Social media was abuzz on Tuesday, the day after Rising Kashmir reported that the Jammu and Kashmir school education department had banned people wearing the traditional pheran in its zonal offices. The paper added: “The development comes in the backdrop of a similar ban on the pheran in the civil secretariat (Srinagar) where the commoners visiting the administrative departments have to relinquish it at the main gate.

The report drew sharp criticism from several quarters. “I fail to understand why pherans should be banned!” tweeted National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. “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 This order should be withdrawn.”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 also posted a photo of his father Farooq Abdullah and him wearing the traditional attire.

Before long, the #saynotopharanban hashtag gained prominence on Twitter, with Kashmiris posting photos of them wearing the double gown.

What is the government order about?

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 order was passed a month after the state High Court asked the government to announce an official dress code for officials attending court. The court issued the directive after it found a government officer in court not “in proper dress”.

Order withdrawn

The order does not mention any particular form of attire. But, since the pheran is considered to be a casual dress, it is considered by some to be inappropriate in government offices.

According to the Rising Kashmir, the zonal education officer in Langate tehsil, following the civil secretariat directive, issued an order last week banning the pheran. However, the chief education officer of Kupwara told that the order was withdrawn on Tuesday. “There is an official dress code but we cannot ignore the significance of pheran,” said Mohammad Shafi War. “That is why we have withdrawn the order issued by ZEO Langate.”

Can people visiting the secretariat wear the pheran?

However, as Rising Kashmir reported, people visiting the secretariat in Srinagar are asked to take off their pherans and put them atop iron poles outside the gates. Officials explained that this is part of security protocol, since the pheran is a voluminous garment that could be used to conceal banned items.