On Friday night, nine members of the royal family of Nepal were shot dead at the Royal palace in the capital city ofKatmandu. Senior government officials claim that Nepal’s Crown Prince Dipendra killed his parents, King Birendra andQueen Aishwarya, as well as his sisters and other relatives before turning a gun on himself. According to palacesources, Dipendra shot the family after his mother rejected his plans to marry the daughter of another leading Nepalifamily rather than participate in a more traditional arranged marriage.
The late King and the royal family were cremated on Saturday. King Birendra enjoyed great popularity in Nepal,especially after ceding absolute power in 1990 to establish a constitutional monarchy. But Nepal has been wracked bypolitical instability in recent years and a Maoist insurgency that has killed nearly 2,000 people.
Many in Nepal refuse to believe that Crown Prince Dipendra killed the royal family and then himself, as officialsfirst claimed. They are more incredulous at the second explanation later offered by the slain King’s brotherGyanendra that the deaths were a freak accident caused by an exploding automatic weapon.
“How can a gun go off and shoot a dozen people in all different directions?” asked a rickshaw driver in Katmandu.”This is ridiculous.”
Thousands of people demonstrated in the streets of Katmandu on Sunday demanding an explanation for the killings.They were dispersed by police using tear gas. The military has imposed a shoot on sight policy for anyone breaking adusk to dawn curfew. Armed riot police surround Nepal’s royal palace as well as the hospital where three survivorsof the massacre are recovering.
Nepal’s governing State Council met this morning and proclaimed Gyanendra as the new monarch. Interestingly theentire family of Gyanendra, the new king, was not killed. Gyanendra was out of town, his wife was in the palacebathroom, his son just wasn’t shot, and his mother, the queen mother, also survived.
Most people in Nepal, unsatisfied with official accounts, continue to demand a full explanation for the weekendmassacre.
- Anup Pahari, American trained sociologist from Nepal.
- Ted Ricardi, retired Columbia U. Professor, former chair of the Middle East and Asian languages andcultures department at Columbia.