A December 11 order banning Jammu and Kashmir officials from wearing a pheran on official visits was withdrawn Tuesday. The order, issued by a Zonal Education Officer, had kicked up a storm on social media, invoking reactions from even political leaders like former chief minister Omar Abdullah.
Langate Agha Abdul Rashid, the ZEO who issued the order, told The Indian Express, “People used to walk into offices wearing pherans and carrying kangris, and I had asked for that to be banned. Today the chief education officer (CEO) called me and asked me to revoke the order, so I have.” Rashid added that there was no official order banning the outfit.
What is a Kashmiri pheran?
A pheran is a traditional Kashmiri attire worn by men and women. It resembles a long loose coat or cloak. Traditionally made from wool or tweed and worn as protection from the winter, it is now also stitched from cotton for summer.
The etymology of the word remains unclear, but could be derived from the Persian word for shirt, ‘perahan’, the Greek word ‘apron’ or even the Tajik word ‘peraband‘. The attire dates back to around the 15th century, when it was traditionally worn in bright colours. It is now, however, found in nearly all hues. Kashmiris consider it an integral part of their culture and identity.
Controversy over Kashmiri pheran
On December 11, a government order was passed prohibiting officials from making official visits wearing a pheran and slippers. The order stated: “All the officers visiting this office are advised to visit with proper dress. It is recommended that no official will visit the office wearing ‘feral’ traditional trousers and slipper/plastic shoes.” This was, however, withdrawn yesterday after public outcry.
Omar Abdullah was among those who took to social media to protest the order. Calling it regressive, he 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 This order should be withdrawn.”
Kashmiri poet and cultural commentator Zareef Ahmad Zareef told The Indian Express, “Pheran is one of the last vestiges of our culture. Any attempt to ban it from public life is a misrepresentation of our culture because not only is it intrinsic to us culturally, it is also necessary due to weather. Security concerns over pheran were something Army and other security forces raised, is this now a concern for civil administration also?”