A medico in Srinagar wearing the PPE with conical hood resembling the infamous outfit of KKK (Photo: KM/Tauseef Mustafa)

Srinagar: Imagine a doctor treats you wearing a conical hat and a robe that makes him or her look like a Klansman of the dreaded Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

Something similar is happening in Kashmir where health workers fighting COVID-19 pandemic have been provided PPE kits that resemble the infamous outfit of the American white supremacist and terrorist group.

The uniform, especially the conical hood, is considered a hate symbol throughout the world. KKK carried out thousands of hate crimes including lynching black Americans during 19th and 20th century in USA.

Photo of an actual KKK hood and robe. By the mid-1920s the Klan was spreading hatred against African Americans, immigrants, Catholics, and Jews. (Photo credit: www.americanhistory.si.edu)

One may argue that majority of Kashmiris won’t even know what KKK is. But doctors–even those who haven’t heard of the hate group–say wearing the conical hat and the robe makes them look hideous and ghostlike.

Body of a Srinagar resident who passed away due to COVID-19 last month being taken for burial. (Photo: KM/Tauseef Mustafa)

A doctor at one of the government hospitals here in Srinagar said he was shocked when he tried on the PPE kit handed over to him by the administration.

“Wearing the conical hood and the robe, I looked straight out of a horror movie. Imagine the state of my patients,” the doctor said, adding he had to buy his own PPE kit and refrains from using the one provided by the administration.

Doctors say wearing the conical hat and the robe makes them look hideous and ghostlike (KM/Nisar Dharma)

Such PPE kits in Kashmir also make a case of pure bad timing since the world is uniting against hatred and racism after the recent George Floyd incident in the United States.

The Kashmir Monitor was able to get hold of the conical hood part of the PPE kit, and it does make a great case of design disaster especially when the design has been notorious for the last century and a half.

The conical hood part of the PPE kit (Photo: KM/Nisar Dharma)

Across USA, if one wears a conical hat, the person will immediately be called up for promoting a symbol of racism and violence against humanity.  In fact last month, as per reports, a man wore a similar hood while shopping in a supermarket in San Diego California, triggering rebuke from people. Even the local mayor came up with a statement condemning the incident and terming it as a “symbol of hatred”.

Here in Kashmir, however, records show that the credit to this design blooper goes to one ‘New Diamond Trading Company’, a bag manufacturer-turned-PPE maker in Panipat, Haryana.

An official at the company confirmed they had manufactured and delivered the PPE kits to J&K, however, refused to provide any information about the design and quantity.

Mohammad Iqbal, General Manager, J&K Medical Supplies Corporation Limited (JKMSCL) said he didn’t have information about the conical-hat PPE kits or their supplier.

“We only procure those that are supplied by the government of India,” he said.

The bag carrying the PPE kit, however, clearly shows that it is part of the government supply.

The packet carrying the name and address of the manufacturer (KM/Nisar Dharma)

Founded in 1865, Ku Klux Klan blended religious prejudice, white supremacy, and xenophobia together. Ku Klux means ‘circle in Greek’ and the first letter of last word ‘clan’ was changed to ‘k’ to match the first two.

From late 1910s through the 1920s, the members of KKK called Klansmen carried out hundreds of beatings and whippings, and dozens of murders. They threatened bootleggers, flogged Mexicans, tarred and feathered doctors who performed abortions, and lynched black people.

The group’s official uniform was introduced in the early 20th century by William J. Simmons, who re-established the KKK in 1915.

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About the Author

A journalist by chance with over five years of experience in reporting, editing, and bucketing local, national and international content for my current organization. I have covered education, health, politics, and human rights. I like working for a daily, though I occasionally try my pen in long-form to connect personal narratives with history.

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