A man in traditional Kashmiri dress looks at the replica of Kangri in Upper Adda on Wednesday. — Photos by the writer
A man in traditional Kashmiri dress looks at the replica of Kangri in Upper Adda on Wednesday. — Photos by the writer

MUZAFFARABAD: In a special show of affinity and association with culture, a large number of people assembled in the heart of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) capital on Wednesday to mark ‘Pheran and Kangri Day’, with calls to international organisations to thwart India’s nefarious moves to suppress Kashmiri art and craft.

The day was observed on the advice of Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider who himself could not turn up at the event due to an important engagement with some foreign dignitaries in Islamabad, according to Pirzada Irshad Ahmed, director general tourism department that had organised the show.

However, the premier did not forget to express his feelings about the day on the micro-blogging site Twitter.

“Feel sad for being unable to make it to “Pheran & Kangri Day” but I am glad that people from all walks of life fervently participated in it. Kashmir’s centuries old culture, customs, art & craft r our pride. We’ll fail India’s conspiracies and cultural onslaught and preserve our identity symbols,” he wrote.

Pheran and Kangri Day observed in Muzaffarabad

In Muzaffarabad, cabinet members, civil servants, political leaders, academics, students, traders and civil society activists first gathered in K.H. Khurshid Football Stadium, wearing the traditional dress and earthen fire pot and then took out a rally through the main road.

The rally ended at Lal Chowk where a public meeting was arranged. A replica of Shikara – the traditional Kashmiri houseboat – and Kangri were also put on display at Lal Chowk, which has named after Srinagar’s historic roundabout famous for political gatherings.

Along the venue of public meeting, famous Kashmiri chef Ghulam Mustafa Lala had set up his stall of pink Kashmiri tea and some other traditional foodies while two government departments working for promotion of Kashmiri handicrafts had also their products, mainly pheran, kangris and caps, on sale.

PPP’s regional president Chaudhry Latif Akbar and PTI’s joint secretary Khawaja Farooq Ahmed were conspicuous by their presence in the rally, as both were not only attired in pherans but were also holding kangris carrying embers.

The AJK University students wearing pheran and jewellery. — Photos by the writer
The AJK University students wearing pheran and jewellery. — Photos by the writer

“This is a token gesture to express solidarity with our struggling brethren across the ceasefire line who are not only braving Indian repression but also attempts to wipe out their culture,” Mr Akbar told reporters.

Echoing his views, Mr Ahmed said: “We have gathered here to send a message to the world that Kashmiris on both sides of the divide have sentimental attachment with their culture and identity symbols and will protect them zealously.”

AJK ministers Dr Mustafa Bashir and Chaudhry Shahzad Ahmed, senior government officials Farhat Ali Mir, Mansoor Qadir Dar, Manzoorul Hassan Gillani and Midhat Shahzad, AJK University officials Dr Ayesha Sohail, Dr Raja Qayyum, Prof Murtaza Qureshi, Dr Rukhsana Khan and others were also prominent among the attendees.

Girl students of UAJK had not only put on colourful pherans with awe-inspiring embroidery but also traditional jewellery.

Apart from chanting pro-freedom slogans, they also sang famous national song Mere watan teri jannat main ayengay ik din, which has lyrics both in Urdu and Kashmiri on the occasion.

Earlier in the day, Chief Secretary Mathar Niaz Rana chaired a meeting of senior government officials in his chamber, with almost all participants attired in pherans.

“People across the world are enamoured of Kashmiri art and craft due to its fineness and beauty… Since this craft is facing a serious threat at the hands of Indian government, all international organisations working to preserve cultural heritage must take notice and thwart India’s organised campaign to deprive Kashmiri artisans of their sources of livelihood,” the chief secretary said during the meeting.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2020