Nepal’s coup architect loses fight with cancer


Kathmandu : A former general of Nepal, regarded as King Gyanendra’s main advisor during the royal coup two years ago, succumbed to cancer here Friday, carrying to the grave untold state secrets.

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General Sachit Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana died in the Birendra Military Hospital after a long and futile treatment in neighbouring India.

Ironically, the 74-year-old royalist, seen as a key figure in the coterie that encouraged and advised the monarch to seize power with the help of the army, was a bitter critic of the Indian government and regarded New Delhi as playing an active role in the fall of the 15-month royal regime.

Rana became chief of the Royal Nepalese Army at a critical phase in the history of Nepal when the country was in turmoil, opposing a draconian party-less system of governance.

Though the then king Birendra obeyed the voice of the people and agreed to curtail the absolute power of the crown and lift the ban on political parties, Rana is said to have played an active role in the earlier attempts by the palace to put down the pro-democracy movement of 1990.

The diminutive general was also an influential member of the Raj Parishad, the royal advisory committee.

Earlier a constitutional body, it became an active political force during King Gyanendra’s regime, defending it and advising the king on how to run the government.

Rana, a hardliner, advocated unleashing the army to eradicate the growing Maoist insurgency. He came under attack from the communist guerrillas several times for his role.

Once, a bomb was thrown at his residence in the capital. Another time, after the fall of King Gyanendra, the rebels seized a resort belonging to him in Gorkha district in western Nepal.

When another pro-democracy movement last year forced King Gyanendra to step down, the Raj Parishad was scrapped by the new government, which also formed a commission to bring to justice the abettors of the royal regime.

The Commission questioned Rana along with other prominent royalists. But he escaped punitive action with the new government burying the commission report.

Still fiercely loyal to the palace, the former general and other retired royalist army officers were said to be trying to forge links with Hindu groups at home and abroad to generate support for the ousted king.

With Rana’s death, King Gyanendra loses a trusted lieutenant, whose numbers have been dwindling rapidly, and Nepal loses a figure that was privy to some of the best-kept secrets in the kingdom.