, who lives in Sultanpur in south Delhi, details some of the excess: “The entire village talks about what came from the bride’s side. These expensive items are being termed as gifts. Gujjars who have flourished in the politics of Delhi and Haryana are spending huge sums in marriages. Gifting a Mercedes, a BMW or a Hummer has become common for these families.”
The stories seem to become wilder with each re-telling. An MLA from south Delhi recently received a farmhouse in Jaunapur, three cars including an Endeavour and Rs 71 lakh as gifts when he married off his son. An estimated 20,000 people attended the wedding.
The gifts go over the top and so does the decor. The creamy layer of Gujjars is becoming increasingly finicky about details such as ambience and catering. Rupinder Walia of JB Décor, who organizes many Gujjar weddings, says the community is increasingly picky. “In most cases, we give them theme options for the décor. But sometimes, they also come up with ideas. There are demands like designing the venue on the lines of Macau, Venice and other beautiful cities.” Walia explains it as a consequence of travel. “A section of the community is travelling abroad and their children are studying at foreign universities”.
The more contemplative local observer tracks the change to 10 years ago. A young Congress Gujjar leader recalls an ex-MLA receiving “an E Class Mercedes and Rs 61 lakh as cash gift at his son’s marriage”. It was 2001 and it was said to be the community’s most expensive marriage, he says. Ten years on, “we shouldn’t be surprised if some affluent Gujjar leader gifts a chopper now,” he reasons.
He says a wedding gift that includes at least two high-end cars such as a Mercedes and a BMW and at least Rs 61 lakh in cash has become the basic minimum for affluent political leaders and Gujjars in the real estate business. It’s their way of “being recognized” as someone of consequence, a point that sociologists might find interesting.
The young Congressman offers some sociological insight into the Gujjar mindset, questioning why other communities refuse to flaunt the big fat wedding while “in our case, parking the biggest car at the front gate of the house, exhibiting what you have has become the trend. People take pride in this”.
The flipside, of course, is that most Gujjars can’t afford the big fat wedding but feel increasingly pushed to manage it somehow. The pressure to organize and pay for a “respectable” wedding is forcing several Gujjar families to either sell ancestral property or take enormous loans from the bank.
Some say the bigger problem may be the knock-on effect of vulgar displays of wealth. The Gujjar community’s fight for reserved jobs is bound to be affected because much of India will be entitled to ask why such well-off people need affirmative action. Yashbir Bhati, a Gujjar social worker, is disapproving. “These community leaders are setting a bad example” and a section of Gujjar intellectuals and social leaders are soon to meet and discuss what needs to be done.
Meanwhile, the wedding extravaganza continues.
Posted on http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com