Nepal palace massacre could have foreign hand: ex-royal advisor

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : Over six years after the world was stunned by the massacre in Nepal’s royal palace in which then king Birendra, queen Aishwarya, their three children and other royal relatives were killed, new conjectures continue about what had actually happened on that fateful day in June 2001.

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Now a former senior officer of Nepal Army, who was principal military advisor first to the slain king and then to his successor current King Gyanendra, is alleging that it was a “political conspiracy” in which foreign agents could be involved.

Lt. Gen. Bibek Bikram Shah, who spent three decades in the service of the royal palace, told a popular Nepali weekly Sunday that the then crown prince Dipendra, who allegedly wiped out his entire family in a paroxysm of rage induced by a deadly mix of drugs and drinks and then turned the gun on himself, could have been used by other forces who played on his frustration.

“There are two possibilities,” the army officer with access to high places told Nepal magazine.

“The first possibility is the quarrel over his marriage that made Dipendra reach an extreme frame of mind and triggered the massacre,” Shah said, referring to the headstrong heir’s desire to marry someone against his royal parents’ wishes.

“The other is that it was a political conspiracy in which domestic and foreign agencies were involved.”

Shah claims he told Birendra’s successor King Gyanendra to investigate the possibility but his advice was not heeded.

He says Dipendra could have been lured by someone who dangled the crown before him as bait.

According to reports, Birendra and Aishwarya, unhappy with the crown prince’s choice of bride, threatened that they would disinherit him and the crown would go to his younger brother Niranjan.

“It created growing discontent in Dipendra,” Shah told the magazine. “In my analysis, he sought only to kill the king so that he could become king himself.

“He thought once he became king, he would have impunity (as according to the then Nepal constitution, the king was above law) and someone incited him at that point.”

Shah says just before the massacre, Birendra had returned from a trip to China.

“There were rumours that he was going to make some move,” Shah said. “It’s possible that someone feared he would take a political step in consultation with the Chinese.”

Shah said that though he did not have a “blueprint” of the royal move, the king could have been planning to engage the Maoists in dialogue as the communist insurgency had started creating considerable loss of life and infrastructure.

Shah also says that six months before India brokered an agreement between the Maoists and opposition parties – that resulted in the fall of King Gyanendra’s regime – he had warned the king foreign powers could become active. But once again, his warning was discarded.

Shah’s statements come at a time when there are growing anti-India reports in Nepal’s media and parliament.

Besides allegations of encroaching on Nepali territory and building unilateral structures along the border, India has also been accused of fomenting violence in the kingdom’s Terai plains and sending the chief of its intelligence agency to Nepal for secret consultations with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, all of which India denies.

However, a prominent royal watcher has rejected the ex-army officer’s claims.

Kishor Shrestha, editor of the Jana Aastha weekly, and author of a book on the murder of three young girls, allegedly by a member of the royal family and his friends, says Shah should come up with evidence that can help kick-start a credible investigation.

“In Nepal, government servants have a habit of keeping mum when they are in employment and after that, saying anything that comes to mind,” Shrestha said.

“Shah had access to all documents since they went to him before going to the king. If he has the guts, he should disclose them and enable an investigation instead of running after cheap publicity.”