Blood ties freeze, blue blood flows
Left-out lad who could be king again
Playing fields of Eton to battlefield of love
Calcutta Weather

 
 
BLOOD TIES FREEZE, BLUE BLOOD FLOWS 
 
 
FROM DEBRAJ SINGH CHHETRI AND PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Kathmandu and Siliguri, June 2: 
Enraged by his mother’s opposition to the love of his life, Nepal’s Crown Prince Dipendra shot dead King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya, his brother, sister and at least four relatives in a wholesale slaying of royalty not seen since the massacre of Czar Nicholas of Russia and his family in 1918. Dipendra then turned the gun on himself, but survived and is on life support in an army hospital.

The country’s privy council declared Dipendra the new king but, as he was in a coma, also appointed the late monarch’s elder brother Gyanendra — who was out of town at the time of the slaughter — as regent. The assassinated royals were cremated in the evening on the banks of the Bagmati river.

The government, however, put a question mark on the circumstances leading to last night’s carnage at Narayan Hity palace. Nepal’s home minister, Ram Chandra Poudel, said details of the palace shootings remained unclear, backing away from his earlier assertion that the 29-year-old heir-apparent had shot his parents and relatives before firing at himself.

“Since the incident took place inside the royal palace, we don’t know exactly how the incident occurred,” Poudel said.

In a statement broadcast over television and radio, Prime Minister G.P. Koirala expressed deep shock over the killings and said “the truth about the whole thing would be known to all soon”.

The bloodbath took place around 11 pm, shortly after the family had sat down for what was to be their last supper. Palace sources said that mother and son resumed their quarrel over Devyani Rana, the girl Dipendra wanted to marry.

Queen Aishwarya, known for her conservative ideas, was reportedly opposed to Dipendra’s decision because of a warning by astrologers that if he got married and had children before turning 35, his father would die. The Queen wanted him to wait for six more years. She was also opposed to Devyani as she wanted the crown prince to marry into a higher-caste Rana family.

As the argument became more heated, Dipendra was asked to leave the dining hall as he was drunk. He withdrew but soon returned in battle fatigues with an assault rifle and a pistol and opened indiscriminate fire.

Among those killed were his brother, Nirajan, 22, and sister Shruti, 25, a mother of two. Also dead were King Birendra’s sisters Sharada and Shanti, his brother-in-law Khadga Bikram Shah and a cousin, Princess Jayanti. Prince Dhirendra, another of the king’s brothers, was critically wounded. At least three more people are believed to have been killed but have not been identified.

A numb Nepal woke up to the shocking news and gathered near the palace, which had been cordoned off by the police. State radio and television did not broadcast morning news bulletins. Instead, they extended the religious programmes beamed every morning.

The official announcement was made at 1.15 pm, almost 13 hours after the massacre. His voice choking, chairman of the Royal Privy Council Keshar Jung Rayamajhi declared the king was dead and Dipendra had been chosen his successor.

“The first son of his majesty the king and heir to the throne, Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, has been proclaimed the king in accordance with the law, custom and usage relating to the succession to the throne,” he said. “Since the new king is physically unable to exercise his duty and is undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit of the military hospital in Kathmandu, his uncle, Prince Gyanendra, has been proclaimed as the regent.”

As authorities hastily arranged the funeral, tens of thousands of bewildered Nepalis swarmed into the streets to pay their last respects to the world’s only Hindu ruler. King Birendra was immensely popular among the people, particularly after he ceded absolute power in favour of a British-style constitutional monarchy in 1990.

Only a few people in the crowd of mourners were crying. The most visible emotion was anxiety about the circumstances of the death of the king, revered by many Nepalis as an incarnation of Vishnu. “People want to know what happened. Everybody is shocked but nobody’s telling us the true story,” said Manohar Singh, who stood by his motorcycle on the road to the royal palace.

Cabinet ministers, palace staff and senior military officials joined the procession even as an irate mob hurled stones at the Prime Minister’s car.

Given the magnitude of the tragedy, the formality of inviting foreign dignitaries was done away with. Civil servants were ordered to shave their heads in a traditional mark of respect, while Nepal began a five-day period of mourning. India has announced three days of state mourning.

   

 
 
LEFT-OUT LAD WHO COULD BE KING AGAIN 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, June 2: 
In the world’s only Hindu kingdom, history repeats itself not every four or five years, but after a full half century.

At the sprawling Indian embassy in Kathmandu, one of

the biggest embassy compounds anywhere in the world, officials burned midnight oil last night poring through archived documents, yellow with age, which told a little known story of Nepal’s King-to-be, Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev.

Although Crown Prince Dipendra has been named Nepal’s new king by the Raj Parishad, he is unlikely to survive the suicide attempt, according to medical sources in Kathmandu, and it is only a matter of time before Gyanendra is formally proclaimed the king.

This will be the second time that Gyanendra becomes King of Nepal. The first time was 51 years ago, when he was just about four years old.

Those were the days when the cruel Ranas, the hereditary prime ministers, were more powerful than the king and ran Nepal like a Shangri-La with little contact with the world outside.

King Tribhuvan, a visionary and a liberal, was chafing under the restraints imposed on him by his own ministers, but he could do very little.

The Ranas had been in absolute control for over a century, and although Britain had formally recognised Nepal’s independence in 1923, Whitehall was still running Kathmandu by proxy in collusion with the Rana clan.

In 1950, Tribhuvan decided to work with the Nepali Congress, whose leadership was in exile in India, to end the Rana dictatorship and create some sort of a democracy.

But the Ranas discovered Tribhuvan’s plan and confined him to the palace.

Virtually under house arrest, Tribhuvan one day pleaded with his prime minister that he should be allowed to take his consort, children and grandchildren on a family picnic.

Reluctantly and after much discussion, the Ranas relented. What followed was high drama.

The Indian embassy was then located at Sheetal Niwas, an imposing structure in Kathmandu which now houses Nepal’s foreign ministry.

As the royal picnic group was bang in front of Sheetal Nivas, the gates of the Indian embassy swung open and into the embassy drove the vehicle carrying King Tribhuvan and his family.

As part of plans made in absolute secrecy in New Delhi with the approval of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Tribhuvan and his royal entourage sought refuge at the embassy.

Among those who fled to the embassy that sunny morning in Kathmandu along with King Tribhuvan was the Queen, Crown Prince Mahendra and all the little princes and princesses, except one.

In the midst of secret arrangements to flee the palace, the royal couple forgot to take prince Gyanendra, then just under four, along with them.

The angry Ranas, who discovered Tribhuvan’s new plot too late, found young Gyanendra wandering about in the royal palace without anyone to care for him.

They promptly caught him and proclaimed him as the new king of Nepal. The wily British acquiesced in the Rana perfidy.

Nepal’s history may well have been different if Nehru had not put his foot down. India’s first prime minister said nothing would change and that India recognised no one but Tribhuvan as Nepal’s king.

It was one of the earliest assertions of India’s pre-eminence in all of South Asia, which has continued to this day despite attempts to introduce various doctrines to undermine New Delhi’s importance and occasional compromises.

The stand-off continued for two months, but ultimately, the Ranas and the British gave in.

The sovereignty of the crown was restored, but Tribhuvan allowed the Nepali Congress to form a government, ending the Rana dictatorship.

The process of democratisation continued with the enactment of a multi-party constitution in 1959. But the Ranas continued to plot.

A year later, after the Nepali Congress won the elections, King Mahendra organised a constitutional coup, suspended parliament and introduced the non-party panchayat system.

The rest is history, the saddest chapter of which, is now unfolding in Kathmandu with the assassinations of King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya.

   

 
 
PLAYING FIELDS OF ETON TO BATTLEFIELD OF LOVE 
 
 
BY PROBIR PRAMANIK AND OUR DELHI BUREAU
 
Siliguri and New Delhi, June 2: 
As a student in Eton, he was an ace karateka who gave friendly lessons in martial art. A few years later, he got a feel of automatic rifles at an ordnance factory in Pakistan.

The two fleeting images of Crown Prince Dipendra were the only ones in consonance with the picture of the battle-fatigues-clad, rifle-wielding assassin painted in Kathmandu this dawn.

Before that, he was known for his love for poetry, music and — Devyani.

The heir to the throne wanted to marry Devyani, daughter of former minister Pashupati Rana, a member of the aristocratic family that ruled Nepal till 1951. Devyani’s mother belongs to an Indian royal family which has considerable presence in national politics.

Devyani, whose maternal uncle is a former Union minister and senior Opposition leader, went to a well-known school in Dehradun and graduated in English from Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi. Palace sources said that Dipendra fell head over heels in love with the extremely attractive girl. But Queen Aishwarya was opposed to the match. She had long been associated in the minds of Nepal’s democrats with a rigid, outdated penchant for absolute monarchy and social conservatism. Dipendra had made efforts to appear more open to the Nepalese people.

The Queen was against her eldest son marrying a girl whose social status was not equivalent to the ruling Shah dynasty’s. Though the royal family members traditionally enter into matrimonial alliances with the highest among the noble Rana clan, the sources said Devyani’s family was not at the top of the caste hierarchy. As talk of the courtship raged through Kathmandu, the adamant Queen put her foot down, saying Dipendra could marry Devyani only over her “dead body”. So intense was her opposition that the issue became a talking point even among royal families in India. Matters came to a head a few days ago when Dipendra is learnt to have told his parents, aunts and grandmother — the Queen Mother Ratna Rajya Laxmi — that if he was forced to marry any other girl, he would divorce her and marry Devyani.

Kathmandu residents were stunned but calm, many of them unable to believe that the soft-spoken prince had shot his parents. “The crown prince was bright, sensible and friendly,” said Mana Ranjan Josse, a journalist who has written extensively about the royal family. “I find it incredible.”

Born on June 27, 1971, Dipendra was declared heir-apparent in January 1972, and in 1990, he was given the added title, colonel-in-chief of the Royal Nepal Army. Two years later, he was appointed chairman of the Council of Royal Representatives, responsible for looking after affairs of state during the King’s absence. Educated at schools in Kathmandu, he later followed in his father’s footsteps by attending Eton College in England. A karate black belt, he trained some of his fellow students at Eton. At university in the Nepali capital, Dipendra got a first class BA degree and an MA in Geography.

Like his father, Dipendra loved flying. He trained at the Royal Nepal Military Academy and gained a licence to fly a helicopter. He also loved music, especially Western classical, and played the electric piano and guitar.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum:34.2°C (-1),
Minimum: 28.5°C (+2)

Rainfall:

12.1 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 87%,
Minimum: 68%

Today

Generally cloudy sky with possibility of light to moderate rain accompanied by thunder in some parts
Sunrise: 4.55 am
Sunset: 6.14 pm
   
 

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