Nepalese royal massacre
|Nepalese Royal massacre|
The Narayanhity Royal Palace, former home of the Royal Family. Following the abdication of the king and the founding of a republic, the building and its grounds have been turned into a museum.
|Location||Narayanhity Royal Palace, Kathmandu, Nepal|
|Date||1 June 2001 A.D.
(19 Jestha 2058 B.S.)
Around 21:00 (UTC+05:45)
|Target||The Nepalese Royal Family
King Birendra of Nepal
mass murder, murder-suicide, massacre
|Deaths||10 (including the perpetrator)|
|Perpetrator||Crown Prince Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev|
The Nepalese royal massacre occurred on 1 June 2001, at a house in the grounds of the Narayanhity Royal Palace, then the residence of the Nepalese monarchy. It is believed that the heir to the throne, Prince Dipendra, killed nine members of his family and himself. The dead included King Birendra of Nepal and Queen Aishwarya.
Prince Dipendra became de jure King of Nepal upon his father's death and died in hospital three days after the massacre without recovering from a coma.
There are claims like that of a junior army staff deputied at the Narayanhiti Palace that Dipendra was already dead before being declared as the King.
Overview of events
According to reports, Dipendra had been drinking heavily, smoked large quantities of hashish (a drug extracted from the cannabis plant) and had "misbehaved" with a guest, which resulted in his father, King Birendra, telling his oldest son to leave the party. The drunken Dipendra was taken to his room by his brother Prince Nirajan and cousin Prince Paras.
One hour later, Dipendra returned to the party armed with an H&K MP5, a Franchi SPAS-12 and an M16 and fired a single shot into the ceiling before turning the gun on his father, King Birendra. Seconds later, Dipendra shot one of his aunts. He then shot his uncle Dhirendra in the chest at point-blank range when he tried to stop Dipendra. During the shooting, Prince Paras suffered slight injuries and managed to save at least three royals, including two children, by pulling a sofa over them. During the attack, Dipendra darted in and out of the room firing shots each time.
Excerpts from the two-member committee report by Chief Justice Keshab Prasad Upadhyaya say that Nepal's late King Birendra had made an abortive last-minute attempt to shoot at his son, then Crown Prince Dipendra as the latter fired indiscriminately on the royals at the Narayanhity Palace on the night of June 1, according to the details of the official probe report released in Kathmandu. After getting injured in the first attack by Dipendra, the late King Birendra picked up the 9mm caliber MP-5K automatic sub-machine gun, which the former had thrown before entering the billiards room in the palace for the second time and firing at the monarch and others, the late king's sister Princess Shova Shahi is quoted as having told the high-level probe panel. However, Shahi snatched the weapon from her brother and pulled out the magazine thinking that it was the only weapon Dipendra had. Corroborating Shova Shahi's version, Prince Paras is quoted as having said, "She (Shova) must have thought that it was the only weapon Dai (Dipendra) had but I saw that he had much more weapons." 
Dipendra's mother Aishwarya and his brother Nirajan confronted him in the garden of the palace, where they were both fatally shot multiple times. Dipendra then proceeded to a small bridge over a stream running through the palace, where he shot himself.
Lamteri, a junior army staff at Narayanhiti Palace, claimed that he saw Dipendra, who got six bullet shots in his back and one on the left hand, in an inebriated state in his private room before the royal family was killed.
Victims of the massacre
- King Birendra
- Queen Aishwarya
- Crown Prince (later HM King) Dipendra
- Prince Nirajan
- Princess Shruti, Kumar Gorakh's wife
- (Prince) Dhirendra, King Birendra's brother who had renounced his title.
- Princess Shanti, King Birendra's sister
- Princess Sharada, King Birendra's sister
- Kumar Khadga, Princess Sharada's husband.
- Princess Jayanti, King Birendra's first cousin
- Princess Shova, King Birendra's sister
- Kumar Gorakh Shamsher, Princess Shruti's husband
- Princess Komal, Prince Gyanendra's wife
- (Princess) Ketaki Chester, King Birendra's first cousin who had renounced her title (and sister of Princess Jayanti).
Dipendra was proclaimed king while in a coma, but he died on 4 June 2001, after a three-day reign. Gyanendra was appointed regent for the three days, then ascended the throne himself after Dipendra died.
While Dipendra lived, Gyanendra maintained that the deaths were the result of an "accidental discharge of an automatic weapon". However, he later said that he made this claim due to "legal and constitutional hurdles", since under the constitution, and by tradition, Dipendra could not have been charged with murder had he survived. A full investigation took place, and Crown Prince Dipendra was found to be responsible for the killing.
A two-man committee comprising Keshav Prasad Upadhaya, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, and Taranath Ranabhat, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out the week-long investigation into the massacre. The investigation concluded, after interviewing more than a hundred people including eyewitnesses and palace officials, guards and staff, that Dipendra had carried out the massacre. A large number of critics and Nepalese, both inside Nepal and abroad, disputed the official report because many facts and evidence reported by the investigation team seemed contradictory in many aspects. A close aide of Dipendra when he was prince said of Dipendra, "He can give up the throne for the sake of his love, but he can never do this kind of thing."
Rumours regarding cause of massacre
The widely circulated rumour is that Prince Dipendra was angry over a marriage dispute. Dipendra's choice of bride was Devyani Rana, daughter of Pashupati SJB Rana, a member of the Rana clan, which the Shah dynasty have a historic animosity against. The Rana clan had served as the hereditary prime ministers of Nepal, with the title Maharaja, until 1951, and the two clans have a long history of inter-marriages. It is also speculated that the reason for the marriage dispute over Dipendra's choice of wife was that the royal family had a position that the crown prince should not marry someone having relatives in India, as Devyani did. Also, the fact that Devyani Rana's mother, Usharaje Scindia was of Gwalior royal lineage, wasn't considered impressive by the Nepal royal family. Prince Dipendra also courted Supriya Shah, who was the granddaughter of Queen Mother Ratna's own sister. Queen Aishwarya, though initially against the relationship due to family ties and the view that Supriya would be incompetent as a queen, which was heard by an aide. However, she was approved more than Devyani Rana by the Queen since if Supriya become the queen, the Shah dynasty would have to share its power with the Ranas that would result in the formation of a political alliance.
On 11 June 2001, a Hindu katto ceremony was held to exorcise or banish the spirit of the dead King from Nepal. A brahmin Durga Prasad Sapkota, dressed as Birendra to symbolise the late King, rode an elephant out of Kathmandu and into symbolic exile, taking many of the actual belongings of the King with him.
Many Nepalese people are skeptical of the official report that the then Crown Prince Dipendra carried out the murder. King Birendra and his son Dipendra were very popular and well respected by the Nepalese population. Subsequently, Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, the chairman of the Nepalese Maoist Party, in a public gathering claimed that the massacre was planned by the Indian intelligence agency RAW or the American CIA. Promoters of these ideas allege Gyanendra had a hand in the massacre so that he could assume the throne himself. His ascension to the throne would only be possible if both of his nephews Dipendra and Nirajan were eliminated. Moreover, Gyanendra and especially his son Prince Paras were grossly unpopular with the public. On the day of the massacre he was in Pokhara whilst other royals were attending a dinner function. His wife Komal, Paras and daughter Prerana were in the room at the royal palace during the massacre. While the entire families of Birendra and Dipendra were wiped out, nobody amongst Gyanendra's family died; his son escaped with slight injuries, His wife sustained a life-threatening bullet wound but survived.
Despite the fact that two survivors have publicly confirmed that Dipendra did the shooting, as was documented in a BBC documentary, the chain of events is disputed by some Nepalese. After the monarchy was abolished through a populist uprising there have been several claims refuting the official report, among them is a recent book published in Nepal named Raktakunda recounting the massacre. It looks at the incident through the eyes of one of the surviving witnesses, Queen Mother Ratna's personal maid, identified in the book as Shanta. The book, which the author says is a "historical novel", posits that two men masked as Crown Prince Dipendra fired the shots that led to the massacre. Shanta's husband, Trilochan Acharya, also a royal palace employee, was killed along with 10 royal family members, including the entire family of King Birendra. In addition to details of the royal massacre, Shanta alleged many other cover-ups by the royal family, including a claim that the previous king King Mahendra committed suicide.
The massacre story featured in the third season of the documentary series Zero Hour, based on a reconstruction of the event taken from surviving eyewitnesses.
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- Eyewitness Statements