A recent ban in Kashmir on wearing the pheran to office caused a furore before it was revoked but this isn’t the first time it has been in the eye of a storm.
New Delhi: For long, the pheran, a traditional long cloak worn by both women and men, has been a quintessential part of the Kashmiri winter. That, however, hasn’t protected it from controversy over the years.
The latest row involving the pheran came last Tuesday, when the Jammu and Kashmir education department’s Langate office issued a circular banning its officials from wearing the garment on official visits to the office.
It was later withdrawn after a furore with even former chief minister Omar Abdullah, known to wear the pheran, weighing in. “My father and I have worn pherans to official functions many times over the years and will continue to do so, silly government orders notwithstanding,” Omar had tweeted, with the hashtags #dontbanourpheran and #revokepheranban.
But this isn’t the first time that there has been a controversy over the garment, which is synonymous with the Valley. The pheran went through a turbulent phase during a dark period in Jammu and Kashmir.
A ‘suspicious’ garment in the militancy years
At the peak of militancy, young Kashmiris wearing a pheran suddenly began being viewed suspiciously. As the security scenario worsened, those wearing a pheran, which is usually stitched loose in order to let the traditional fire pot, Kangri, to be carried inside it during chilly winter days, began to attract attention from security forces.
The forces suspected that militants could use the garment for carrying arms in 1990s. Although there was no ban then, it made the people wary.
Thus the period in the 1990s led to the decline of the pheran being worn outside the home. It, however, continued to remain the favourite attire to be worn at home.
In the last six to seven years, the pheran has made a comeback with modern fits and designs, closely resembling overcoats. It has become fashionable winter wear with people even wearing it to office these days.
The current controversy
The latest controversy was sparked by the education department circular dated 11 December which has since been revoked.
“All officials visiting the office are advised to visit in proper dress code during any official visit,” reads the circular issued on December 11, by Zonal Educational Officer (ZEO) Langate Agha Abdul Rashid. “It is recommended that no official will visit this office wearing pheran, traditional trousers and sleeper/plastic shoes.”
The Langate region is in North Kashmir.
While the ban has been revoked, local reports say that in the state civil secretariat the pheran is on the list of “barred items” that need to be removed near the security gate.