‘Onslaught on Kashmir culture’: Ban on traditional attire Pheran triggers outrage

Updated on Dec 18, 2018 10:21 PM IST

Former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah termed the move as regressive.

Pheran, a loose outer garment often worn over warm clothes in winters, was introduced in Kashmir some 600 years ago from Middle East.(Waseem Andrabi / Hindustan Times)
Pheran, a loose outer garment often worn over warm clothes in winters, was introduced in Kashmir some 600 years ago from Middle East.(Waseem Andrabi / Hindustan Times)
Hindustan Times, Srinagar | ByAshiq Hussain

The ban on Kashmir’s traditional attire ‘Pheran’ by the school education department in one of its offices has elicited sharp reactions from people. Some have termed it as an onslaught on Kashmir culture.

Former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah termed the move as regressive.

“I fail to understand why pherans should be banned! This is a regressive order that makes no sense at all. Pherans are a very practical way of keeping warm during the cold winter aside from being part of our identity. This order should be withdrawn,” wrote Omar Abdullah and shared pictures with his father Farooq Abdullah wearing the dress to official functions.

Zonal Education Officer(ZEO), Langate in north Kashmir’s Kupwara has issued an order prohibiting the wearing of Pheran for officials.

“All the officials visiting this office are advised to visit with proper dress code during any official visit. It is recommended that no official will visit this office wearing ‘Feran’, traditional trousers and sleeper/plastic shoes (sic),” the order read.

Pheran, a loose outer garment often worn over warm clothes in winters, was introduced in Kashmir some 600 years ago from Middle East. Despite differences in the culture, social status and dialect of the local communities, the Pheran worn over the years to brave the chilling temperatures of winter, has been a great leveler of Kashmir society.

Of late this traditional baggy gown has turned fashionable in valley, serving a double purpose for the youth of looking trendy and braving the winter chill. Strapped shoulders, raglan sleeves and contrasting buttons, the Pheran is now tight like an overcoat but covering like a traditional cloak would.

The order saw widespread criticism on social media.

Veteran journalist Yusuf Jameel was scathing against the order. “The officer who has sought to ban wearing of pheran in office appears to be suffering from ‘hum angrezon ke zamane ke sahab hain’ syndrome. Get a life! We do take pride in our culture, customs, traditions and living styles,” he wrote.

A restaurant owner, Roohi Nazki criticized the order saying “This is illogical, insulting and a cultural put down. Who comes up with this kind of nonsense?”

“Let’s not reduce a ‘pheran’ as purely a cultural artefact. It’s more than that - pheran is necessary love in winters,” wrote Anees Zargar, a Srinagar resident.

  However Srinagar mayor Junaid Azim Mattu, who also wears Pheran in his office, appeared to be striking a middle path. “Every workplace has the right to have a reasonably non-invasive general dress code. Nobody has declared a war on Pherans. Most workplaces ban denims. Relax. There are far more pressing issues that deserve our outrage and attention. There is no ‘cultural invasion’. Let’s move on,” Mattu wrote.

Kupwara chief education officer, Mohd Shafi War acknowledged that one of his ZEOs had issued the order.  “Since the mention of Pheran in the order became an issue owing to its cultural significance, we are withdrawing the order,” War said.

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