This week in Nepal, a tiny Himalayan Republic was born. One month after the constituent elections midwifed by such luminaries as Jimmy Carter and overseen by hundreds of UN observers from all over the world, Nepal is set to demolish the monarchy. The removal of the monarchy is one of the key points of the Maoist campaign that sprinted to victory in the April elections after ten years of a tragic people’s war that has seen the deaths of over 13,000 people.
The rise and fall of King Gyanendra is a short and bloody tale in the epic saga of the Shah dynasty who have ruled Nepal for hundreds of years. Seven years ago Gyanendra assumed the throne after the murder of his brother and the death of his successor Crown Prince Dipendra in June 2001.
While the official story is that the then-Crown Prince Dipendra went berserk after his parents refused to give permission for his love marriage and gunned down the entire Royal Family after dinner, the true story is never likely to be told. The shattered pieces of the story of the murder at the palace are like pieces of a broken mirror, reflecting conspiracy theories and whispers in the street even seven years later.
“Did you hear,” says a Buddhist nun to me one day recently as we wait by the traffic lights by the Royal Palace, "that over one hundred members of staff at the royal palace were also murdered that night? They say the Ghats at Pashupatinath burned all night. No witnesses survived,” she mutters darkly before disappearing into the swirl of people and traffic.
But one witness did survive to tell the tale, the current and soon to be ex-Crown Prince Paras. According to Paras, Crown Prince Dipendra was so out of it on drugs, alcohol, and bitterness that he was incapable of standing and had to be helped to his room that night. But within minutes the Prince had recovered enough to dress himself in commando gear and return to the family with guns blazing. The man who couldn’t climb a flight of stairs then set about massacring the entire Royal Family with military precision but sparing Paras. He then used his left hand to shoot himself in the head even though he was right-handed.