The royal massacre: An unsolved mystery

The royal massacre: An unsolved mystery

By: Kamal Raj Sigdel

Posted: 10/27/08

It would not be an overstatement to say that the history of South Asia's politics is one filled with heinous assassinations. There have been several assassinations of political leaders and head of states in the countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. Yet what baffles many is that most of the cases remain a mystery.


One such assassination in South Asia that is still unsolved is the 2001 royal massacre in Nepal. The whole family of the second to last monarch of Nepal, King Birendra, was shot dead while they were at a royal feast inside the Narayanhiti Palace.


The world was shocked; hundreds of thousands of people mourned and the politics of the tiny Himalayan nation took a U-turn. Yet not a single effort was made to dig out the truth behind the massacre. The people of Nepal and the world have been given no clear explanation as to who actually was the culprit or who plotted the assassination.


Immediately after the massacre, the government formed a special committee under the leadership of the Speaker of the Parliament, Taranath Ranabhat, in order to investigate the incident. After a 24-hour secret investigation, the Ranabhat Committee concluded that it was Crown Prince Dipendra who shot his father, mother, sister and brother and then killed himself with the same gun.


The governmental investigation stopped thereafter. No more questions, no further investigations, no second inquiry. Not a single person agreed with the Ranabhat report, which was too hard to swallow and too contradictory. No one believed that the crown prince was the culprit. Despite all this, no effort has been made to investigate the massacre in a more scientific way to this day.


Right after the tragedy, many books were written and the market was flooded with different versions and conspiracy theories on who killed the royal family. Most of the speculations condemned the government's report and pointed fingers at King Gyanendra, the late king's brother, and his "lust for power." Others tried to blame India and its icy relation with King Birendra. And some even stated that the Maoists, who were fighting against the state, plotted the event to ultimately takeover leadership.


Some of these stories catered greatly to the need of the politicians. The Maoists, for example, capitalized on these circumstances. The royal massacre ended up weakening King Gyanandra's support base among the general public and garnering support for the Maoists' ascension to power in the Democratic Movement of 2006.


Now that the country has abolished the institution of monarchy, the time has come for a fair investigation into the killings. The success of the Democratic Movement has brought new hopes that the new Maoist government will undertake a second investigation into the carnage. The current Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (also known as Prachanda) committed himself to finding the culprits and he must take that promise seriously.


This is one of the very crucial jobs the government can do now to establish a good image among the war-torn faces of Nepalis as well as the watchful world community. The government must provide fool-proof answers to the questions regarding the assassinations.


Nepal cannot let the killings remain an item on the already long list of unresolved assassinations in South Asia.


Sigdel is an Asia Pacific Leadership Program fellow at the East West Center

© Copyright 2008 Ka Leo O Hawaii (A UHM student newspaper in Hawaii, USA)

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