Nepal fails to exorcise royal ghosts

May 31st, 2009 - 5:14 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 31 (IANS) Eight years after the assassination of Birendra, king of Nepal, and nine more family members in the tightly guarded royal palace in Kathmandu and a year after the formal abolition of monarchy, the Himalayan republic continues to be haunted by its royal ghosts.

On Monday, the nation will observe the eighth anniversary of the dark tragedy in which Birendra’s son Dipendra is said to have killed his parents, beloved sister and brother, and five more relatives before shooting himself in the aftermath of a rage stoked by a lethal cocktail of drugs and drinks.

However, neither the ebb and flow of time nor the verdict of an inquiry commission that Dipendra held the guns that caused the stunning massacre in the midst of a customary Friday family dinner, has been able to allay public fears and suspicions of a greater conspiracy.

Three different theories about the killings surfaced this year.

In February, when the Narayanhity palace, where the tragedy occurred June 1, 2001, was inaugurated as a national museum, the then prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda indicated that he did not buy the inquiry report.

The Maoist chief promised that his government would conduct a fresh inquiry into the shootout and bring the true perpetrators to justice. However, less than three months after the pledge, his government lay in disarray and his party, which had swept the election last year, was forced to sit in opposition.

Soon after that, Nepal’s deposed crown prince Paras, who had been Dipendra’s cousin and confidant and was among the few people to survive the massacre, told a tabloid in Singapore city that it was indeed Dipendra who had pulled the trigger.

Paras said his cousin had been driven by a combination of motives: lust for power, money and love. His parents had prevented him from marrying the woman he loved and his father pipped his ambition both to be an absolute king and to make a fortune out of a gun sale to the national army.

On Sunday, the eve of the anniversary of the carnage that began the unravelling of Nepal’s once revered royal dynasty, a magazine came out with another account.

The Nepal weekly quoted a former palace aide as saying that two aide de camps had rushed to the billiards hall where the killings took place. On seeing Dipendra shoot his father, one tried to gun him down but the second pushed the intervening hand away, saving the rampaging crown prince’s life.

The report is questioning the inquiry, saying that the tale about the two ADCs is not present in the depositions. It also says that Birendra’s stepmother Ratna, who had also attended the dinner but retired early, should have been questioned but was not.

Though only a credible new inquiry can lay all doubts to rest, with the fall of the Maoist government this month it is doubtful if the new - and already beleaguered -government of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal would commission a fresh inquiry and dare stir up a hornets’ nest.

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