Nepal’s ex-king gets a festive reprieveOctober 20th, 2009 - 3:55 pm ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, Oct 20 (IANS) Stripped of his crown and compelled to leave his ancestral palace, Nepal’s last king Gyanendra however had a reprieve this festive season with the apex court in the country preventing a bid to make him vacate his current home.
It’s now been over a year that the deposed Hindu king left the landmark Narayanhity royal palace following a historic election that abolished monarchy and took up residence in an old summer palace on the outskirts of Kathmandu valley once owned by his forefathers.
Since June 2008, the 62-year-old has been leading a low-profile life in the Nagarjuna palace, where the coalition government that came to power after the fall of the royal regime allowed him to shift, heeding his plea for an alternative residence.
The government’s decision to let the ousted king live in the remote palace had triggered widespread public criticism with demonstrators waving placards that said: “Give beggars alms, but not a palace.”
In the wake of the protests, a Nepali lawyer, Bhupendra Poudel, sought the intervention of the Supreme Court.
Poudel had filed a petition, arguing that since King Gyanendra became a commoner after the election, he had no right to continue living in the Nagarjuna palace.
After a pro-democracy movement in 2006 that ended the king’s military-propped government, the new government that came to power took over all the palaces belonging to the Shah dynasty, announcing they would be put to public use.
The grandest of them, the Narayanhity, has since then become a national museum.
Though in the beginning, the government had said Gyanendra would be allowed to stay in Nagarjuna temporarily till he found alternative accommodation, it now seems that the former king would be allowed to live there as long as he wants.
Poudel’s petition has been quashed by the apex court, which also rejected his plea that the government withdraw the state security extended to the king.
The reprieve comes as a boost for the former royal family, which continues to be a focal point in Nepal.
Even now, nearly one and a half year after the abolition of monarchy, former king Gyanendra remains the cynosure of the media.
On Monday, when Nepal celebrated Bhai Tika - Brothers’ Day - along with showing Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal celebrating at his sister Vasudha’s residence, the television channels also beamed images of the ex-king being feted at the residence of his sister Shobha Shahi.
Nepal’s sole royalist party in parliament, the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (Nepal), has not given up heart despite the drubbing it received at the election.
It is doggedly campaigning for a referendum to decide if Nepal should remain a republic or revert to monarchy and wants the government to settle the issue before a new constitution is promulgated in May.
The party chief, former minister Kamal Thapa, says last year’s election was held to decide about a constitution but not the fate of the royal family.
Besides the party’s signature campaign, royalists are also drawing heart from the ruling and opposition left parties’ continued battle. The tussle has kept parliament deadlocked for nearly five months and raised doubts whether the new constitution would be ready in time.
Tags: apex, apex court, beggars, coalition government, democracy movement, demonstrators, dynasty, festive season, forefathers, hindu, king gyanendra, monarchy, outskirts, palaces, placards, plea, protests, public criticism, reprieve, state security