Nepal’s ex-king says it all in a few words

October 9th, 2010 - 3:10 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Oct 9 (IANS) As he started his dynasty’s ritual worship of Dashain, Nepal’s biggest Hindu festival, the country’s deposed king Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah is still smarting under a fierce sense of injustice, two years after parliament formally declared an end to his 240-year-old monarchy.

Royalists, who continue to demand the restoration of monarchy, gave him a royal welcome at Patan - where he visited power goddess Bagalamukhi’s temple and lit 115,000 lamps -
holding a gigantic umbrella over is head, the symbol of royalty, and garlanding him with school children forming part of the welcoming group.

The former king, 63, reached the temple after doubts as to whether the government would allow him since the ruling parties had prevented him from attending a public programme last month.

Though the last king of Nepal has been maintaining a stiff upper lip during his public appearances - that have become increasingly frequent this year - the smile he turns on for the benefit of the cameras and the crowds fails to mask the biting sarcasm and irony that, however, is taken at face value by the Nepali media.

Asked how he now spends his days as a commoner, turned out of the palace of his ancestors, he tells the young woman daring to ask the question, “Just like you”.

But she is persistent. “I think there is a difference,” says Pratima Baskota, a reporter with a Nepali daily. “Don’t you have any sorrows?”

The former king’s mask slips. “I do have my sorrows,” he says, before collecting himself. “Don’t you have any sorrows?” he asks her.

When the young woman says she has none, “then I have none too,” he says.

Though he refuses to answer questions on the farcical 11 rounds of elections that have failed to name a new prime minister with a 12th round to be held Sunday, his anger at the parliament that replaced and upstaged him is palpable.

“They should look at their reflections in the mirror,” he says with biting sarcasm. “I don’t want to say anything.”

He mentions the plummeting security situation in Nepal and the growing suffering of the common man and, without saying a single word against the political parties who abolished his crown, manages to say volumes about their greed, corruption and inefficiency.

Another major reason the anger is building up is the pact he is said to have had made with the political parties who soon afterwards went back on their words.

After his army-backed bloodless coup in 2005 failed within a year, the king stepped down in 2006 after the protesting parties, including the Maoists who were seeking the abolition of monarchy, reached a compromise with him.

He was reportedly told to hand over power, in return for which he or his descendants would be allowed to remain Nepal’s constitutional king with no real powers.

The hinted-at pact was mentioned openly in public by the home minister during the royal government, Kamal Thapa, whose Rastriya Prajatantra Party is the only party that fought the 2008 elections in open support of monarchy.

Since the abolition of monarchy, though Nepal’s political parties have gone back to their power-seeking way, the ousted king however has been a gentleman in adversity, maintaining stoic silence on the betrayed agreement despite tribulations.

At times, the provocations must have been severe. Last month the government humiliated him by virtually placing him under house arrest for a day and stopping him from attending a public programme in the capital.

The former king holds the media partially responsible for the fall of his government.

On Friday, when he inaugurated a charitable trust under the chairmanship of his daughter-in-law, the former crown princess Himani, and having his daughter Prerana as well as three nieces on the board, the organisers addressed him as “His Majesty”.

When this was questioned by a section of Nepali journalists, the former king was visibly indignant.

“That is an issue to be taken up with organisers,” he said. “It is not my business to look into that. I am happy to be called Gyanendra Shah.”

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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