|Nepalese Royal Massacre|
The Narayanhity Royal Palace, former home of the Royal Family. Following the abdication of the king and the founding of a republic, the building and its grounds have been turned into a museum.
|Location||Narayanhity Royal Palace, Kathmandu, Nepal|
|Date||1 June 2001|
(19 Jestha 2058 B.S.)
Around 21:00 (UTC+05:45k)
|Target||The Nepalese Royal Family |
King Birendra of Nepal
|Regicide, mass murder, mass shooting|
The Nepalese royal massacre occurred on 1 June 2001, at a house on the grounds of the Narayanhity Royal Palace, the residence of the Nepalese monarchy. Ten members of the family were killed in a mass shooting during a party or monthly reunion dinner of the royal family in the house. The dead included King Birendra of Nepal and Queen Aishwarya. Crown Prince Dipendra was accused of the massacre according to the statements of the surviving eyewitnesses and reports of Incident Inquiry Committee consisting of Supreme Court Chief Justice and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, but the Nepalese authorities never officially revealed anyone's identity as the perpetrator of the massacre. Dipendra slipped into a coma after shooting himself.
Later, upon his father's death, Dipendra was declared King of Nepal while in a coma. He died in hospital three days after the massacre without regaining consciousness. Birendra's brother, Gyanendra, became king again after the massacre and the death of his nephew King Dipendra.
According to eyewitness reports and an official investigation carried by a two-man committee made up of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Keshav Prasad Upadhaya and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Taranath Ranabhat:
On 1 June 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra opened fire at a house on the grounds of the Narayanhity Royal Palace, the residence of the Nepalese monarchy, where a party was being held. He shot and killed his father, King Birendra, his mother, Queen Aishwarya, and seven other members of the royal family —including his younger brother and sister— before shooting himself in the head. Due to his wiping out of most of the line of succession, he was crowned king while in a comatose state from the head wound.
His motive for the murders is unknown, but there are various theories. Dipendra desired to marry Devyani Rana, whom he had met in the United Kingdom. Some allege that, due to her mother's family being lower-class royals of India and her father's political alliances, Dipendra's parents objected. In fact, the Gwalior family is one of the wealthiest former royal families of India, and allegedly far wealthier than the Shahs of Nepal. It is said that the prospective bride's mother, herself a Nepali by birth, warned her daughter that marrying the Nepali crown prince might mean a drop in her standard of living. Dipendra's prospective bride descended, through her mother, from a competing sub-branch of the Nepali Rana clan (the Juddha Shamsher line) to that of Queen Aishwarya.
Another theory states that there was a higher possibility of Indian influence if he would be married to her, to which the palace objected. Other theories allege that Dipendra was unhappy with the country's shift from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, and that too much power had been given away following the 1990 People's Movement. This is, in fact, unlikely. The crown prince responded to the 1990 uprising, and return to an elected government, with enthusiasm while a student at Eton College, where he was finishing his studies. He later became frustrated by his father's refusal to intervene while the Nepali politicians bickered and competed among themselves while failing to make an effective response to the rising Maoist threat.
Much controversy surrounds the circumstances of the massacre, and even today, with the monarchy abolished, many questions remain within Nepal about its cause. Sources of the yet unanswered questions include details such as the apparent lack of security at the event; the absence of Prince Gyanendra, Dipendra's uncle who succeeded him, from the party; the fact that, despite being right-handed, Dipendra's self-inflicted head-wound was located at his left temple, and that two bullets were found to be lodged in the temple instead of one; and finally that the subsequent investigation lasted for only two weeks and did not involve any major forensic analysis. This investigation was done after Scotland Yard had actually offered to carry out a forensic investigation.
Dipendra was proclaimed king while in a coma, but he died on 4 June 2001, after a three-day reign. Gyanendra was appointed regent for the three days, then ascended the throne himself after Dipendra died.
While Dipendra lived, Gyanendra maintained that the deaths were the result of an "accidental discharge of an automatic weapon" within the royal palace. However, he later said that he made this claim due to "legal and constitutional hurdles," since under the constitution, and by tradition, Dipendra could not have been charged with murder had he survived. A full investigation took place, and Dipendra was found to be responsible for the killing.
A two-man committee comprising Keshav Prasad Upadhaya, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, and Taranath Ranabhat, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out the week-long investigation into the massacre. The investigation concluded, after interviewing more than a hundred people including eyewitnesses and palace officials, guards and staff, that Dipendra had carried out the massacre. A large number of critics and Nepalese, both inside Nepal and abroad, disputed the official report because many facts and evidence reported by the investigation team seemed contradictory in many aspects. A close aide of Dipendra when he was prince said of Dipendra, "He can give up the throne for the sake of his love, but he can never do this kind of thing."
The widely circulated rumour is that Prince Dipendra was angry over a marriage dispute. Dipendra's choice of bride was Devyani Rana, daughter of Pashupati Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana, a member of the Rana clan, against which the Shah dynasty have a historic animosity. The Rana clan had served as the hereditary prime ministers of Nepal, with the title Maharaja, until 1951, and the two clans have a long history of inter-marriages. It is also speculated that the reason for the marriage dispute over Dipendra's choice of wife was that the royal family had a position that the crown prince should not marry someone having relatives in India, as Devyani did. Also, that Devyani Rana's mother, Usharaje Scindia was of Gwalior royal lineage, wasn't considered impressive by the Nepal royal family. Prince Dipendra also courted Supriya Shah, who was the granddaughter of Queen Mother Ratna's own sister. Queen Aishwarya, though initially opposed the relationship due to family ties and the view that Supriya would be incompetent as a queen, as to which expressions by the Queen were heard by an aide, nevertheless favored Supriya over Devyani Rana, since if Supriya became Queen, the Shah dynasty would not have to share its power with the Ranas, entailing formation of an unwanted political alliance.
On 11 June 2001, a Hindu katto ceremony was held to exorcise or banish the spirit of the dead King from Nepal. A brahmin Durga Prasad Sapkota, dressed as Birendra to symbolise the late King, rode an elephant out of Kathmandu and into symbolic exile, taking many of the King's belongings with him. Dipendra's residence was also eventually razed to the ground.
King Birendra and his son Dipendra were very popular and well respected by the Nepalese population. Subsequently, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), the chairman of the Nepalese Maoist Party, in a public gathering claimed that the massacre was planned by the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) or the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Promoters of these ideas allege Gyanendra had a hand in the massacre so that he could assume the throne himself. His ascent to the throne would only be possible if both of his nephews Dipendra and Nirajan were eliminated. Moreover, Gyanendra and especially his son Prince Paras were very unpopular with the public. On the day of the massacre, he was in Pokhara whilst other royals were attending a dinner function. His wife Komal, Paras and daughter Prerana were in the room at the royal palace during the massacre. While the entire families of Birendra and Dipendra were killed, nobody in Gyanendra's family died: his son escaped with slight injuries, and his wife sustained a life-threatening bullet wound but survived.