Eight years after the royal massacre, ex-Crown Prince Paras Bikram Shah talks to the New Paper of Singapore. Why?
UWB Note: The exclusive interview has been translated and reproduced by many Nepali media including top selling and most influential newspaeprs in Nepal. That is one of the most read items in newspapers in Nepal today and yesterday.
By Clement Mesenas and S Murali
Original source of the story: The New Paper
‘THE Nepali people need to know the truth,’ said Prince Paras, eight years after seeing 10 members of his royal family gunned down ruthlessly. The persistent, painful nightmares stopped after four years.
What haven’t stopped, however, are the ugly rumours of his involvement in the incident on 1 Jun2001.
But enough is enough, says Crown Prince Paras.
He now wants to clear his name.
Reacting to recent reports that the current Nepali government might reopen the investigation into the massacre, he decided to speak to senior Singapore media men.
Three Reasons for the Massacre
FORBIDDEN love is the oft-heard reason behind Nepal’s palace massacre when Dipendra Bikram Shah, then crown prince, ran amok.
But there’s more to this Shakespearean tragedy than meets the eye, said the last crown prince of the Himalayan kingdom, a cousin of the killer prince.
Opening up for the first time since the 2001 bloodbath that took place before his eyes, Prince Paras Bikram Shah, 37, said there was a web of deep-seated reasons that sparked the killing.
But the trigger was a thwarted multi-million-dollar arms deal that was to have been Prince Dipendra’s golden parachute to freedom if palace politics turned nasty.
Now largely based in Singapore, Prince Paras painted a vivid picture of palace intrigues in an exclusive interview.
He has a reason for making these revelation now (see report at bottom left). He wants to tell the world how a gun deal helped destroy a long-running kingdom.
‘The Nepali army was looking for a new weapon to replace the Belgian SLR. Dipendra liked the German Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle, as opposed to the battle-tested Colt M16,’ said Prince Paras, who was close to the younger generation of royals.
‘But his father, His Majesty, did not agree. I know that they argued over it. Dipendra was frustrated. He wasn’t happy. He told me,’ said Prince Paras.
According to Frontline, an Indian magazine, the crown prince was known to have a fetish for guns and would often test out the latest weaponry that the Royal Army was planning to buy.
The German assault rifle had been short-listed by the army, which was in the market for 50,000 new guns.
According to Prince Paras, his cousin’s advisers had been working on the deal, which could have brought the crown prince a windfall.
‘That, to me, was the real trigger. The deal would have probably been for about 50,000 rifles, which at US$300 ($454) apiece, would work out to about US$15 million.’
But why would the prince need the money? Wasn’t the family’s net worth estimated to be more than US$200 million?
‘Yes, but I think he was already making plans for the possibility that he would have to leave the country suddenly if things didn’t work out for him.
‘I think this was his back-up plan.’
The plan ultimately cost Prince Dipendra his life, when he shot himself after the massacre.
But what could be so bad as to lead a crown prince to plot such a bloody scheme?
The palace was a hotbed of contending interests, said Prince Paras.
‘Dipendra had his reasons (to kill the king),’ said Prince Paras, who left Nepal for Singapore last July after his country’s Maoist government abolished the monarchy.
Breaking his long silence on one of history’s bloodiest royal moments, Prince Paras told The New Paper that Prince Dipendra had not one but three reasons for wanting to kill his own father.
The first reason, according to Prince Paras, was there for everyone to see.
On 9 Nov 1990, King Birendra promulgated the new constitution and ended almost 30 years of absolute monarchy in which the palace had dominated every aspect of political life.
Said Prince Paras: ‘Dipendra was never the same after his father told him in 1990 about the plans to give up the monarchy.
‘He never agreed with that as he wanted to rule the country. I think he started planning his moves then.’
Prince Paras grew up with the crown prince as the two were just six months apart in age.
The second reason was his love for Devyani Rana. The royal family did not want Prince Dipendra to marry her as she was from a rival family.
Prince Paras dismissed the notion that his cousin had shot the family on impulse after drinking heavily that night.
‘He had talked to us (the younger generation of Nepali royalty) about it a year before it happened,’ revealed Prince Paras.
‘I remember it clearly. It was his birthday (in 2000) and he told all of us that he would bring down the ‘ivory tower’. But we didn’t take him seriously. How could we?
‘This was the crown prince talking. He was going to be our king. And who would believe that he would kill his own father?’
But Prince Paras said he sensed something amiss on the night of the murders when he went to Prince Dipendra’s house for one of the family’s regular Friday night parties.
‘Another cousin and I asked to be excused from the party because we wanted to go somewhere else. Usually he agreed, but this time Dipendra said no. He wanted us to be there.’
And once he got there, Prince Paras noticed that his cousin was behaving abnormally, acting as though he was drunk when he clearly was not.
‘I know him and I know when he had had too much to drink. He said he had been drinking since the afternoon but there was no smell of alcohol on him.
‘How can that be? If he had been drinking all the while, he should have been reeking. But there was no smell.’
When the crown prince’s father came into view and was about to make his entrance, the prince ‘collapsed’ on the floor, forcing Prince Paras and Prince Dipendra’s brother, Prince Niranjan, to help him up and take him back to his room.
But that was not the last they saw of Prince Dipendra.
In an act of extreme brutality, Prince Dipendra soon returned to slaughter his entire family.
Killer prince charged into room dressed in army camouflage and armed with four guns
‘The smell of burnt blood was horrible’
Original source of this story: The New Paper
In The New Paper on Sunday, Nepal’s former crown prince revealed events that he said led to his cousin to wipe out nearly all members of the royal family in 2001. Today, he describes what took place that night
By S Murali and Clement Mesenas. March 31, 2009
IT WAS the night that sounded the death knell for the monarchy of Nepal in more ways than one.
A fusillade of bullets wiped out 10 members of the royal family, including Birendra, the popular king.
The killing was brutal. A shot to the head ended the king’s life as he lay bleeding from shots fired earlier.
The finger on the trigger was that of his embittered 30-year-old son, Dipendra.
He had fired three bursts, twice from an automatic pistol. He then let fly with an M16 rifle.
The royal massacre happened on 1 Jun 2001. In two months’ time, the royal survivors will once again mark the anniversary of the tragedy.
Eight years after that horrific bloodbath, Nepal’s last crown prince, Paras Bikram Shah, nephew of Birendra, is breaking his silence.
He wants to clear ugly, persistent rumours of his involvement in the incident, though a commission has cleared him of any complicity.
Reacting to recent reports that the current Nepali government might reopen the investigation into the massacre, Prince Paras, who is now largely based in Singapore, decided to speak to senior Singapore media men.
‘The Nepali people need to know the truth,’ he said.
Prince Paras, 37, spoke exclusively to The New Paper over two days in the past fortnight, first at the Raffles Town Club and then at his River Valley condominium unit.
He still shivers as he recalls that night of terror.
‘It was utter pandemonium. The mortally wounded were groaning, blood was splattered on the walls and floor. The survivors, including my wife, whimpered as they crouched, some hiding behind a sofa, as bullets ricocheted everywhere.’
As he spoke, Prince Paras’ face glistened with sweat. His orange juice stayed untouched throughout the three hour-long interview.
In his desire to get the story out, the pack-a-day smoker didn’t even pause to light a cigarette.
He said: ‘For four years after that massacre, I was not able to sleep. Till today, the nightmare keeps coming back to haunt me.’
After the turmoil of the dreadful incident, Prince Paras and a host of other witnesses told a commission of inquiry what they saw.
Over the years, the prince has had time to think and re-think about the events of that fateful night.
Only now are some of the pieces falling clearly into place, in his mind at least, he said.
Yet nothing seemed amiss that night as family members and relatives gathered for a party in the billiards room in Dipendra’s residence on the palace grounds. This was the custom on Friday nights.
There was no sense that their life of wealth and ease was about to change, that their world was about to come tumbling down.
At 8pm, there was the first hint of trouble, Prince Paras recalled.
‘I got there a bit late, but Dipendra was staggering around in the room, as if he were drunk, as he usually was. But on this occasion, he did not reek of alcohol. An hour or so later, just as the king was about to enter the room, Dipendra collapsed.
‘Looking back, I now realise he was pretending. His brother, Niranjan, and I carried him to his bedroom upstairs.
‘We placed him on the bed and tried to remove the Glock pistol from the holster on his left hip so that he would be more comfortable. But he suddenly woke up and told us to leave it alone.
‘Then, I noticed that his Colt M16 rifle was on the dressing table, outside the cupboard where it was usually kept. I did not make too much of it as he kept six or seven guns in his room. I left the room and rejoined the party.’
The king was mingling with the older generation.
Prince Paras was with the younger relatives in an alcove where they could smoke, partly out of sight of the elders.
They put out their cigarettes when the king approached the bar near the alcove.
Then, it turned violent.
‘Suddenly, Dipendra charged into the room. He had changed into army camouflage. The M16 was slung on his shoulders, together with a shotgun.
‘His Glock pistol hung at his hip. He fired one burst into the ceiling with his Heckler & Koch MP5 sub-machine gun, then a burst at his father. His Majesty was hit by three bullets.
‘Dipendra then moved out of the room, presumably to protect the entrance.
‘ I watched in great shock. I was not able to move for at least 30 seconds. Then I pulled myself together. The king’s younger sister was cradling him, his head in her lap.’
Prince Paras paused as he reflected on the sequence of events. He recalled Prince Niranjan drawing his own pistol and laying it next to the king. He was the only other person in the room who was armed.
Runs after brother
Then Prince Niranjan ran after his brother, who was outside. Was Prince Niranjan offering the king his pistol to protect himself? Or did he want to confront his brother without further bloodshed?
Prince Paras continued: ‘Two to three minutes later, shots rang out. Niranjan was later found with a shot in the back and two in the head. I suspect he was shot when he refused to support Dipendra in his bid to seize power.’
The violence continued.
Dipendra walked back in, this time wielding the M16, said Prince Paras.
‘He walked up to his father and shot him in the head at point-blank range. There was no expression on his face as he kept his finger on the trigger.’
After that, Dipendra went ‘berserk’, said Prince Paras. ‘He shot at everybody in the room, anybody who moved. He must have let fly a total of 75 rounds.
‘My mother took two shots in the shoulder and fell to the ground. Two other people fell on top of her, which was probably what saved her life. One of the bullets is lodged in her lung till today. Doctors say it’s too risky to extract it as it is close to her heart.’
The king’s sister, Princess Shoba, who was cradling him in her lap, put up her hand to shield herself. She lost a few fingers and there were burn marks on her face. She toppled over but she survived.
‘The king’s younger brother was next to be gunned down.’
Where was Prince Paras at this time?
‘We were crouching in the alcove and were fortunate not to be in the line of fire,’ he said.
‘I pushed everybody, including my wife, my sister and my cousins, behind the sofas.’
Then, a tinkling sound of bells outside the room caught Dipendra’s attention.
It was his mother hurrying past, the sound coming from the anklets she wore.
She could have been going up to Dipendra’s bedroom to get a weapon, said Prince Paras.
‘This is what I presumed happened next. Dipendra caught up with his mother at the top of the stairs and shot her. Her blood flowed down the stairs like a waterfall – it was still there long after her body was removed.’
The silence after the frenzied gunshots was deafening. The floor of the billiards room was slippery, with blood everywhere.
Price Paras stared into the distance as he recalled the horrific scene of carnage.
‘The smell was horrible, that of burnt blood, the smell you get when people are shot at close range. Bodies were lying crumpled on the floor, people crying and asking for help.’
Where were the palace guards? Did they not hear the shots?
They probably did.
Were they afraid to intervene or did they think Dipendra was shooting for amusement, as he sometimes did, at flower pots, at lizards?
There were times when he and his father used to test guns in the palace before deciding which one to buy for the military. Whatever the reason, they did not intervene.
The silence was broken by one final single shot, followed by a grunting sound.
Prince Paras said he heard the sound coming from near the pond in the garden. It was the same grunt he heard later from Dipendra when he took him to the hospital.
‘That is why I believe he shot himself in the garden. The grunting sound was the same. It was like the groaning sound cats make at night.’
Dipendra was discovered later with a single bullet wound in the head.
But Prince Paras, who was still inside, said his priority was to tend to the people inside and get them of the palace.
‘I telephoned the security people, who rushed the 14 injured, including the king and queen, to hospital. They broke a glass door to move the injured out.
‘The royal couple were already dead.
‘I took Dipendra and five other persons to hospital in a Landcruiser. He kept on making that grunting sound as he lay in the vehicle.’
Dipendra lived for another three days, during which time he was proclaimed king.
Prince Paras’ father, Gyanendra, who was away in Pokhara at the time, returned to the capital only two days after the shooting. Poor weather prevented his earlier return.
He became king after Dipendra’s death but was forced to give up the throne when the monarchy was abolished by the Maoist government last May.
The palace is today a national museum. The billiards room has been demolished.
Like the Nepalese monarchy, it is a thing of the past.
Veteran journalist Clement Mesenas is now a public relations adviser with Bang PR.
S Murali is The New Paper’s associate editor.