Cremation & coronation amid clashes
New crown sits uneasy on old habits
Round II: palace vs parliament
Open mind, so long it’s Kashmir
Calcutta Weather

Kathmandu, June 4: 
His wife, now Queen Komal, still lay in the military hospital recovering from her bullet wounds. But his kingdom convulsed — in pain, anger and deaths — as Regent Gyanendra was today crowned Nepal’s new king, the second in three days after Friday night’s macabre massacre of the royals.

The new king’s first message to the nation — a probe into the massacre and publication of the report in three days — did little to quell passions. The Speaker, the chief justice and the leader of the Opposition will conduct the probe, he announced.

Not flowers, but fists, fire and brickbats flew as wave after wave of angry protesters surged on roads leading to the palace and battled policemen in riot gear, who were chasing them away with batons and teargas. The people came on foot, on motorbikes and some riding the odd vehicle.

King Dipendra, who got his two-day monarchy lying in a coma, was cremated amidst curfew-imposed emptiness and reports of at least two confirmed deaths in firing by police and armymen. Unconfirmed reports put the deaths at between six and 10.

The protesters were riding high on passion, directed mostly at King Gyanendra and his son, the new Crown Prince, Paras. The mobs shouted: “Gyanendra chor, desh chhor (Thief Gyanendra, leave the country), Paras chor, desh chhor (Thief Paras, leave the country) and “Hang the brother-killer”. There was an occasional cry against the prime minister and his government colleagues for attending the coronation. But then, the government, like the slain royals, seemed dead and gone. The road outside Prime Minister G.P. Koirala’s house at Baluatar was deserted, barring one car full of securitymen.

The silence reigning over the Himalayan kingdom since the massacre was broken by the gun salutes that boomed from the Tudikhel parade ground not far from the palace. It was official that a new king had been anointed. It also signalled the “official” death of King Dipendra, whose star-crossed love was the first theory to emerge from the blood and ruin of the royals.

The anger now rained on the new king whose anointment was decided at a meeting of the Raj Parishad (the King’s council), whose members include the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the parliament speaker and army and police chiefs.

Regent Gyanendra was taken to the old palace at Hanuman Dhoka, about a kilometre from the present palace at Narayan Hity, to be crowned by the chief priest in the presence of the council of ministers and other palace and government officials.

Groups of protesters collected outside the old palace, raising slogans against him. At 11 am, the 45-minute ceremony began. The new king was then driven in a procession of military bands, horses and cars to the new palace. In a carriage drawn by four horses, King Gyanendra sat, crown on his head and the crown prince opposite him, occasionally folding his hands in a namaste.

Very few in the crowds beyond the police barricades returned the namaste. A grim silence prevailed. The procession was on the road along Ratna Park and the parade ground when the first wave of protesters caught up with it.

After that it was a day — and then night — of protests all over. The curfew announcement caught people unawares because it was word of mouth, like most other news. People began running away from the main roads, particularly those around the palace. Foreign tourists scampered for safety. The streets were deserted again.

But only the main streets. Groups of demonstrators defied the curfew at several places, setting fire to deflated car tyres and fighting the police and armymen. Reports of violence and tension kept trickling in from far corners of the mountainous kingdom. And Kathmandu, where the king and the palace are, remained very much the valley of fear.


Kathmandu and New Delhi, June 4: 
From the Gentle King to The Monarch. Prince Gyanendra took over as the 12th Shah ruler of Nepal today amid mounting scepticism over his hardline beliefs.

The second of King Mahendra’s three sons, the 54-year-old Gyanendra was considered the more pragmatic — and the most ambitious — among the brothers: King Birendra, genial and often generous to a fault, and Prince Dhirendra, who lost the battle against death late on Monday night, almost 72 hours after Friday’s fury at Narayan Hity palace.

Dhirendra, incidentally, was stripped of all royal titles in the mid-eighties following a misunderstanding with Queen Aishwarya.

Political analysts in Kathmandu said today’s public outburst against Gyanendra was born out of fear that he could undermine the democratic powers given to the people by the assassinated king. “His hardline views are well-known. In 1990, Gyanendra had openly opposed King Birendra on the formation of a constitutional monarchy. He was totally opposed to giving up absolute powers and had accused King Birendra of wilting under pressure from pro-democracy political parties,” an analyst said.

The new king is markedly different from his elder brother, who was popular because he was people-friendly. Gyanendra is largely described as a prince with an authoritarian streak running in him.

“He was denied any post in the Royal Army, primarily a move to keep the very ambitious prince away from actively tinkering with politics,” the analyst said. “However, to be fair to him, it has to be seen how he shapes up in his new role,” he added.

Along with his zeal to protect the institution of absolute monarchy, Gyanendra was against toeing a soft-line on India and was known for his tilt towards China.

“He has had a tendency to be surrounded by controversies. In the mid-1980s, the West Bengal administration had held him responsible for fomenting trouble in the Darjeeling hills at the peak of the Subash Ghising-led Gorkhaland agitation. Subsequently in 1989, he and Queen Aishwarya were suspected of turning King Birendra against India after the lapse of the Indo-Nepal trade and transit treaty which led to the closure of all the 22 entry points into Nepal. This single act was what gave impetus to the democracy movement in 1990 that ultimately clipped most of the palace’s powers,” the analyst said.

Gyanendra, interestingly, had schooled in Darjeeling — he went to St Joseph’s College.

Delhi sought to tread carefully on the tricky terrain and chose to overlook the new monarch’s anti-India label, instead describing him as a “keen environmentalist and a keener sitarist”.

“He is a keen environmentalist. But I think he is a keener sitarist,” a senior official of the Indian foreign ministry said, when asked to describe the new king. “He is not only a very good sitarist but he is very much interested in Indian classical music and has a special soft spot for Pandit Ravi Shankar.” Gyanendra was seen at almost all programmes of Indian classical music organised by the mission in Kathmandu.

The Indian government is playing safe because given the uncertainty in Nepal and the conflicting reports filtering out, it would be better to talk about Gyanendra’s personal interests rather than highlighting his political views. Delhi is unwilling to pre-judge the new king and assess him by his past remarks on India’s policies.

In a dark irony of history, Gyanendra was crowned at the old palace at Hanuman Dhoka, the scene of another, bigger palace massacre in Nepal’s history. In the gory Kot carnage of 1846, Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana and his 16 brothers killed over 150 rival clan chiefs on the same courtyard, though they didn’t harm the king and the queen.

For Gyanendra, it is his second brush with the throne. He was made king briefly in 1950 as a toddler after the rest of his family fled to India during the reign of the last autocratic Rana, Prime Minister Mohan Shamsher Rana.


Kathmandu, June 4: 
Today’s street skirmishes may be only a side show to tomorrow’s bigger battle that Nepal’s new King Gyanendra may soon have to face. It’s the battle between the palace and parliament that several of his predecessors have fought.

The new monarch’s strategy for this battle will go a long way in deciding which way Nepal will go in the near future. The monarch’s moves may also be inexorably linked to the possible role of the army in the new scenario.

In the hour of the kingdom’s tragedy, political parties and their leaders in both the government and the Opposition have kept it under wraps. But the conflict between the monarchy and the multi-party democracy that the palace had to accept after decades of popular movements is bound to resurface.

The slain Birendra accepted the multi-party democracy after the spring revolution of 1990. The present prime minister, G.P. Koirala, was one of the leading lights of the pro-democracy movement. Birendra’s father Mahendra and G.P. Koirala’s brother B.P. Koirala had fought the same battle in an earlier time.

On December 15, 1980, Birendra announced the Third Amendment to the Constitution, which did not lift the ban on political parties but brought about political reforms. Ironically, it came exactly 20 years after his father Mahendra had dissolved the first and only democratic government in 1960.

The failure of the multi-party democracy over the last 10 years to live up to popular aspirations generated much anger at the government and the parties. Even G.P. Koirala’s ruling Nepali Congress Party, once the fountainhead of popular movements, has fallen from public esteem.

The Opposition Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist), which headed a weak coalition for a brief while in the mid-nineties, had a disastrous record in governance. CPN (M-L) chief Madhav Nepal was wary of commenting on the possible fallout of the transition in the palace on the multi-party democracy system.

A Nepali Congress leader, however, did not hesitate to predict that any attempt to return to the days of absolute monarchy would be futile and disastrous.

But two worries remain. First, the Maoist Communists’ challenge. The Maoists, unlike the democratic parties, want abolition of the monarchy.

The other worry — more for the government than for the palace — is the role the army might play. There have been instances when the army overruled the government. A glaring example was the rescue of a Thai Airways plane that crashed north of Kathmandu in 1993. Although the government decided to take the help of India in the rescue efforts, it was overruled by the army. Traditionally, the army’s loyalty is more to the king than the government.

However, there is general agreement among politicians and analysts at this stage that Gyanendra would not do anything to bring the army into focus in the tussle between the palace and parliament.


Karachi, June 4: 
Setting the tone for the summit with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Pakistan chief executive Pervez Musharraf has said he would go to India with a “flexible and an open mind” on Kashmir.

However, he said an open mind does not mean that “we start discussing something else and do not discuss Kashmir”.

“We will discuss the Kashmir issue. And with regard to that issue I shall go there with a flexible and open mind,” Musharraf told a magazine, Herald Monday.

Musharraf agreed with the interviewer that “flexibility” means that the two sides should try to make “some sort of a breakthrough” on Kashmir. “Talks make headway and some solution becomes possible only when the two sides show some flexibility in their stated positions. This is my objective and it is with this end in view that I intend to go there,” Musharraf said.

But Musharraf made it clear that the “time has not yet come” to ask Kashmir militants to scale down their armed activities. “The time will come when the talks are held and they make progress. The present meeting is step one in this process. Now it remains to be seen that the talks begin and they begin on Kashmir and then they make headway.”

But Musharraf said peace negotiations should take primacy over fighting. “We have fought wars. I think if we are able to resolve it through peaceful means, there should not be any need for fighting. I think that those who say that there should not be any talks have a wrong attitude. ”

The general added that it was “I who took all the initiatives. We displayed restraint on the Line of Control. They responded to it. It is I who have been saying that the process of dialogue should be initiated in a peaceful way and they have been rejecting it. I have taken many steps. ”

Asked whether he was surprised by Vajpayee’s invitation, Musharraf said: “Surprised? I was not surprised. I had been optimistic about the dialogue process starting at some point or the other. But then, so much time passed that I had started to become a bit pessimistic and thought that, perhaps, they do not want to have serious dialogue. (So in that sense) yes, it is surprising the way it has happened.”

However, in Islamabad, Pakistan foreign minister Abdul Sattar said the solution to the Kashmir problem was identified 50 years ago.

“The Kashmiri people have to be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination. This is their birthright. It was pledged to them by Pakistan and India, and by the international community in UN Security Council resolutions,” the foreign minister asserted.

Pakistan is expected to send a high-level delegation to India shortly to finalise the date and agenda of the summit between Vajpayee and Musharraf.




Maximum: 30.1°C (-5)
Minimum: 24.9°C (-2)


34.5 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 98%,
Minimum: 76%


A few spells of light to moderate rain, with one or two showers or thundershowers.
Sunrise: 4.55 am
Sunset: 6.15 pm

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