The opposition MPs marked the end of the first Parliament’s term with significant moves. They put down their kabney and patang, marking the end of their tenure. This is significant in many ways, whatever the intentions may be.
In a society where kabney and patang can take one miles ahead of others in getting things done, it would take an enormous amount of courage to shed one’s coloured kabney and patang and join the ranks of the ordinary in the white kabney. The fact that no one has done this so far clearly shows how attached one could be to a kabney and patang that one no longer is entitled to. The point the opposition MPs made through their act has been long due for a serious discourse.
Bhutan is a variegated society, and the use of position-tied kabney by individuals who no longer hold positions that the kabney signifies makes it more so. Kabney of ministers, MPs, dzongdas, and drangpoens, among others, are position-tied, which means that resigning or retiring public servants must pass it on (not literally) to their successors. But our former public servants continue to wear the kabney that belongs to a public position that they no longer serve.
Buray Marp or red kabney, on the other hand, is not position-tied but it comes as recognition of personal achievements. One earns this honorary kabney on one’s own merits, not through a public position that one happens to hold. Therefore, it remains a life-time symbol. Although we do not have a formal code of practice on kabney and patang, it only takes common sense to understand these symbols of positions and achievements. Those who continue to don kabney and patang after stepping down from their positions are simply refusing to be ordinary again.
Do our former ministers and MPs have the courage to pick up the white kabney again? If they have earned the red kabney, they can switch to it. If not, they should pick up the symbol of purity, white. This is the right time to set a precedent. And our political leaders can set a precedent that will make Bhutan less variegated and more equal.