Monday, June 4, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Carnage accidental, says Prince Gyanendra
Plot alleged; condition of Crown Prince serious

Kathmandu, June 3
Newly-appointed Nepalese Regent Prince Gyanendra today said King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and six others of the royal family were killed in an automatic weapon fire and described the tragedy as an “accident”, even as the condition of Prince Dipendra, declared as the new king, remained “critical”. “The incident took place after an automatic weapon suddenly exploded,” he said in a statement broadcast over state-run TV and radio. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala also issued a statement, blaming “accidental firing of an automatic weapon” for the massacre on Friday night.

Smoke rises into the night sky during the cremation.
Smoke rises into the night sky during the cremation of Nepal's royal family members in Kathmandu on Saturday.
—  Reuters photo

A Ballistics expert in New Delhi, however, said 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 statement by the Regent and the Prime Minister were silent on the identity of the person who reportedly fired upon the royal family during the family dinner.

Meanwhile, the condition of the Crown Prince remained “critical” at Birendra Army Hospital where doctors were trying to save his life. He was in coma and had been put on a ventilator and other life support systems.

The identity of the assassins remained a mystery after Deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Paudel withdrew his statement that Dipendra had shot dead the royal family. Mr Paudel’s statement was widely quoted to the effect that Dipendra had killed the family members. “I never said that the Crown Prince did it,” he said.

The Himalayan kingdom remained by and large peaceful except for sporadic incidents of violence.

Flags flew at half mast as part of the 13-day state mourning. The entire state machinery has been shut down for five days.

In accordance with Hindu customs, the government has ordered high-ranking civil service officials to shave their heads and refrain from taking salt for three days as a mark of respect to the departed souls.

People in Katmandu hold candles.
People in Katmandu hold candles as they pray for peace to the souls of King Birendra, Queen Aiswarya and other slain members of the Nepali royal family on Saturday.
— AP/PTI photo

Reports earlier said the Crown Prince was keen on marrying Devyani, daughter of late Usharaje Scindia of the Gwalior royal family, who was married to a member of the Rana family in Nepal and a former minister.

His mother, who belonged to a rival Rana family, was strongly opposed to Dipendra marrying 22-year-old Devyani and instead wanted him to accept a bride from another family suggested by her.

The reports said the Crown Prince had been dating Devyani for quite some time and she left Kathmandu last afternoon, hours after the tragedy struck. Devyani, who is believed to be staying in Delhi, is incommunicado.

A barber shaves people's heads.
A barber shaves people's heads as a sign of mourning after the massacre of Nepal's royal family in Kathmandu on Saturday

—  Reuters photo 

The reports also said the queen had even threatened Dipendra that his younger brother Niranjan would be declared Crown Prince bypassing him if he married Devyani.

Meanwhile, some 200 men and women, many of the men with shaved heads, marched through the streets, demanding execution of the king’s killers and scoffed at the official explanations of the deaths.

“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 possible. Nobody is telling us the facts,’’ said a protester.

“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. People of Nepal are very confused,’’ another said.

The palace was closed today though hundreds queued up outside to pay condolences, carrying flowers.

Small groups were taken in through a huge gate to a small guardhouse to sign condolence books hastily placed alongside a picture of the dead king and queen. Nepal’s main opposition party, Communist Party of Nepal (UNL) today asked the Koirala government to make public without any delay as to what happened inside Narayanhiti Palace.

Some reports today suggested that Dipendra was injured on the back, contrary to yesterday’s report that he shot himself in the temple. Any decision on whether his life support system should be withdrawn will depend on the acting King or his only other close relation and late King Birendra’s step mother 73-year-old Ratna Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah, regarded as Queen Mother. PTI



Eton friends on King Dipendra
Shyam Bhatia

London, June 3
As the people of Nepal mourn their murdered Royal family, English contemporaries of King Dipendra, the man reportedly responsible for the deaths, have been sharing contradictory memories of the young man.

Mr Tom Holden, Dipendra’s house master at Britain’s elite Eton College, says his behaviour on Friday night, when he reportedly shot dead his father, King Birendra, mother Queen Aishwarya and several other close relatives after disagreement over his marriage, is totally out of character.

But Mr Holden’s assessment is at variance with Dipendra’s schoolboy contemporaries who talk of a darker side to the 30-year-old former Crown Prince.

“Recent events seem totally out of character,” Mr Holden said. “Everyone is devastated. Prince Dipendra left Eton in July, 1990, with three A-Levels. He wrote after he left that he always cherished his years at Eton with a great sense of pride and achievement.

“I had remained in touch with both the prince and the King. His Majesty was my pupil as well and he sent the Prince to be in my house.”

But Dipendra’s class-mates at Eton paint a less-than-flattering image of the royal teenager who, they said, had a drinking problem and once telephoned the Nepalese Ambassador in London and asked him to arrange and redecorate his room at the school at the Embassy’s expense.

One Eton contemporary told IANS how Dipendra was always “flashing his money about” and getting into trouble for smoking and drinking. Within a week of his arrival, aged 16, he was chastised by school authorities for drinking whisky. He was also a karate expert who would participate in mock fights with friends in the school corridors. He eventually became head of Eton’s Martial Arts society.

The former classmate recalls: “He was certainly in trouble and got away with it because of who he was. His father kept contributing to things like a new church roof, that kind of thing. Giving money, you know, build a new library — that kind of thing.”

Another contemporary, political consultant Danial Kruger, remembers Dipendra as a “strong, intimidating” character without much of a sense of humour. “I once teased him when he was doing skipping exercises and he lifted me off the ground with my jaw,” Kruger recalled.

Still others say his thwarted love for Deviani Rana, a niece of senior Indian Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia, offers the only explanation for his action in killing his parents and siblings before turning the gun on himself.

Yet another Eton contemporary, Olliver Poole, has told a British Sunday newspaper that Dipendra had little hesitation in revealing his experiences with the other sex. IANS



New regime not anti-India: envoy

New Delhi, June 3
Nepal’s ambassador to India Bhekh Bahadur Thapa today dismissed apprehensions that the new regime in Kathmandu was anti-India and said Indo-Nepalese relations were age-old and had stood the test of time.

“The structure of friendship between India and Nepal does not rest at one place. It is people-centric,’’ said Mr Thapa in an interview.

Mr Thapa’s remarks came against the background of several reports in the Indian media that suggested that Prince Gyanendra, who was appointed Regent yesterday, was not favourably disposed towards New Delhi as he held it responsible for encouraging the pro-democracy movement in his country.

King Birendra and several other senior members of the royal family in Nepal were killed in a palace shootout in Kathmandu on Friday night.

Crown Prince Dipendra, who was initially blamed for the deaths, has been named the new king but he is in a coma.

Prince Gyanendra will act as king for the time being.

Terming the media reports as “unfounded”, Mr Thapa said, “Relations between the two countries are in a traditional framework. The Regent as a member of a well-knit royal family very well knows this structure.’’

Refusing to comment on the demand for a probe into the royal massacre, he said: “Every society has its means to uncover the truth. The Nepalese society by following its traditions will uncover this truth. But give us some time and space.’’

Mr Thapa also evaded a reply when asked if there was a conspiracy behind the royal killings.

Queried about Dipendra’s condition, the ambassador said he was still on life-support systems and was not responding to any treatment.

Reiterating that Indo-Nepal relations would not be affected due to a new dispensation in Kathmandu, he said even if there were few anti-India voices, these should be dismissed as stray reactions. UNI



King was a visionary, says Narayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 3
President K. R. Narayanan today described the late King Birendra of Nepal as a “ visionary of South Asian cooperation and a great Asian statesmen”.

Expressing deep shock and sorrow, the President said King Birendra was “a great leader of Nepal” and the tragic demise of the King, Queen and other members of the royal family “ a great tragedy and an irreparable loss” for the people of the country.

President K. R. Narayanan pays floral tributes to the portraits of King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya at the Nepal Embassy in New Delhi on Sunday.
Indian President K. R. Narayanan pays floral tributes before the portraits of King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya at the Nepal Embassy in New Delhi on Sunday. — PTI photo

Mr Narayanan and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited the ‘Shahi Nepal Rajdootawas’, the Royal Nepalese Embassy, here, and singed the condolence book to convey India’s condolences. “On behalf of the government and people of India and on my own behalf, I convey our sincere condolences to the government and the people of Nepal in this hour of grief. May God give the friendly people of Nepal the strength to bear this loss,” Mr Narayanan stated.

Foreign secretary Chokila Iyer also visited the Royal Nepalese Embassy and offered condolences.

India has declared a three-day state mourning as a mark of respect for the King and the Royal Family of Nepal.

“ 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”, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said in an official statement yesterday.

The Union Cabinet has also adopted a resolution on the demise of the King of Nepal, the Queen and other 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”.

Vice-President Krishan Kant also expressed shock at the assassination of the King Birendra of Nepal, Queen Aishwarya and other members of the royal family. In a condolence message, he said it was a terrible tragedy in which the King, Queen and other members of the royal family had lost their lives in circumstances that are as extraordinary as they are heart-wrenching. “This tragedy has plunged all of Nepal into deep sorrow, shared fully by the people of India,” Mr Kant said in his condolence message.

Meanwhile, Bhutan today expressed deep shock at the deaths of the Nepalese monarch and other members of the royal family. Bhutanese King Jigme Singye Wangchuk has sent separate condolence messages to the royal family, people and the Government of Nepal, a Bhutanese Embassy pres note said here. King Wangchuk said that King Birendra’s death was not only a loss for Nepal but also for the region and the world.



Nepalese burn Indian newspapers

Kathmandu, June 3
Angry protesters in the Nepalese Capital Kathmandu burnt Indian newspapers today for carrying reports holding their crown prince responsible for the deaths of the King, Queen and six other royals.

Witnesses said crowds seized Indian dailies from newspaper stalls and distributors and set them on fire.

Ironically, the protesters’ anger appeared to have been fuelled by their own government’s reluctance to offer a full and credible account of the circumstances surrounding Friday night’s deaths at the royal palace.

After burning the newspapers, they also shouted slogans demanding a full and impartial probe into the tragedy.

Meanwhile, more than 500 motor cycle riders protested in the Capital with similar demands for an inquiry.

Indian tourists in this Himalayan Kingdom have begun contemplating returning home apprehensive of the law and order situation in the wake of assassination of King Birendra and other members of the royal family on Friday night, tour operators and hoteliers said tonight.

“We came here for a holiday to beat the summer heat back home. But everything is at a standstill here. We also don’t know how the situation would be in the coming days,” said Manish Gupta, a businessman, who along with his family has come here from Delhi for a seven-day tour.

Tour operators said while some groups were considering returning home, others were moving to tourist spots like Pokhra, Nagarkot and other places away from Kathmandu. AFP, PTI


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