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Royal massacre may come under fresh probe

Activists want a fresh probe into the mysterious shootout in the palace in 2001 that killed 10 members of the royal family.

india Updated: May 06, 2006 11:01 IST

Activists in Nepal are demanding a fresh probe into the mysterious shootout in Narayanhity Palace in 2001 that killed 10 members of the royal family, including the king, queen and crown prince.

"Members of civil society, human rights activists and Maoists are demanding a new commission to find out what really happened at the palace on June 1, 2001," says Birendra Jhapali, a civil activist with close links to the rebels.

With King Gyanendra being forced to relinquish absolute power and the government headed by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala saying the Maoists would be asked to participate in an interim government, Jhapali says the rebels are going to ask for a new investigation.

Nepal, tucked out of sight between giant neighbours China and India, found itself catapulted into world attention five years ago when then king Birendra, his wife Aishwarya, son Dipendra and two younger children, princess Shruti and prince Nirajan were shot fatally along with five other relatives while attending a dinner in the palace.

At first, the government said a gun had gone off accidentally, causing the casualties.

However, later the authorities changed their story and blamed Dipendra, said to be high on hashish and alcohol, as having run berserk and shot the others before turning the gun on himself.

With all the male members in Birendra's immediate family being killed, his younger brother Gyanendra was sworn in the new king. On June 4, 2001, he announced a commission to investigate the shootout.

Headed by chief justice Keshav Prasad Upadhyay, the commission also included then speaker in parliament Taranath Ranabhat and opposition leader Madhav Kumar Nepal.

However, Nepal resigned from the commission, which then submitted its report to King Gyanendra within seven days.

The report upheld the theory that Dipendra had an argument with his parents over the girl he wanted to marry and turned against them when they opposed his choice. However, the report has never been believed fully, with sceptics pointing out various contradictions.

Though Dipendra is said to have shot himself in the head after killing nine people, the head wound he received was on the right hand side, an unusual thing since he was a left hander. Also, the pistol he carried showed two shots had been fired, with one bullet unaccounted for.

While his family was killed on June 1, Dipendra is said to have survived two more days in a comatose condition, during which he was crowned king. Immediately after he was reported dead, the body was cremated without a post mortem being conducted.

The Maoists reject the commission report and in various statements issued during King Gyanendra's 15-month direct rule since last year they have accused the king of being involved in a conspiracy.

Jhapali's statement comes even as a "youth parliament", comprising journalists, student wings of political parties and human rights activists, is demanding that the bank assets and properties of the royal family outside the country be seized.

First Published: May 06, 2006 11:01 IST