Army sees ‘pheran’ as security threat

SRINAGAR: The Army on Friday asked Kashmiri journalists not to wear pheran, the traditional cloak, in a press conference scheduled to be addressed by its Kashmir commander Lt Gen Gurmit Singh on Saturday.
In aFrontsn invitation emailed by the Army’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) Lt Col N N Joshi, the journalists were asked to refrain from wearing pheran, citing “security requirements”.
“You are all aware of the security requirements; however, it is reiterated that you may refrain from wearing pheran,” read the missive, which also asked the media organisations to send “scanned copy of ID card the media personnel would carry for the event” to be held at headquarters of Army’s 15 Corps here.
“Also forward scanned copies of ID cards of personnel accompanying (for example OB van operator and driver) your journalist/photo journalist/cameraman/photographer,” the Army said.
Pheran is the most common winter-attire of Kashmiris, seen as a symbol of the Kashmir culture. J&K’s England-born Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, is often seen in pheran during harsh winters in the Valley. And of late, pheran has attracted tourists as well who wear it with pride during their stay in the Valley.
Meanwhile, the missive from the Army infuriated the media fraternity, which promptly shot a response to the PRO and had the directions withdrawn.
Around 13 journalists including Yusuf Jameel, Habib Naqash, Parvaiz Bukhari and Tauseef Mustafa shot a signed letter to Army asking for immediate withdrawal of the directions.
“We, the undersigned, expect you to withdraw the earlier e-mail and issue a fresh invitation for covering the event,” the scribes said, adding, “If the matter stays as it is now, we are constrained in attending the press conference.”
Registering their protest, the journalists said, “We fail to understand how can the traditional dress of the people of Kashmir, which has also been an integral part of their unique identity, pose a security threat to anyone!”
The Army subsequently withdrew the directions, calling it a “clerical error”.
“The press invitation issued earlier was erroneously sent due to clerical error and same is regretted. The previous press invite may please be treated as cancelled. There is no bar on dress code and it is as per your convenience,” read a second email from the Army PRO.
Later in the evening, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also opposed Army’s directions.  “If the Army has in fact told journalists not to wear a pheran to Corps HQ events that is unacceptable & the order should be withdrawn,” Abdullah wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter. “People wear their pheran with pride. It’s part of our identity aside from the best way to stay warm in the cold. Can’t ban Pherans.”