Remembering the massacre: 19 Jestha 2058 BS [1 June 2001] was when the monarchy was abolished in Nepal. 15 Jestha 2065 only formalized that.by Dinesh Wagle
Once upon a time when there was still monarchy in Nepal, some seven years ago to be exact, a horrifying incident happened in Narayanhitti palace in Kathmandu that shocked the world. The day, 1 June 2001, was when entire family of the then king Birendra was murdered by god knows whom. We were told that it was Birendra’s son, crown prince Dipendra, who pulled the trigger and killed his parents, sister and others before killing himself but the people are not wiling to buy that argument. Thousands of people, mourning the death and angered by the massacre, came to the streets chanting pro-monarchy slogans. Thousands of males spontaneously shaved their heads, a Hindu way of mourning the death of one’s near ones. Today, exactly seven years after, it seems almost surreal to even think that I was one of those mourners who shaved their heads.
That very day monarchy had died (or been abolished) in Nepal. The abolition was only formalized on 28th May 2008.
Gyanendra Shah, the last king of Nepal who was dethroned last week as the Constitution Assembly declared Nepal a republic, was never considered a king by the people of this country. Kings, as Nepali people for reasons that vary from person to person believed, are born to be the king and he is raised to be the king. Gyanendra was neither. He wasn’t born to be the king; he wasn’t raised to be the king. In addition to that, he was widely suspected of having some role in the killing. If we are to believe the widely chanted slogans in the massive protest rallies in the past several years, he was involved in the killing. In fact, his notoriously infamous son, declared crown prince two years after the massacre during the festival when many people had returned to their homes from capital city, has killed people. So Gyanendra Shah was never a king for Nepali people.
Those who mourned the massacre in 2001 celebrated the abolition of monarchy in 2008.
May his soul rest in peace but I don’t believe the argument that king Birendra was a great democrat despite the fact that I mourned his death just like I celebrated the fall of Gyanendra. People of Nepal had to fight for several years before Birendra was forced by a popular movement to restore democracy that was killed by his father Mahendra in 1960. He tried his best to retain many of the rights and privileges when democratic revolutionaries were formulating the constitution after the first peoples’ movement in 1990. But his willingness to be ‘constitutional’, at least in word, made him popular among the citizenry.
King, by nature, can’t be a democrat. They always harbor autocratic aspirations that were displayed in a worst possible manner in 2005 by Gyanendra.
The February 1, 2005 coup was one of the many key reasons that propelled the monarchy’s downfall in Nepal. By nature no one wants to be ruled and suppressed- except a few with slave mentality. People of Nepal wanted not to be ruled by an autocrat, they wanted to be ruled by themselves, by their chosen representatives. Thus the historic and astonishing participation of people in the April revolution of 2006.
What happened today in a Republic Nepal?
1. Gorkha Durbar opens for public, signboard outside says republic
Hot on the heels of last week’s declaration of a republic, the historic Gorkha palace has been opened to the public from today. The palace was opened to the public today after, who else, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the chairman of the Maoist party, unveiled a sign-board at the palace premises with the notice ‘Federal Democratic Republic Nepal’ this morning. Dahal, Maoist second-in-command Baburam Bhattarai and other leaders toured the centuries old palace for the first time after the unveiling of the sign-board. Speaking to the press after touring the palace, Dahal lauded the efforts of King Prithvi Narayan Shah to unify the country.
The country might not have been a republican state had Prithvi Narayan Shah not unified the country, said Prachanda adding that positive aspects of the country’s history should be commended. He also expressed his gratitude to the residents of Gorkha district, responsible for establishing the Shah Dynasty’s rule in Nepal, for their help also in establishing a republic in the country. Maoist leader Babu Ram Bhattarai expressed pride in being able to tour the historic palace and lauded the efforts of the Gorkha district residents in uprooting the centuries old monarchical system. The Gorkha palace carries huge significance in the country’s history as King Prithvi Narayan Shah launched his unification campaign from the palace and later went on to annex smaller states into one single nation. (source)
2. Government panel inspects Narayanhitti palace
The government panel set up to make security arrangements for Narayanhitti palace today observed the security situation inside the palace. The panel led by joint secretary at the Home Ministry Mod Raj Dotel visited Narayanhitti palace and discussed the security arrangements with the palace secretariat office bearers and security officials. The panel was flanked by the secretaries at the ministry of home and general administration –though the committee is led by the Home Ministry joint secretary–and entered the palace through the northern gate of the palace.
Emerging from the spot-inspection of the palace security arrangements, the panel said that the situation inside the palace was not as good as it looks from the outside. Secretary at the Home Ministry Umesh Mailnali informed that all the officials expressed joy with the panel and assisted during the observation period. However, the government team did not inspect the palace where the former king and his family have been residing.
Yesterday the panel had called the palace security chief and got informed about the security situation inside the palace. The panel began its work from yesterday as per the directives issued by the government to prepare security plan for the palace and to table its report within seven days. The government formed the panel after the first sitting of the newly elected Constituent Assembly members declared the country a federal democratic republic on Wednesday, ending the 240-year-old monarchy.(source)