[Essay] The Nepalese Royal Massacre Revisited
[Views expressed here are those of the author and was intended for a neutral academic writing class.]
The Royal Palace located at the heart of Kathmandu
Credits: Prakash Kc [here]
On the eve of June 1, 2001, the Narayanhiti Royal Palace was hosting its weekly royal gathering. From outside the massive iron clad gates that separated these elites from its sleepy citizens, the palace looked deceptively peaceful and calm. Once inside and into the impeccably hand-carved wooden entrance of the palace though, things were turning out to be anything but. An intoxicated crown prince was hurling bullets at his father, mother and everyone unfortunate enough to have been in front of him. What has now come to be known as the Nepali Royal Massacre was perhaps the largest slaughter of royals since the shooting of Romanov family.
Much like the assassination of American President Kennedy, many speculative theories on what might have actually happened have emerged since. However, eye-witness accounts of the surviving royal members frequently point out that it was, indeed, crown prince Dipendra who had had the misfortune of brutally murdering his entire family and then pulling trigger to himself. Ordinary citizens are aghast at these reports, often refuting such claims to be rubbish. And rightly so; it simply doesn't make much sense.
The well groomed prince had all the qualities of a future king; he was polite, was extraordinarily handsome and was a born diplomat. He was extremely smart as well. Like his father before him, he was educated at Eton in Britain after completing his studies at Budhanilkantha School in Kathmandu; also a British styled residential school. Eric Anderson, provost of Eton, fondly recalled, “He is remembered as a bright student who was popular with other boys and well-liked by his teachers.” His childhood friends from the school remember him as extremely friendly and intelligent, and always at the top of the class. It was simply unfathomable that a prince with common sense and such high intellect would do something as stupid as pulling the trigger onto his entire family.
It was perhaps the events after the Royal Massacre that the people of Nepal speculated if it really was a meticulously planned event after all. Gyanendra, the youngest brother of King Birendra, was conspicuously missing that day. Furthermore, his playboy son, Paras, somehow managed to escape the shooting with his mother and his wife. While everyone in the family was being shot down to the ground, the possibilities of them all surviving was very slim indeed. Interestingly, they eventually went on to claim the crown. To utter disbelief of ordinary citizens, Gyanendra, a pro-Indian and business tycoon, was unveiled as the king.
While this was all happening at break-neck speed, there was a small issue of a domestic civil war brewing in the background. The Maoists, a fractionalized party of the one of the biggest leftist political parties in the nation, had taken up arms and employed guerilla warfare some years ago. There were unconfirmed reports that King Birendra, frustrated with the ongoing ruling party, had been in secret talks with the guerillas to find a political consensus for a brighter future. Although a constitutional monarch, he was the de facto military commander and thus, refused to take military actions against them. This was against foreign, neo-imperialistic interest in Nepal, particularly to the US and more importantly, to India. A puppet leader was what they were looking for.
And that was exactly what they got. Eliminating a democratic, politically conscious and unbending king and replacing him with someone just the opposite meant that Maoists could now be suppressed. Predictably, King Gyanendra established an authoritarian rule soon after but faced increasing backlash from both the guerillas and the people. In what was a massive democratic movement in Nepal to abolish the distrusted monarch, the king finally stepped down in 2006 and returned the power its rightful owner. The armed rebels have since then joined mainstream politics.
More than a decade after that horrible night, the Nepalese community is still oblivious to the actual events that took place inside the palace. Survivors have all given vivid accounts of how the prince went about spraying bullets at the royals, but events thereafter have proven the point that it was merely just a family affair. The destruction of the place of incident and the silencing of key members of the palace security have fueled further suspicion over whether if it really was the prince who had committed such a hideous crime. We might never know what might have happened that night, but what we do know now is that it happened for a stable, secularized republic of Nepal.
Or so we wish to believe.