Sacked Nepal king gets festival reprieve

September 29th, 2008 - 1:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 29 (IANS) Nepal’s last king Gyanendra, who was formally stripped of his crown four months ago and was compelled to vacate his ancestral palace in June, has received a festival reprieve from the new Maoist government.The deposed monarch, who has been residing in the Nagarjuna summer palace, once a hunting lodge of his forefathers, began readying to quit the mansion and take up abode in his assassinated younger brother’s villa when the Maoists formed the new government.

On Monday, the Tarun weekly, which is close to the opposition Nepali Congress party, said the anti-monarchy Maoists had agreed to allow the ex-king to retain the old palace since he was once head of state.

It said the former king, living in virtual exile, had sent an emissary to the Maoist government which subsequently decided to let him live on in Nagarjuna.

Gyanendra’s stepmother Ratna has also been allowed to continue living in her own residence in the Narayanhity royal palace. The octogenarian refused to leave it, saying it was steeped in the memory of her husband Mahendra and she would breathe her last there.

Perhaps heartened by the new understanding with the Maoists, the former king, who has been leading a low-key life in the remote mansion, continued with the tradition begun when the Shah kings were omnipotent.

The former king and queen, Komal, issued their customary greetings and well wishes for the upcoming Dashain festival, to the people.

However, the greetings cards were signed by the former royal couple as ordinary citizens, without the earlier prefix of “His and Her Majesty”.

Soon after Gyanendra’s departure — the sequel to the anti-monarchy wave that resulted in the abolition of monarchy and the state takeover of all royal palaces — the Narayanhity royal palace was declared a national museum by the government.

However, the then government of prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala conceded the king’s request to let him move into the Nagarjuna palace on the outskirts of Kathmandu valley till he was able to locate a suitable alternative residence.

The decision triggered a public outcry with civil society members opposing the move. “Give beggars alms, not palaces,” said the placards borne by the protesters during street rallies.

After Nepal’s former Maoist guerrilla party, which had waged a 10-year war to unseat the king, came to power in August, it was expected that the new Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ would revoke the earlier decision and order the deposed king to leave his new residence as well.

However, more than a month after the Maoists came to power, there is no indication that Gyanendra would be turned out of his sanctuary.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in South Asia |