Veil of mystery over throne of blood
Between death and life in coma
Dipendra and Devyani: the last meeting
Hair and tear from the grieving
Calcutta Weather

 
 
VEIL OF MYSTERY OVER THRONE OF BLOOD 
 
 
FROM ASHIS CHAKRABARTI
 
Kathmandu, June 3: 
From a love story to a royal massacre and to Crown Prince Dipendra’s throne of blood ascended in a coma.

The first accounts of Friday night’s palace bloodbath here are getting blurred amid a veil of secrecy as more and more questions about the tragedy are crying out to be answered.

The deepening of the mystery was capped by the only statement that came from the palace today.

It came from none other than Gyanendra, the new king’s uncle, who had been appointed regent yesterday to look after the kingdom on behalf of the comatose monarch.

In a communication in Nepali over state radio and television, he attributed the casualties in the palace to a “sudden explosion of automatic weapons”. No word on who or what triggered the “explosion”. “According to the information received by us, they were injured when an automatic weapon suddenly exploded,” the announcement said.

But Reuters quoted a ballistics expert in New Delhi as saying that such a scenario was impossible. “It cannot go off on its own. Someone has to pull the trigger first. After that it can continue to fire automatically,” an Indian army colonel, who did not wish to be named, said.

The radio announcement replaced an earlier explanation given by officials that Dipendra had shot his parents and then himself in a purpoted row over his choice of bride. Gyanendra was out of town at the time of the massacre.

The one royalty member who could have been the best person to answer the questions was said to be Gyanendra’s son Paras. According to initial reports, Paras escaped the bullet burst at the Friday family dinner. But it was not confirmed if such reports of Paras escaping unhurt were true. He was there at yesterday’s funeral of the royal victims, but again, no one would yet come out to confirm whether he was at the dinner hall while the shooting took place.

The condition of the four members of the royal family, who were injured in the incident and could provide vital clues to the episode, was said to be satisfactory.

Questions are also being raised about the sequence of events as suggested in yesterday’s reports. It was more or less agreed in different circles here that Dipendra had used two weapons — an M-16 machine gun when he allegedly killed his parents and other royal family members and a pistol to shoot himself. He was said to have rushed to the palace temple after the killing spree and then to his room to pick up the pistol. How was it that nobody, including the palace guards, rushed to the dinner hall after hearing the gunshots? And, how was it that nobody tried to stop him if he ran to the temple and his own room to pick up the pistol? Or did someone do that and shoot him?

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala urged calm and said his government was confident that the true facts of the tragedy would made known to the public.

But patience was wearing thin on the streets. “There is definitely a large conspiracy here. How can the person who was going to be the king commit such an act? This is just not plausible. Nobody is telling us the facts,” said a Kathmandu resident.

“We are not being given access to the hospital. There is no credible official announcement. Nobody from the palace is speaking out a single word. The people of Nepal are very confused,” added another resident.

   

 
 
BETWEEN DEATH AND LIFE IN COMA 
 
 
FROM ASHIS CHAKRABARTI
 
Kathmandu, June 3: 
People thronged two places the whole day — the main gate of the palace on Durbar Marg that stayed shut on the blood-soaked emptiness within and the gate of the military hospital at Chhauni, about 4 km away, where new King Dipendra lay in a coma, symbolising the state of the monarchy and the kingdom.

Together, the two places captured the moods of sorrow, anger, confusion and fear of an uncertain future.

An official announcement in the afternoon that the new king’s condition has deteriorated only darkened the veil further. But the lights were up at the main gate of the Narayan Hity palace as processionists passed by in the light drizzle.

The people who had gathered at the shamiana on Durbar Marg, close to the palace gate, to offer flowers before the pictures of King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, forgot their sorrow for a moment. Instead, they joined the processionists’ voice of anger. “Hang the killers”, “Our dear king and queen cannot die”, cried the young men on the march.

The slogans left little doubt about the love and esteem the king enjoyed among the people 11 years after the introduction of multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy. It was difficult to imagine that the same Durbar Marg had reverberated with the call for democracy and an end to absolute monarchy in the spring awakening of 1990.

Throughout the day, Nepal’s capital was tossed between sorrow and anger. Yesterday, the stoning of Prime Minister G.P. Koirala’s car was thought to have been an expression of public anger against the elected government. “One shouldn’t read too much in it,” said a former civil servant. “Time is out of joint for us and people can vent their anger on anyone.”

The anger so far has not turned violent. But everyone is fearful of what lies ahead. “Nepal is finished,” said a taxi driver.

There is no missing the volatile atmosphere. The little kingdom seems to be preparing itself for the next moment of loss — the possible death of Dipendra. In that eventuality, Gyanendra will ascend the throne but whether he can uphold the image of national unity that was personified by King Birendra will remain an open question. Once the grim lull of the mourning is over, Nepal may well begin its next troubled tryst with monarchy and democratic politics.    


 
 
DIPENDRA AND DEVYANI: THE LAST MEETING 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 3: 
When Crown Prince Dipendra visited his sweetheart, Devyani Rana, on Friday afternoon, he had more than love on his mind.

The 29-year-old heir to the Nepal throne wanted to seal his love with the marriage vows and, as that was not possible, he wished to perform at least a symbolic ceremony by smearing a tilak on her forehead, friends of Devyani in Kathmandu said.

They said he told Devyani to consider it a vow of their engagement. The incident was narrated later to her friends by Devyani who took off for Delhi yesterday, and is believed to have flown to London from there, though details about her movements remain murky.

Members of the Scindia family of Gwalior were not available for comment. Devyani is the granddaughter of the late Vijayaraje Scindia.

As Dipendra lay in a coma in Kathmandu, Devyani’s family — her father is Pashupati Rana, a former minister — was obviously trying to put as much distance between her and the site of the tragedy in the Nepal capital as possible.

Her friends have reasons to believe that from the way the Crown Prince acted in the afternoon and later in the evening when he spoke to her on the phone, Devyani had an inkling that Dipendra, who had been drinking, was determined to settle the question of their marriage with his family.

He even told Devyani something to that effect. The girl may even have called the palace to warn aides of the Prince that Dipendra was not in control of himself and that they should take care of him.

That warning — there is no way of confirming that it had been given — appears to have been ignored, possibly because of the Prince’s benign reputation.

There is also a large question mark over the role of the cousin, Prince Gyanendra’s son Paras Bikram Shah, who was with Prince Dipendra for much of the afternoon and evening, but there are doubts about his being there for the entire length of the traditional family dinner on Friday, when it is mandatory for all members in town to be present.

Paras Bikram was apparently advising the Prince on how to bring his relationship with Devyani to its logical end.

Devyani was known in Kathmandu as the would-be Princess and was treated as such. A friend of hers, who had dinner with her a few months ago in the Nepal capital, said that the local people looked in reverence at her was apparent from the courtesy shown her by the staff at Radisson where Devyani goes frequently.    


 
 
HAIR AND TEAR FROM THE GRIEVING 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Kathmandu, June 3: 
Sons of Nepal are shedding tears — and hair.

Thousands of men today flocked to barber shops in the kingdom to shave their heads in a mark of mourning usually reserved for parents, not kings. But in death, Birendra, “the gentle” king, has become a father figure for Nepal.

Barbers across Nepal did brisk business in impromptu saloons that mushroomed overnight as motorbike-borne youths zipped around looking for a vacant seat under the clipping blades.

A government order had yesterday made head-shaving mandatory for only civil servants. But several people who waited outside the barber shops said they decided on the tonsure on their own.

“Under Hindu custom, sons shave their heads as a sign of mourning. The people of Nepal are doing just that for they have lost their father —King Birendra,” a local journalist said.

Many consider the deaths a personal loss. “The murder of the royal family was like the loss of my own parents. We have lost our father, mother, brother and a sister. I feel saddened, as well as honoured, to be able to perform this rite as a mark of respect to the royal family,” said 29-year-old Bhupendra Ram Shrestha, who runs a travel agency on Kathmandu’s upmarket Kantipath, near the Narayan Hity palace.

“We even organised free shaving in our locality this morning. A single barber shaved as many as 500 heads. Like all Royal government employees, we, too, felt privileged to shave our heads as a mark of respect to the departed royal family,” Shrestha added.

Om Prakash, a private security guard posted at a local bank, told Reuters that having the head shaved was “one small gesture to show that we’re feeling the loss of someone we love and respect”.

Gajendra Singh, a taxi driver, said the last time there was such a rush for head-shaving was nearly three decades ago when King Mahendra died.

“At that time, they almost made it mandatory for everyone to get his head shaved. This time, people are doing it more out of respect than compulsion,” Singh said.

Many have also stopped having non-vegetarian food and have vowed to mourn for 13 days, though the official grieving period is five days.

Besides tonsuring, high-ranking officials have been asked to refrain from taking salt for three days as a mark of respect.

Cable operators have switched off entertainment television channels, beaming only the state media and a handful of international news services.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 33.9°C (- l)
Minimum: 27.9°C (+l)

Rainfall:

29.1 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 94%,
Minimum: 67%

Today

Generally cloudy sky, with light to moderate rain, accompanied by thunder, in some parts.
Sunrise: 4.55 am
Sunset: 6.15 pm
   
 

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