Order To Ban Pheran In Offices Evokes Outrage


SRINAGAR —A controversy has erupted  over the order banning the use of the pheran, a key part of traditional Kashmiri attire, in the government offices here.

A pheran is a long loose gown worn by men and women in state. The cloak that reaches below the knees is usually made of either of wool or jamewar which is a mixture of wool and cotton.

The order was originally meant for the state secretariat. In September, the General Administration Department of the Civil Secretariat in Srinagar asked government officials to “be attired in proper formal dress while appearing before any court of law and while attending offices in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and strictly avoid casual or party attire”.

The decision was a security directive. However, the zonal education officer (ZEO) in Langate, following the civil secretariat directive, issued an order last week banning the pheran in educational institutions.

A stream of protest erupted on Twitter criticising the ban, forcing the school department to retract the order. However, the security protocol at the secretariat remains.

Former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, tweeted: “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 This order should be withdrawn.”

He added: “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. #dontbanourpheran #revokepheranban.”

Mohammad Shafi War, the chief education officer of Kupwara said that the order was withdrawn on Tuesday. He said: “There is an official dress code but we cannot ignore the significance of pheran. That is why we have withdrawn the order issued by ZEO Langate.”

Kashmiris love their ‘pherans’. These loose, warm outer garments are typically worn during winters.

 ‘Pheran’ has a long history in Kashmir, and is believed to have a tradition of at least 660 years. Worn over centuries by the inhabitants to brave the harsh winter chill, the garment has worked as a great leveller of the Kashmiri society. It has traditionally dissolved the class difference, being the preferred dress for both the rich and the poor during the cold season. Even when modernity permeated the lives of Kashmiris over the years, the pheran continued to remain a badge of its culture.

Though the etymology is a little unclear, some believe the name pheran is derived from the Greek word ‘apron’. Many contend that the tunic owes its origin to the Persian word for shirt,‘perahan’. The Tajik word ‘peraband’ is also closely associated with the Kashmiri pheran. Since Kashmir has a distinct central Asian cultural link, that may well be the case

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