Royal Palace Massacre

Conspiracy Theories Galore

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Almost after 23 years, the Royal massacre in which an entire family of king Birendra was wiped out continues to prick the psyche of most Nepalis. The unfortunate occurrence time and again agitates the national politics. When the carnage becomes a subject of public debate, various political and social actors offer their reactions full of invectives and allegations, which further mystify it. Those resorting to the conspiracy theories cannot present credible evidence to back their arguments. The dreadful event had shocked the country at a time when it was gripped by raging Maoist insurgency.  

The issue of Royal massacre has again surfaced after former king Gyanendra, for the first time, opened his mouth about it and expressed his ire for misinforming the people. His statement has triggered accusations and counter-accusations. This has also prompted Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to announce that the government would reinvestigate into the Royal palace massacre that took place in 2001. PM’s announcement has aimed to satisfy the masses unsatisfied with the findings of the high-level investigation committee formed by the then government.

Big ploy      

A large number of people still believe that there was a big conspiracy behind the killing of Royal family members but their arguments are based on only perceptions and guess lacking substantial proof. On the other hand, the witnesses of the event solely put blame on crown prince Dipendra for the familicide. They said he got violently drunk before frying his parents, brother, sister and close relatives with bullets. The surviving Royal family members, retired military officers, those close to the palace and a significant number of observers think Dipendra caused the biggest mayhem in the history of Nepal's Shah dynasty. The investigation body had also found Dipendra guilty of the Royal tragedy. But this line of argument is not yet accepted by a large section of populace. 

Last Saturday (Jan. 26) former king Gyanendra talked about the Royal massacre issue while addressing a function organised to bestow civic felicitation on him. He said that the 2058 B.S. devastating event was terrifying for his family and they did not want to remember it. “Negative sentiments were generated by sowing a cloud of suspicion in the minds of Nepalis through political manipulation. There were fatal attacks on us and our family. Truth always prevails, false never comes out victorious.” The deposed monarch further claimed, “We are still carried away by ignorance and deception although there are witnesses alive. This is not only unjust but also unfortunate.”

Apparently, Gyanendra sought to clarify the charges levelled against him and his family members. He failed to disclose the names of persons who turned the palace's Friday party into a bloodbath, but indicated that the crown prince was behind it. But why he raised this issue at this time is a matter of inquiry. The Royal massacre is considered to have paved the way for the abolition of 240-year-old monarchy as many had pointed the finger at Gyanendra but no one presented evidence to justify it. 

Although there was an outpouring of sympathy for the late patriotic king, a sense of repulsion at the kingship also grew enormously with the end of his family. As the former king Gyanedra imposed his authoritarian rule, the monarchy lost its popularity in Nepali society. This sparked another democratic uprising that eventually uprooted the monarchy. Now some parties and organisations have been engaged in a series of campaigns to restore monarchy and Hindu state in Nepal. 

Ripples 

Ironically, Gyanendra’s remark has sent ripples in the politics, with some leaders overreacting to it. CPN-UML chairman KP Sharma Oli has dismissed the report of the investigation committee that had cited Dipendra's spurned love affairs with Devyani Rana for the mayhem. Dipendra was deeply disappointed after he was denied tying the nuptial knot with her. Oli has said these narratives were concocted, and insisted that the crown prince had no role in it. “How can a man set to be a king destroy his family?” He has also denigrated Gyanendra, stating that he ascended the throne by default. However, Oli did not name the persons who finished off the king’s family and relatives. Seemingly, Oli’s comments on Gyanendra came in response to the pro-monarchical drive against the current republican, secular and federal set-up. On the other hand, RPP-Nepal chair Kamal Thapa has termed Oli’s statement ludicrous. 

It appears that who murdered the royal family and why is still shrouded in mystery. And hypotheses and conspiracy theories abound. Following Gyanendra's statements, social media is awash with opinions and comments on the Royal massacre about which a new generation of Nepalis is unknown. Those who see the internal and external hand in the murder provide geopolitical context to interpret it. A senior police officer, who reached the scene immediately after the massacre, claimed that the murderer/s put on masks that looked exactly like Dipendra. Speaking in a YouTube channel, he went on to insist that some powerful foreign intelligence agencies colluded with internal forces to finish the Nepali monarchy and Hindu religion but it is difficult to prove this logic.   

(The author is Deputy Executive Editor of this daily.)

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