Name game on in Nepal to erase former royals

November 5th, 2008 - 3:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 5 (IANS) Five months after Nepal’s ruling parties formally stripped the last king Gyanendra of his crown, the Maoist-led government continues to wage war on the former royal family as it seeks to erase their last remaining associations with the administration.On Wednesday, Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, the revolutionary who led an audacious 10-year battle against the powerful monarchy against great odds, held a meeting with his council of ministers that decided to rechristen three municipalities named after long-dead kings.

Maoist Minister for Information and Communication Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who is also the spokesperson of the new Prachanda government, told journalists after the cabinet meeting Wednesday that the Mahendranagar, Prithvi Narayan and Tribhuvan municipalities will have new names from now.

Mahendranagar in farwest Nepal near the Indian border was named after deposed king Gyanendra’s father Mahendra. Now it will be known officially as Bhim Dutt Pant municipality after Bhim Dutt Pant, who led a peasant revolt in the 60s and was killed.

Locally, Mahendranagar is already known as Bhim Nagar.

The Prithvi Narayan municipality lies in western Nepal’s Gorkha district that was the original kingdom of the deposed Shah kings.

In the 18th century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ninth king of the dynasty, essayed out of his mountainous kingdom and began a series of invasions, annexing the petty principalities into which Nepal was divided at that time.

Under the reign of the Shah kings, he was regarded as the man who unified Nepal. However, with the growing Maoist influence, he began to be vilified as a coloniser who rode roughshod over Nepal’s indigenous communities.

The municipality named after the dead king has now been rechristened Gorkha, serving as a tribute to Nepal’s valiant warrior community by the same name.

The Tribhuvan municipality in Dang in western Nepal, one of the cradles of the Maoist insurgency, has been renamed Ghorahi after the main town in the district.

Nepal’s sole international airport, the Tribhuvan International Airport, is also named after late king Tribhuvan, grandfather of Gyanendra, and there has been talk of renaming it as well.

Many universities and colleges as well as parks are named after other members of the royal family. These are also expected to be renamed sooner or later.

Though the deposed king’s elder brother Birendra was among the most popular monarchs because of his decision to axe his own powers following a pro-democracy movement in 1990, the august building now housing the interim parliament, the Birendra International Convention Centre, dropped the slain king’s name after a fresh anti-monarchy wave in 2006.

Nepal’s once revered monarchy was relegated to pages of history in 2006 following a disastrous attempt by king Gyanendra to seize absolute power with the backing of the army.

The coup united the Maoist guerrillas with the opposition parties and triggered a nationwide protest movement that forced the king to hand over power and endure an election in which Nepal voted to have its 239-year-old crown scrapped.

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