Tuesday, June 5, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Four killed as riots break out in Nepal
Shoot-at-sight order issued; conspiracy theory gains ground
Pushapa Adhikari

Kathmandu, June 4
Four persons were killed here today when the police fired to break up thousands of angry mourners protesting the massacre of Nepal’s royal family, as acting King Gyanendra became the Himalayan kingdom’s new monarch.

A worried administration clamped a curfew on the Nepal capital and neighbouring Lalitpur, effective from 4 p.m., as throngs of young mourners besieged almost all streets and fought pitched battles with the riot police. Soldiers in battle fatigues were deployed in the heart of Kathmandu.

State radio said the police could shoot people caught violating the curfew. “During the curfew, people should not go out of their homes or compound,’’ the Kathmandu district administration office said in a notice read over the state radio. “It will be enforced from 4 p.m. today until Tuesday morning.” If anyone violates the curfew, the police can imprison them for a month or even shoot them,’’ it said.

The four deaths took place about half-a-kilometre from the ancient palace of Hanuman Dhoka where Mr Gyanendra, 53, and younger brother of the slain King Birendra, was crowned the new ruler after three days of uncertainty following the stunning Friday night slaughter of the royals.

Police sources said the police fired shots at a large crowd of mourners after being pelted with stones, killing four of them. Similar scuffles broke out throughout the capital after the Royal Council named Mr Gyanendra the new ruler of this landlocked nation of 24 million people.

Mr Gyanendra succeeded former Crown Prince Dipendra, who allegedly gunned down his father King Birendra, mother Queen Aishwarya and six other family members at Narayan Hity Palace after his parents reportedly refused to let him marry the woman of his choice. Crown Prince Dipendra, who fell into coma after shooting himself, succumbed to his injuries in a military hospital earlier on Monday.

Mr Gyanendra was the only member of the royal family who survived the massacre as he was away from Kathmandu. He was first named the Regent, while Dipendra was anointed the King despite his grave injuries.

But there is widespread disbelief in Nepal about this account of the massacre, and the thousands of mainly young mourners many with their heads tonsured in line with Hindu custom, attacked the police on the streets, shouting slogans against the new King, whom they implicitly held responsible for the slaughter.

Protesters and government officials said the mourners were trying to prevent the cremation of Dipendra.

Armed riot police used teargas and batons to hold back the crowds which repeatedly tried to approach the palace.

Youths on motorbikes carried pictures of the late king and queen. Many protesters brandished sticks and threw stones at the police in an upsurge of rage against the deaths of the country’s popular monarchs.

“People are blocking virtually every road here,” a police officer said. He said the police opened fire near Hanuman Dhoka killing four after demonstrators tried to storm the old palace during the official ceremony that anointed Mr Gyanendra. “We first fired tear gas shells. When that did not help in clearing the streets, we had to fire gunshots. The crowd was going out of control,” an officer at the site said.

Most streets in Kathmandu were tense and shops closed fearing more violence, residents reached over telephone said.

Demonstrators said they refused to believe the official version of the tragedy, including King Gyanendra’s statement yesterday that the killings were an accident.

Meanwhile, soldiers took up position on rooftops near the palace and along the scheduled route of the cremation after they were put on high alert. The army was also deployed on the two-km route from the palace to the residence of King Gyanendra.

In his official statement after being crowned King, he promised to investigate the slaughter of his family “as soon as possible. There were some constitutional and legal restrictions to investigate the issue which are now cleared,” he said.

Meanwhile, an influential English daily in Nepal castigated the authorities for the “total news blackout” on what led to the killings.

“There was no need for the total news blackout that we saw. The official media is yet to come up with a factual and detailed report on just what took place,” The Kathmandu Post in a front page editorial said.

It said some 15 hours after the shootings in the palace, the public was kept in the dark as to what had transpired and an official statement put out by the state radio was brief and “raised more questions than it answered”.

The Post, Nepal’s largest selling English daily, said: “In the absence of information, the tabloid press had a field day speaking of an impending curfew, Prime Minister G.P. Koirala’s resignation and other equally drastic developments.”

Observing that the rumours that swirled around the capital were more sensational still, the editorial said possibly the delay in official announcement could have been occasioned by the need to ensure smooth transition.

Following today’s youth demonstrations, there were growing concerns that the situation might explode into street violence if the truth was not made public very soon.

In an apparently spontaneous outburst of emotions, hundreds of people continued to demonstrate against the government, Prince Paras Shah, the errant son of King Gyanendra, and the new monarch himself.

Mobs raised slogans like “We don’t want Gyanendra as King”, “Hang the assassins” and “Koirala, Paras, leave the country ... you are criminals.”

Yesterday, some irate youths tried to physically assault the news crew of the Indian satellite television channel Zee TV for having reported what they believed to be false and malicious linking of Prince Dipendra with the massacre.

Despite the riot police having been posted in large numbers across the capital and its neighbouring townships of Patan and Bhaktapur, angry youths continued to roam on the streets chanting slogans even as most people remained cloistered inside their homes.

At New Road, the business hub of Kathmandu, an irate crowd burnt copies of the Sunday edition of The Times of India which carried a story of the unprecedented happenings in Nepal with pictures of Dipendra holding a rifle with the caption: “Crown Prince Dipendra examining an automatic rifle in an ordnance factory in Pakistan.”

Another front page photograph of the then Regent Gyanendra had the caption: “The king in waiting.”

The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), the main opposition in Parliament, too, has called for an immediate investigation into the incident. Mr Koirala has already assured of an investigation into the incident but has named no one as yet to carry out the probe.

Meanwhile, the underground Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist which has been carrying on a “people’s war” in various parts of the country for the abolishment of the constitutional monarchy and establishment of a republican state instead for more than five years.

CPN-Maoist President Prachanda, in a statement here, charged that the massacre was “a grave political conspiracy” and dismissed as “planned propaganda” the explanation handed out so far that the event was “a result of a family conflict.”

“Terming it as a family conflict, planned propaganda of both national and international reactionaries and the drama seen while performing the last rites clearly proves that the massacre is a result of a conspiracy,” he said.

NEW DELHI: RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan on Monday said the killings of Nepal’s King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and other members of the royal family smacked of a conspiracy to embitter Indo-Nepal ties.

Expressing grief and shock over the “macabre palace massacre that has stunned the entire world, especially the Hindu community”, he alleged that systematic efforts had been orchestrated to “transform the Hindu character of the Nepalese monarchy”. IANS, AgenciesBack


Gyanendra crowned

Kathmandu, June 4
Prince Gyanendra was today crowned new King of Nepal within hours of the death of his nephew Dipendra, who had ascended the throne after King Birendra and seven other royal family members were killed in shootout in the palace.

The new King was crowned at a special ceremony in accordance with Hindu and traditional Nepalese rites at the ancient Hanumandhoka Royal Palace in the heart of the Capital.

The chief priest, Keshari Raj Pandey, placed the Nepalese crown, studded with diamonds and adorned with the plumes of birds of paradise, on the head of Gyanendra.

Gyanendra became the 12th Shah king to ascend the throne of Nepal.

The special ceremony took place at the ancient Nasal Chowk of the Hanumandhoka Royal Palace, where all ceremonies and rituals connected with royalty take place.

At the special crowning ceremony, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala was among the first to congratulate and pay tribute to the new King. He was followed by other ministers and other dignitaries. PTI, DPA


King orders judicial probe

Kathmandu, June 4
Bbowing to mounting public demand, Nepal’s new King Gyanendra today ordered a judicial inquiry into the massacre that wiped out virtually the entire royal family.

“We have constituted a three-man commission of inquiry headed by Chief Justice Keshav Prasad Upadhya to investigate the circumstances leading to the tragic incident,” the King said in a statement broadcast on state radio.

The commission would submit its report within three days, the King said. PTI


King Dipendra is dead

Nepal’s King DipendraKathmandu, June 4
The body of Nepal’s King Dipendra, who died early today, was cremated in a lonely ceremony on the banks of the holy Bagmati river. Dipendra’s body was carried in an open army truck from the military hospital to the cremation site. The body was carried by Brahmin priests three times around the funeral pyre before it was lit as clouds darkened the sky. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and other government and military officials attended the ceremony. Neither King Gyanendra nor his son, Paras was present. Reuters Back


King Birendra’s brother dead

Kathmandu, June 4
Dhirendra Shah, the youngest brother of slain Nepal King Birendra, died today from injuries sustained in the palace massacre that wiped out virtually the entire royal family, hospital officials said.

Shah, who had renounced his princely title in 1989, died in the afternoon at a Kathmandu military hospital where he had been in a coma.

His death brings the total number of royals dying in the massacre to 10, including the former Crown Prince Dipendra, who allegedly carried out the killings before turning his gun on himself. AFP Back

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