Nepal royal palace under siege

May 29th, 2008 - 3:08 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 29 (IANS) The Narayanhity palace has come under siege — within hours of the declaration of a republic in Nepal, ending over two centuries of turbulent rule by its Shah dynasty of kings. The newly elected powerful constituent assembly has ordered king Gyanendra to vacate the royal palace within 15 days.

On the orders of the government, the flag with the coat of arms of the former royal dynasty that fluttered at the main gate of the sprawling pink palace in the heart of the capital was pulled down Thursday morning to signify an end to monarchy and the possession of the edifice by the state.

Peace and Reconstruction Minister Ram Chandra Poudel said the national flag of Nepal would be hoisted in its place as a preamble to the palace becoming a national museum.

Thousands of people thronged the streets in Kathmandu and other major towns chanting slogans hailing Nepal’s transformation into a federal, secular democratic republic, and asking the now hated royal family to quit the palace.

Tension brewed near the palace as a group of people strode to the south gate and tried to hoist the national flag to signify the victory of the people over a dynasty now synonymous with feudalism and repression.

Fearing public anger, the government had deployed additional security contingents at the palace who foiled the attempt.

The demonstrators then headed for the nearby statue of Mahendra, Gyanendra’s father, who too imposed a despotic rule during his time by seizing power with the help of the army and jailing the first elected prime minister of Nepal.

Two of them climbed to the top of the statue and tried to put the national flag there. They were thwarted by security forces who beat them up, sparking a scuffle with the crowd and causing tension.

Security has been beefed up in the capital, as it had been during the days of the Maoist insurgency, to prevent violence, either by the masses or royalists.

Even now, diehard followers of the crown have refused to accept the writing on the wall indicating an end to monarchy in Nepal.

On Wednesday, when the constituent assembly voted overwhelmingly to abolish the crown, four members of the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal opposed the move, saying the abolition of monarchy would create a severe vacuum and cause the nation to disintegrate.

Since Tuesday, there has been a series of bomb blasts in the capital, suspected to be the handiwork of militants who still want Nepal to remain a Hindu kingdom.

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