After the referendum [in 1980], BP Koirala had to return from the main gate of the royal palace even though he had an official invitation. He didn't have the official grey coat. He had his international image, personality, and nationality and had gone to the palace in his national dress, but the colour of his coat was more important than his other qualities. If we could be similar sticklers, as disciplined in our proclaimed aims and their implementation, perhaps Nepal could have gone much further.
Our government bodies still treat journalists and photographers as though they were government or civil servants. If not, why is it still mandatory for invited journalists to wear the national dress during most state-organised programs? Things have changed somewhat from 12 years ago, when the postings, transfer and even assignments handed to journalists from Gorkhapatra, the RSS, and Radio Nepal were decided by government bodies. Private sector media is established and is moving forward in a commercially-viable manner. The success of the private media has compelled the state to loosen its control over state-owned media. Even within these organisations people are coming to believe that state-owned media should be given more freedom and their employees should be able to work like real journalists. Journalists and civil servants have different mandates. Security officials must be able to accept these changing sentiments. After all, a photographer may have one or two official events to attend, but a whole host of other assignments too, and it is uncomfortable to do all this in a suit or daura suruwal. The official bodies need to realise this, or the unfortunate day might come when labour unions themselves raise this issue.
But moves to relax the dress code must come from within the royal family. In the past year His Majesty has himself given many audiences not in strict national dress, but the national cap and unofficial attire. When the late King Birendra went to London for his health check up, he gave audiences to individuals and groups in the Royal Garden Hotel. Nepal's Ambassador to the UK, Singha Bahadur Basnet, and under secretary to the press secretariat Shekhar Dhungana were also present with His Majesty, who was wearing a kurta, aligarhi pyjama, and Nehru jacket. Nobody present was sporting the national dress and yet their nationality or respect for and loyalty towards the monarch were not under suspicion. Why then was it compulsory for photographers to wear the national dress when King Gyanendra laid the foundation stone for the Ashok Binayak in Kathmandu or during Prince Paras' program in the Natural History Museum?