By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu : Nepal's Crown Prince Paras has hit the headlines anew, with a boxer claiming he bailed out the royal but was rewarded with accusations for his act of good samaritanism.
Surendra Gurung, a former professional boxer who was once part of the crown prince's coterie, is claiming he rustled up over NRS 1 million seven years ago when Paras became the target of a national outrage over a car accident in which a popular Nepali singer was killed.
Though Nepal has undergone a sea change since 1997, the tale of the automobile accident is still fresh in public mind, triggering fresh demands for the prosecution of the headstrong heir to Nepal's 238-year-old snake throne.
Paras was just a scion of the royal family when the incident occurred with King Birendra, his uncle, on the throne, and the king's son, Dipendra, poised to succeed his father.
Paras is believed to have been driving his Pajero at a high speed after a drinking binge, when he hit a motorcycle in the capital's upmarket Durbar Marg area, where most of the five-star hotels are located.
The collision killed motorcyclist Praveen Gurung , a popular singer, on the spot.
According to reports, the killer car did not stop to help the victim but sped away.
With Paras already unpopular with the public due to his trigger-happy nature and arrogance, the death of Gurung created wide outrage and sparked a campaign by student organisations to bring the errant prince to justice.
Over 1 million people signed a petition to King Birendra, asking him to take action against Paras and strip him of his princely status.
The snowballing public anger made the prince try to defuse the explosive situation by promising to pay compensation to the dead singer's widow, Shanti Gurung.
The boxer, now fallen from grace, says he was asked to act as the go-between and fix the compensation. The victim's family, he says, demanded NRS 1.6 million but Paras did not have a dime.
"He could only raise NRS 50,000 while his father, Prince Gyanendra, refused to part wit a penny," the boxer told New Patrika, a Nepali daily.
"Finally, Siddharth (the son of the king's business partner) gave NRS 1 million while I managed to raise the rest of the money."
However, the boxer says his good deed brought him trouble.
"The palace did not want to pay compensation and some people accused me of pocketing part of the money," he said. "I had to also run around to get the victim's son admitted (in the prestigious school where Nepal's royals enrol).
"Afterwards, I stopped visiting the prince."
Ironically, the other good samaritan, Siddharth Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, also grew distant from Paras after the latter and his cronies assaulted him a few years ago.
Though Paras escaped action by the skin of his teeth and became the heir to Nepal's throne after the assassination of King Birendra and his entire family in 2001, there is now a fresh signature campaign, this time targeting the entire royal family.
The Maoists, who waged a 10-year war trying to overthrow monarchy, have begun a double-pronged initiative to renew their campaign.
While their youth wing has collected over 1 million signatures supporting a republic and handed it over to parliament Speaker, Subhash Chandra Nambang, Maoist MPs have registered a proposal to introduce the motion in the house and put it to vote.