by Saifullah Bashir
SRINAGAR: Within days after a militant moved his gun, hidden under his Pheran, and killed two cops in uptown Srinagar, a Bajrang Dal leader has called for the ban on the particular garment that Kashmir considers part of its identity.
On February 22, in a video that was viral on social media, a Bajrang Dal is heard requesting the government to ban traditional Pheran in Kashmir. “It (Pheran) is so loose that you cannot judge what a person is carrying. We demand a ban on Pheran.” Rakesh Bajrangi is saying while protesting against Pakistan. “Militants carry most of their activities while wearing Pheran.”
Bajrangi’s remarks came after the militants killed two Jammu and Kashmir Police cops in the Baghat area of Srinagar and one cop in Budgam. CCTV footage of the incident was widely circulated on social media. It shows a young man moving quickly on the road and bringing his gun out of his pheran and opening fire on the two cops who were near a shop. Both the cops were driven in a serious condition to the hospital where they succumbed to their injuries.
Soon after Bajrangi’s demand, BJP supported the idea. Participating in a discussion on Times Now a member of BJP said: “Nothing is more precious than the lives of our soldiers and SPO’s who are on duty. Most of the time it was seen that these traditional dresses were misused by terrorists as they hid grenades and AK-47 under Pheran.”
Pheran has remained a key ingredient of Kashmir’s dress in summer and winter. Off late, however, it is mostly being used during winters when the mercury plummets to the lowest. Besides, the cloak has undergone a massive shift in design and use and is now a fashion statement.
The ban demand, however, has added a new element to the history of the cloak. For most of history, the Pheran has been condemned as “a garment of cowardice”. The myth is that the Pheran was introduced by the Mughals to enforce a culture of cosiness and lethargy amongst Kashmiri men. This is for the first time that the new narrative sees it as a weapon.
This, however, is not the first time that the Pheran got linked with the security situation. Earlier in 2014, the Army had asked Kashmiri journalists to “refrain from wearing the Pheran at events held by the Srinagar-based Army 15 Corps.” Following an outcry from the media fraternity, the Army subsequently revoked the orders, terming the guidelines as ‘inadvertent.’
After the Pheran emerged as the new gun shield, a flood of pictures and tweets started doing rounds on different social media platforms. Users remind Bajrang Dal and BJP that the Prime Minister of India too wore Pheran on many occasions.
“The last big Pheran in Kashmir was worn by the PM rightly and proudly,” Senior Journalist Amhed Ali Fayyaz tweeted. Earlier when Prime Minister Modi visited Srinagar in 2014 he addressed the rally while wearing Pheran.
On the second occasion when Prime Minister Modi launched the Ayushman Bharat Scheme via conference to extend health insurance, he was in the same attire, which is now being criticized.
'Fernophobia'! People on the streets in Srinagar being forced to remove and pack their traditional winter outfits of 'Feran'. For the first time since 1989. pic.twitter.com/mHi3hm0mUe
— Ahmed Ali Fayyaz (@ahmedalifayyaz) February 23, 2021
Bollywood also contributed to making the Pheran iconic. Be it the era of Shammi Kapoor’s Kashmir Ki Kali or Rockstar starring his grand-nephew Ranbir Kapoor, or Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijan or Shahid Kapoor’s Haider none of these blockbusters gave a miss to the Pheran for shootings held in Kashmir. Even Hillary Clinton, Sonia Gandhi, George Fernandes wore Pheran.