Sunday, June 3, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Nepal Prince massacres Royal family
Shoots himself, lies in coma * Feud over choice of bride
Gopal Sharma and Sujit Chatterjee

Kathmandu, June 2
Nepal’s royal family was virtually wiped out late last night when the heir to the throne, Prince Dipendra, shot and killed King Birendra (55), Queen Aishwarya (51) and several other family members before shooting himself.

“He first shot the others, then shot himself,” Interior Minister Ram Chandra Poudel told Reuters today.

There was widespread speculation that the massacre at the Royal Palace stemmed from a family feud over the 29-year-old Prince’s choice of a bride, but this could not be confirmed.

State radio and television did not broadcast their normal morning news bulletins. Instead, they extended their traditional early morning religious programmes.

Apart from the King and the Queen, those killed in the shooting included the King’s daughter Princess Shruti Rana, the King’s cousin Princess Jayanti Shah, the King’s youngest son, Prince Nirajan, the King’s sisters Princesses Shanti Singh and Sharda Shah, and the King’s brother-in-law Kumar Khadga Bikram Shah.

Among those fighting for their lives in hospital were said to be the King’s youngest brother Dhirendra, Gorakh Rana, husband of Princess Shruti, and Princess Shova Shahi, the King’s youngest sister.

Prince Dipendra was named today as the new monarch even as he battled for life in a hospital.

Sources said the Crown Prince fired indiscriminately in a fit of rage as the royal family sat for dinner at the Narayan Hity Palace last night following arguments over his marriage plans.

Prince Dipendra, who is in coma and on life-support systems in the military hospital, was named the King by the government state council, despite uncertainty over his condition as per constitutional provisions. His uncle and younger brother of King Birendra, Gyanendra, was declared “regent”.

“Since the King has passed away, the council declares Crown Prince Dipendra as the King of Nepal. But since the Crown Prince is in the hospital and is mentally and physically unsuitable to carry out his duties, the state council appoints Prince Gyanendra as assistant to the Crown,” a council statement said.

The Nepal government announced a 13-day national mourning following the royal massacre, according to Nepal Ambassador in India Bhekh Bahadur Thapa.

The mourning was declared today after the formal announcement of the death of King Birendra and his kins at their Narayan Hity Royal Palace in Kathmandu at 9.15 p.m. last night, the Ambassador said.

Besides the national mourning, the government has also decided not to celebrate any festival for a period of one year in the Hindu kingdom.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people protested in Kathmandu on Saturday over the killing of the country’s royal family with no official version yet released on what exactly happened at the palace late yesterday.

Numerous rumours were circulating in the city, with demonstrators, most of them young men, carrying portraits of the slain King and Queen and shouting slogans like “Long Live Our King and Queen’’, and “Punish the guilty’’.

A protest demonstration of about 500 gathered at the centre of the city and went near the building where the state council was meeting to name a successor to King Birendra.

The demonstrators were clearly implying that Crown Prince Dipendra did not kill his parents and that there might have been foul play involved.

The police stopped the demonstrators just before they reached the state council building and used force to disperse the crowd.

One of the demonstrators, when asked why he was participating in the demonstration said: “I do not believe what we are hearing from foreign news media. I do not think any son would kill his parents for such a trifle reason.’’

King Birendra ascended the throne on January 31, 1972, on the death of his father, King Mahendra, who had suffered a massive heart attack.

Immediately on his accession to the throne, King Birendra tried to reform development strategies in the landlocked Himalayan kingdom.

He divided the country into five regional development zones with a pledge to do more for the development of western Nepal, the least developed area of Nepal and presently the stronghold of Maoist insurgents.

King Birendra, bowing to a popular uprising against the prevalent panchayat system — in which political parties were banned and he ruled supreme — ordered a referendum to decide whether to retain the system or to opt for Western-style multi-party democracy. Agencies


Prince Dipendra named King

Kathmandu, June 2
Crown Prince Dipendra, accused of gunning down his parents King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, was today named the King while clinically dead after he shot himself as well in a fit of rage.

Dipendra, 29, a bachelor in disagreement with his parents over his marriage plans is believed to have triggered the overnight massacre.

The poetry-loving Prince was declared heir apparent in January, 1972.

Born on June 27, 1971, he is the eldest son of King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya. Educated at schools in Kathmandu, he later followed in his father’s footsteps by attending Eton College in England.

His hobbies are flying helicopters, swimming, squash, listening to Nepali folk songs and modern and classical Western music, playing the electronic piano and guitar at the royal palace and reading poetry. AFP


King, Queen cremated

Kathmandu, June 2
The earthly remains of Nepal’s slain King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya were consigned to flames on the banks of the Bagmati near the famous temple of Pashupatinath this evening.

The funeral pyre was lit at about 10 pm amid the chanting of vedic hymns in accordance with Hindu rites King Birendra’s pyre was lit by a distant relative. As the pyre was lit, the national anthem was played and a contingent of the Royal Nepal Army presented arms even as the buglers sounded the last post.

A 56-gun salute, one for each year of the King’s life, was fired.

Also cremated were other members of the Royal family shot dead. DPA


No foreign dignitary invited for funeral

New Delhi, June 2
Nepal said today it was constrained to invite any foreign dignitary to attend the funeral of King Birendra Bikram Shah, Queen Aishwarya and other royal family members in view of the tragic circumstances and prevalent customs.

Mr Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, Nepalese Ambassador to India, told reporters that “due to time constraints and circumstances and also partly because of our tradition we are unable to receive any dignitary from any country, including India.” UNI


India declares 3-day state mourning
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 2
Expressing deep shock at the tragic and untimely death of King Birendra Vikram Shah, Queen Aishwarya and other members of the royal Nepal family, India today declared a three day state mourning as a mark of respect for the King and the family.

“India grieves with Nepal as a close neighbour and friend, India conveys its heartfelt condolences to the mourning nation of Nepal and to the members of the royal family. Our heart goes out to them and the Queen Mother in this hour of grief”, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said in an official statement after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) held this morning to take stock of the situation in Nepal.

Later in the evening, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee along with his Cabinet colleagues observed a minute’s silence at a meeting of the Union Cabinet convened for recommending President’s rule in Manipur.

The Union Cabinet also adopted a resolution on the tragic demise of the King of Nepal, the Queen and members of the royal family saying that India “shares the feelings of immense sorrow of her Majesty the Queen Mother, members of the royal family and the government and the people of Nepal.”

Earlier, the Prime Minister spoke to Nepali Premier Girija Prasad Koirala upon receiving information about the tragedy. Mr Vajpayee expressed deep shock over the tragedy to the Nepalese Prime Minister.

Mr Jaswant Singh, who declined to take any questions from newspersons, said the government and the people of India are “stunned and deeply shocked at the tragic and untimely demise of the King and other members of his family”.

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister convened an emergency meeting of the CCS to review the situation in Nepal. The 35-meeting was attended, among others by the External Affairs Minister, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Brajesh Mishra, Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer and Vice-Chief of the Army Staff Lieut-Gen Vijay Oberoi.

During the three day nation-wide state mourning, beginning from today, National Flags would fly at half-mast on all government buildings and there would be no official entertainment, it was officially said.

Meanwhile, Nepal Ambassador to India Bhekh Bahadur Thapa said.

“We are overwhelmed by the kind of sympathetic messages pouring in from all over India in our moments of mourning,” a visibly shaken Ambassador said.

Meanwhile, President K.R. Narayanan will visit the Royal Nepalese Embassy here tomorrow to pay condolences at the tragic killing of King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and other members of the royal family.

The President will visit the embassy in the morning and sign the condolence book kept there, Rashtrapati Bhawan sources said.

Major political parties, too, expressed shock over the assassination of the King and Queen of Nepal.

The BJP said it was stunned by the shocking news of the palace massacre in Nepal and paid tributes to the leadership of the late King. Party spokesman, Mr Narendra Modi said King Birendra continued to play a stabilising role in the Nepalese politics adding that he maintained Nepal’s close links with India.

Leader of the Opposition and Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, while expressing deep shock and distress at the overwhelming tragedy said “I have cherished memories of my many meetings with their Majesties, the late King and Queen of Nepal. That makes this tragedy even more painful for me.”


Dalai Lama expresses grief

Dharamsala, June 2
Tibetan temporal head and the spiritual leader Dalai Lama today expressed deep shock over the tragic death of Nepal’s King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and 10 other members of the royal family in a shootout.

The Dalai Lama has sent his condolences to the bereaved family and the people of Nepal, according to Tibetan Welfare Officer Dawa here.

He said the Tibetan Government-in-exile passed a special resolution during the monsoon session of its Parliament today and expressed shock and condoled the death of 12 members of the king’s family. UNI

SHIMLA: Rana Jagdish Shamsher, a close relation of King Birendra of Nepal, has described the assassination of King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and other members of the royal family as “the biggest tragedy of his life” and said “everything has been lost in a few minutes”.

“My misfortune is that there is no one left to console and I will go to Kathmandu on the 13th day for the last rituals”, he said in a choked voice.

Rana Shamsher said he had a chance to meet all members of the royal family at the 81st birthday of the oldest living lady of the family at Kathmandu just 15 days back and he was yet to convince himself that “the family” was no longer there. The memories of childhood and youth were unfolding like a film as if everything was fresh, he said.

Rana Shamsher, who had left Nepal after Parliament was dissolved in 1961 and was settled here since then, said a minor dispute over marriage of the prince had led to a situation which was avoidable. PTI


World expresses shock, grief

Kathmandu, June 2
Expressions of shock and grief from around the world poured into the Himalayan state on Saturday at the news that Nepal’s Crown Prince had massacred several members of the royal family before shooting himself.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles were “deeply shocked and saddened” by the massacre in Nepal. Prince Charles had met Crown Prince Dipendra on several occasions and visited Nepal in 1998 as his guest.

Regional neighbour Singapore also sent its condolences. “We are shocked and saddened at the news of the tragic death of the King and Queen of Nepal and other members of the royal family,” Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan released a statement expressing sadness over the incident.

“The Secretary-General is profoundly shocked by the reported killing of King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya as well as other members of the royal family,” the statement said.

The UK’s Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, expressed sympathy on the deaths of most of Nepal’s royal family for what he called a “dreadful tragedy.”

Mr Blair, speaking at a campaign meeting for next Thursday’s elections, expressed deepest sympathy for the Nepalese people.

Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathi sent letters of condolences to their counterparts in Nepal following the massacre.

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga said in Colombo that the tragic demise of King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya would be deeply mourned not only in Nepal but also in the entire South Asian region.

“As one of the founding fathers of SAARC, King Birendra made an invaluable contribution to the establishment of SAARC and its progress particularly during the formative stages”, Mrs Kumaratunga said.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov sent his condolences on the tragic death of Nepal’s royal couple, ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in Moscow on Saturday. According to Mr Yakovenko, Russia’s Foreign Ministry and its Embassy in Katmandu were closely following the developments in Nepal, RIA Novosti reported. Agencies


SAARC meeting put off

Colombo, June 2
The special meeting of the SAARC Standing Committee, scheduled to be held in Colombo on June 8 and 9, has been postponed due to the massacre of members of the Nepali royal family.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the meeting of Foreign Secretaries of SAARC member nations was being called off as a mark of respect for Nepal’s King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya. The statement, however, did not announce the fresh date of the meeting.

The meeting in Colombo was called to finalise the agenda for the Council of Ministers meeting and discuss the prospects of the next summit meeting to be held in Nepal by the year-end. UNI


Traffic comes to standstill

Siliguri, June 2
Traffic through the Indo-Nepal border between Panitanki (India) and Kakarvita (Nepal), about 30 km from here, came to a standstill following the killing of members of the royal family at Kathmandu last night.

Though there was no official announcement about sealing of the border at Panitanki-Kakarvita check posts, a vital route used by both countries, a near-bandh-like situation was prevailing on the border. UNI

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