Saturday, June 9, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Nepal panel begins probe into killings
Tripti nath
Tribune News Service

Kathmandu, June 8
After initial hiccups, the high power committee set up by King Gyanendra to probe the June 1 regicide began its probe in camera here today without the third member who resigned questioning the constitutional validity of the committee.

The two-member committee headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Kesbah Prasad Upadhyaya and comprising Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament Taranath Ranabhat hoped to submit the report to King Gyanendra in three days.

In the wake of a massive public upsurge for getting to the bottom of the palace bloodbath, one of the first tasks of the new King was to announce a probe into the killings. King Gyanendra had assured to make the inquiry report public.

The committee is faced with a difficult and delicate task in getting to the bottom of the truth of the slaying of King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and other members of the royal family because witnesses have already given a graphic account of the macabre killings and named the late Crown Prince Dipendra as the killer.

Nevertheless, a stoic Ranabhat, as a member of the committee constituted by King Gyanendra, emphasised that they would inspect the venue of the shooting, interview doctors, hostesses, survivors and record them. Further, he observed that the two-member committee would conduct ballistic and forensic tests with the help of experts.

A shadow hangs on the probe as King Gyanendra had stated initially that the killings were accidental. To compound matters, two close relatives of the royal family pointed an accusing finger at the late Crown Prince Dipendra as being the perpetrator of the heinous crime.

Mr Ranabhat sought to allay apprehensions about the work of the committee. He was categoric that the committee would listen only to what the eyewitnesses have to say and not what they have stated at press conferences. He said the committee would make every effort to submit its report within the stipulated three days.

The terms of reference of the committee have been enlarged by King Gyanendra and hurdles cleared for interviewing the surviving royals. The new monarch made the announcement over the state radio and television on Monday following large-scale protests, demanding an impartial and thorough inquiry into the killings.

Meanwhile, the shocked Himalayan kingdom read in newspapers today the graphic account of the massacre. The killings in Nepal have for the first time enabled the people to gain entry into this forbidden area.Back


Normalcy returning in Nepal
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

Kathmandu, June 8
The seemingly distant normalcy is gradually returning to the Nepalese Capital a week after almost the entire royal family was wiped out the bloodbath in Narayanhiti Palace.

Nepalese light candles in front of the Royal Palace in Kathmandu on Friday.
Nepalese light candles in front of the Royal Palace in Kathmandu on Friday. 
— Reuters photo

Although the three-member commission appointed by King Gyanendra to probe the incident is already running behind time, the people of Kathmandu have resumed their daily chores and business is back to usual.

Life, however, goes on in a state of resignation as mourners feel they have been orphaned by King Birendra’s demise. Since the curfew was lifted in the early hours of Thursday, people have heaved a sigh of relief but still find it difficult to accept that the King they so dearly loved is no more. Sadness and remorse follow one like a shadow. Tonsured heads can be spotted in large numbers everywhere as a customary mark of respect to the departed King.

There is a serpentine queue of women and children in front of the southern gate of Narayanhiti Palace, each waiting patiently to sign the condolence book, offer a “Khata” (silk cloth) or place a bouquet atop the mountain of bouquets in front of the portraits of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev and Queen Aishwarya.

Bright pink chart papers with messages of immortality and remembrance of the departed King as ‘Hamro rajyaparivar sada amar rahun’ and ‘We miss our beloved royal family‘ are plastered on the gate wall.

Although the curfew has been lifted, foreign missions have not ruled out civil unrest. This is evident from a security advise note issued by the British Embassy here on June 7. The note voices the apprehension that the broadcast of first hand accounts of tragic events of June 1 suggesting that King Dependra was responsible for the death of the Royal family may possibly be a catalyst for further demonstrations and street violence. The note is pinned prominently in the lobby of the five-star Yak & Yeti Hotel on Durbar Marg. The note has advised British citizens to “exercise caution in moving about in Kathmandu and other towns in Nepal and avoid crowds and demonstrations”. They have also been advised to follow security notices on British Embassy websites.

The shocking incident has had an adverse impact on the tourist inflow and hotels and airlines are coping helplessly with cancellations.

Mr Bhim Acharya, member of the Central Committee of Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) told TNS that the party general secretary and former Deputy Prime Minister Madhav Nepal was under pressure from the royal palace to rejoin the commission appointed by King Gyanendra to probe Friday’s palace bloodbath. He said that Mr Nepal would not consider such requests as the 11-member Standing Committee of the party was of the opinion that he should resign.

Mr Y. R. Pandey, Director, Information Department (Soochna Vibhag), confirmed news reports here that the commission has begun the probe today.

Journalists were, however, not allowed to enter the Singh Durbar where the commission is reportedly meeting in the office of the Speaker, Taranath Ranabhat. Security guards at the gate said they had been instructed by the commission not to let journalists in. This correspondent was asked to come on Saturday.

Mr Pandey said that the commission is likely to work on Saturday to be able to meet the deadline set by the King for submitting the report. In an interview to The Kathmandu Post today, Mr Ranabhat said that the committee would begin its work from the Parlaimentary Secreatriat at 8 am and try to submit its report within three days.

People of Nepal are fed up with conflicting versions about the palace tragedy. They are annoyed that the commission has been asked to give its report by Monday. “The incident merits a thorough investigation which is not possible in three days. How can the commission do justice to the probe? If they ask for more time, the deadline should be extended,” said Arun Nepal,

He wondered why the late Prince Dhirendra Shah’s son-in-law, Dr Rajiv Shahi, had chosen to give an eye-witness account to the Press when the commission had already been set up. Dr Shahi confirmed that Crown Prince Dipendra shot dead his father and other members of the royal family. Official unease prevails over the disclosures made by Dr Shahi pending the report of the commission.

There is a mixed response to the constitution of the commission. The appointment of the Chief Justice backed by public faith in the judiciary has helped the royal palace win the confidence of the public. Others, however, feel that they have no choice but to accept the findings of the commission which is expected to work with unreasonable haste.

Last but not the least, a word on the freedom of the press in the light of attempts to muzzle it. The Federation of Nepalese Journalists held an emergency meeting on Thursday to condemn the arrests of Editor Yubraj Ghimire and the Managing Director and Director of Kantipur Publications on Wednesday. 


Nepal denies curbing Press

Kathmandu, June 8
A government minister today denied accusations that Nepal was muzzling Press freedom following the arrest of three newspaper executives but said authorities could not tolerate articles urging insurrection.

The arrest of the editor and two directors of Nepal’s top-selling daily Kantipur on charges of sedition came after the Himalayan kingdom was thrown into turmoil by a palace massacre last week in which most of the royal family was killed.

“We’re just trying to restrain the activities of the people handling the Press,” Foreign Minister Chakra Prasad Bastola said, referring to the arrests. “There’s no effort to muzzle the Press freedom,” he said.

On Wednesday, the police took into custody the editor of Kantipur, Yuvaraj Ghimire, and two top managers of the paper’s publishing company, Kailash Sirohiya and Binod Gwyanli, on sedition charges.

The arrests came after the paper published an article on its opinion page by Maoist rebel leader Babu Ram Bhattarai criticising newly crowned King Gyanendra and alleging the palace bloodbath was a conspiracy by “imperialist and expansionist” forces.

The article by the underground Maoist leader, whose group has been waging a violent revolt for the past five years, urged the army to stop protecting the monarch and side with the people.

“Even a free Press regime cannot tolerate articles that incite the army and prints bad things about the head of state,” the minister said.

Kantipur had printed articles by leaders of the Maoist rebellion in the past as well as articles critical of the revolt but it had not run into trouble with the authorities.

Nepali journalist groups have demanded the immediate release of the newspaper executives, saying their arrest was aimed at curbing Press freedom.

The arrests have brought condemnation from journalist groups around the world. The three men could face up to three years in prison if convicted. Reuters

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