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King watches peacocks as Nepal burns

Gyanendra was spotted striding on the grounds of the Kathmandu royal palace watching peacocks.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2007 14:33 IST

As the Nepal government blamed monarchists for the violence in the southern plains and cracked down on former ministers of King Gyanendra, the monarch was spotted striding on the grounds of the Kathmandu royal palace watching peacocks, a report said.

Flanked by two aides de camps, the king, looking glum, spent a long time in the Narayanhity royal palace, watching the peacocks bred inside at play, the Jana Aastha weekly reported on Wednesday.

It was a surprise visit by the king who prefers to live in the new luxurious mansion he built in Nagarjuna, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, after ascending the throne.

Although the Narayanhity royal palace, where kings have lived for generations following tradition, looks impressive from outside, inside it is cramped and lacks the latest amenities.

The new mansion in Nagarjuna is the epitome of luxury, complete with a helipad, tennis court, swimming pool and home theatre. It also provides better security for the royal couple.

The royal palace on the other hand is on one of the busiest streets in the capital and close to a campus that is often the site of student protests.

The need for security was felt especially during the last days of the king's government in April when a crowd of thousands of protesters was said to have been heading towards the palace, raising fears of a blood bath.

Fearing for the security of his son, Crown Prince Paras, the monarch has also asked for the prince to shift to a more secure residence.

Paras, his wife Crown Princess Himani and their three children on Saturday left their residence, Nirmal Niwas, also on a busy street in the capital, for a long stay at what used to be a royal hunting lodge in Gokarna but now has been renovated into a modern chalet.

Sharing the same grounds with a golf course and exclusive hotel, the lodge has been jazzed up for the royal visitors.

The decision to shift the unpopular prince to Gokarna came after a fresh spurt of protest against the royal family in the capital last week.

On Friday, when Paras' heir, Prince Hridayendra, was heading for his aunt's house, the royal motorcade was involved in a minor accident with a motorcycle.

Though no one was seriously hurt, the accident triggered fresh anti-monarchy sentiments in the capital with residents in the area blocking the road for some hours and shouting slogans against the royal family.

The royal family has been feeling the need for additional security since the promulgation of a new constitution in January that stripped King Gyanendra of his last vestige of power as ceremonial head of state, conferring that position to the prime minister.

Since then, there have been constant reports in the Nepali media about alleged plots by the king's followers to foment violence in the country and prevent the June election likely to abolish monarchy and turn Nepal into a republic.

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