Nepal king spurns asylum reports

April 21st, 2008 - 11:58 am ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 21 (IANS) Nepal’s royal palace has said reports in the national and international media that King Gyanendra was contemplating fleeing the country following an imminent Maoist victory and the abolition of his crown were “totally fabricated and unfounded”. Under tremendous pressure from the Maoists, whose top leadership has been urging the king to surrender his throne and become a law-abiding common citizen, the palace mustered energy to condemn the reports and indicated that the royal family had no intention to seek asylum in neighbour India or elsewhere.

“The attention of this Secretariat has been drawn to the malicious reports appearing in sections of the national and international media in recent days against the royal palace,” King Gyanendra’s press secretariat said in a statement.

“This Secretariat strongly refutes these reports as totally fabricated and unfounded.”

The speculation began in the Indian media with reports that the king, apprehending a hard time under a new government headed by his old enemy, the Maoists, had been contacting his relatives in India to explore the prospects of seeking asylum there.

The reports last week fetched a denial from India’s Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who said the Indian authorities had not been approached to secure asylum for the royal family in Nepal.

After his experiment to rule the country with the help of the army failed two years ago and a peaceful revolt by the people forced the king to surrender power to the opposition parties, there had been similar speculation that the royals might contemplate exiting Nepal.

Anti-monarchy feelings ran high at that time and the king faced an unprecedented curtailing of his powers and privileges, including the stripping of his legal immunity and being asked to pay tax.

After a local weekly said that the king’s daughter-in-law, Crown Princess Himani, was keen to move to India from where her parents hail and put her three young children to school there after fearing for their safety in Nepal, the palace had issued a similar statement.

Another Nepali tabloid, claiming to be privy to a meeting between King Gyanendra and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, reported the monarch as telling the politician that he would not quit Nepal under any circumstances.

However, prior to the critical constituent assembly election this month, there were also rumours that the king wanted to visit India for parleys with the Indian authorities, which played an important role in keeping the twice-postponed polls on track.

A weekly said the palace had sought the government’s permission for Crown Prince Paras to go to New Delhi for a “health check-up” following his unexpected heart attack last year.

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