Traditional Kashmiri pheran - a must woolen shoulder-to-knee-down robe worn in winters by a majority of the Valley population - has sparked a legal tussle, as a family served a legal notice to a Valley's leading hotel for disallowing them to enter restaurant for wearing the dress. The hotel management said the dress was not allowed because of security scare.
Syed Ather, an architect by profession, alleged that he felt "insulted" as a Kashmiri when the gatekeepers and hotel management barred his entry into the Broadway Hotel in the last week of November for wearing pheran.
"I was with my wife and two cousins. I was stopped at the entrance. We were told "you cannot enter hotel because you were wearing pheran," alleged Ather.
Pheran is a very popular dress in Kashmir during winters. The thick long woolens save the population from snow and sub-zero temperature. People carry willow-covered clay firepots inside it, with hands too inside the robe.
"It sounds strange when chief minister Omar Abdullah, who dons the dress all time, is allowed why not the common man. The hotel's move to bar people wearing pheran is insulting to entire population," said Ather.
The family has served a legal notice to the hotel seeking an explanation for "banning" the dress.
The hotel, however, claims there is no ban on the dress but the measure was the result of a security threat.
"When the family visited the hotel, there was a security high alert. We have asked our front office not to allow drivers wearing pheran," Broadway Hotel manager Sameer Deewan told the Hindustan Times adding, "Our human resource department will reply to the legal notice soon".
Ather is incensed by the management's move. "Today the hotel banned pheran in the name of security. Tomorrow, it could be men sporting beard. This has to end," said Ather, who has also filed an application under the Right to Information Act with the tourism department asking if the dress was banned in all hotels and gold courses in the Valley.
There were reports that all top-end hotels in Srinagar issued directives not to allow pheran-wearing suspect drivers or visitors after unknown gunmen attacked a liquor shop at Heemal Complex on November 15.
Pheran came under security scanner in early 1990s at the peak of militancy when militants would easily carry weapons under it. Security agencies suspect several successful grenade attacks in Srinagar during winters were easily carried out by pheran-wearing militants in early 1990s.
Since then pheran has taken different forms and sizes. Unlike long, loose traditional pheran of the past, the dress is fast turning into a tighter and long coat-like dress, one that was worn by Ather the day he was stopped.