Srinagar: Showing scant regard for Kashmir’s local dress, the University of Kashmir has banned wearing of “pheran” (traditional cloak) by students and scholars during their visit to its Central Allama Iqbal Library citing “book thefts and security” as the reasons.
“It is disgraceful on the part of university authorities to ban the entry of “pheran” wearing students and scholars into the library,” said a student from Department of History, wishing to remain anonymous.
Another scholar from Media Education Research Centre said he had been asked to put off his “pheran” before entering the library. “In front of my female batch mates, it was an embarrassment. The university needs to understand its limitations, they should know that they are to reform not to destroy,” said the scholar.
“Resenting the ban, I met the librarian to ascertain the reasons for it. I was stunned to know if had been done for security reasons,” he said.
“I never wear ‘pheran’ either at home or outside, but this is shameful on the part of the university authorities to ban the entry of the students wearing this dress, we condemn it,” said another student, Mushtaq Ahmad of Department of Psychology.
Pheran is a traditional loose gown worn by people in Kashmir during winter to provide warmth and comfort while going about their daily chores. It is something in between a coat and a cloak. Over the years, this valley-specific dress has witnessed modifications and people wear without any inhibition.
The Library officials claim nearly 1000 precious books had been reported missing, which, according to them, had compelled the authorities to ban wearing “pheran” in the library.
In a bid to keep proper check on the students taking away books, the university has installed a high-tech machine to detect any possible attempt to take away books illegally. The machine makes a loud sound when a person walks through the machine.
“However, even after installing the machine, there is no change. It is a mere wastage of money if it isn’t of any use. We aren’t against any student-friendly security measures,” Samir Ahmad, a Phd scholar at Institute of Kashmir Studies, told Kashmir Observer.
“The university employees at the entrance don’t have a proper orientation, how to talk with students and scholars, which results in frequent verbal brawls,” said Ahmad.”
Notably, the University had started digitizing nearly eight million pages of various books – to preserve rare books and to prevent books from being misplaced or filched.
Slamming the university’s move, coordinator, Allama Iqbal Chair and Kashmiri poet, Dr Aziz Hajini said, “This is an anti-cultural move and we shouldn’t allow this to happen here.”
Noted Kashmiri poet and critic, Zareef Ahmad Zareef, said the university should understand that times had changed, so it should also change its attitude to deal with its students.
“The era of ’90s in Kashmir has gone. Times have changed and so is the mindset of the people. To ban the scholars wearing the pheran, the officials want to appease their bosses,” said Zareef.
When contacted, the librarian of Central Allama Iqbal Library, Riyaz Rufai, told Kashmir Observer the decision had come from the Vice-Chancellor’s Office long ago and it had been issued for security reasons and to prevent theft of books.
“We found students taking away books and even recovered 300 books from our own students, which is the reason this order was issued,” he said.
Asked why the authorities had banned students wearing “pheran” entering the library, which most students resented, Rufai said, “See, they can adjust more books under this dress and at the same time we have to see the other security reasons. Who knows what they carry under their “pheran.” This can be a security breach,” he said.