- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2001

KATMANDU, Nepal — Nepal cremated one king and crowned another yesterday as riots erupted over a palace blood bath that wiped out most of the royal family.
Within hours of becoming the third king in 72 hours, King Gyanendra acknowledged the crisis facing the monarchy by promising a rapid inquiry into the deaths of his brother, King Birendra, and at least nine other members of the royal family.
The results would be published by Thursday, he said.
But there was widespread doubt that he had done enough to calm stone-throwing mobs who occupied the streets of the capital, Katmandu, for much of the day until the declaration of a curfew.
Thousands of mostly young men chanted "Punish the real murderers," and "We dont want Gyanendra."
Police fired tear gas and wielded batons against demonstrators; as one person was reported killed in the disturbances.
The official explanation that an exploding assault rifle was responsible for the royal deaths was derided by many Nepalis. They were not prepared to accept foreign press reports that the British-educated Crown Prince Dipendra murdered his family before shooting himself after a dispute about his choice of bride.
"We will inform the people about the report and bring the facts to the public," the solemn-looking King Gyanendra said in a radio and television address to the nation.
"Do not go out of your houses or you can be shot," state-run radio announced. Troops and police patrolled the citys narrow streets last night, although 2,000 protesters ignored the warnings and continued to riot.
Dipendra, proclaimed king on Saturday, spent his two-day reign on a life-support machine and was pronounced dead early yesterday. He was cremated on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, and at 10.30 a.m., his uncle Gyanendra, who was out of the capital at the time of the killings, was appointed king.
After the hastily arranged ceremony, Gyanendras carriage was surrounded by combat troops and there was no public celebration.
One student said: "Why are they [Gyanendra and his family] the only ones to survive? We cannot accept him as our king. We loved King Birendra. This man we cannot love."
Despite public reluctance to accept the explanation, it appears clear that it was thwarted love that led Crown Prince Dipendra to shoot point-blank first his mother, then the king, his father, before spraying the room with bullets indiscriminately and then shooting himself.
The setting was a regular dinner party at which members of the royal family were expected to discuss family matters. Such dinners were held in the older part of Narayanhitti Palace, in a large room that King Tribhuvan, the late kings grandfather, used to entertain foreign dignitaries.
Traditionally, all members of the royal family should have been present. But Prince Gyanendra, the late kings brother, was out of Katmandu, staying at the trekking capital of Pokhara in western Nepal, on Friday evening.
Among the principal topics to have been discussed at the royal meeting were the marriage plans of Prince Dipendra, who at the age of 30 remained single even though he was heir to the throne.
Described by his friends as an amiable and intelligent young man, the Eton-educated Prince Dipendra had made clear he wanted to marry Deviani Rana, a beautiful, highly intelligent and modern-minded woman who belonged to a branch of the Rana family that ruled Nepal before 1951.
While there is a long tradition of the ruling Shah Dynasty marrying Rana daughters, this was apparently deemed to be an unsuitable match because the Gwaliors, her mothers family, were not considered from the "top rung." Those close to the palace suggest that the late Queen Aiswarya, herself a Rana by birth, led the opposition to her sons wedding plans. Unconfirmed reports say that she was the first to be shot by Prince Dipendra.
It appears that well before the killings, tempers were running high and the crown prince had been drinking whisky. He left the family meeting and was escorted by Prince Paris, son of Prince Gyanendra, back to his personal bungalow in the palace grounds.
Prince Paris saw Prince Dipendra to his bedroom and then left. But rather than going to bed, Prince Dipendra got dressed in his military uniform, picked up two automatic rifles and walked back the short distance from his bungalow to the rooms where all his relatives were gathered.
While the precise sequence of events has not been confirmed by the palace, it appears that Prince Dipendra first approached Queen Aiswarya and shot his mother at point-blank range.
Next he shot King Birendra in the head before spraying the room and shooting anyone who came into the line of fire.
Among those who died was Direndra, his own younger brother, who was also educated at Eton, several of his aunts and the sister of Princess Jotshana. One of Prince Dipendras own bodyguards appears to have tried to intervene or act as a human shield and was shot dead, as was the royal stablemaster and former head of police.
Having perpetrated a royal massacre of unparalleled proportions, Prince Dipendra turned his weapon on himself.
Prince Dipendra had been carefully groomed for taking up the royal succession, deliberately invited to participate in all the palaces analytical and decision-making processes. But the pressures on Nepals royal family have been growing, with more public engagements and duties. At the same time, real power has slipped away from the palace since the Spring Revolution of 1990 and the arrival of multiparty democracy in Nepal.
Yet there was no inkling, even among those who knew Prince Dipendra quite well, of any violent or homicidal streak. He gave the impression of being charming, intelligent, sober and restrained.
King Birendra once said of Prince Dipendras future as king: "It is a role he knows he has to take on. But in the end, each individual must make his own job of it." Prince Dipendra decided to end things his own way.
* Jonathan Gregson contributed to this article from London.


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