|Nepalese Royal Massacre|
|Location||Narayanhity Palace, Kathmandu, Nepal|
|Date||1 June 2001|
(19 Jestha 2058 Nepal B.S.)
Around 21:00 (UTC+05:45)
|Target||The Nepalese Royal Family |
King Birendra of Nepal
|Regicide, familicide, mass shooting|
|Deaths||10 (including the perpetrator)|
The Nepalese royal massacre occurred on 1 June 2001, at the Narayanhiti Palace, the then-residence of the Nepalese monarchy. Nine members of the royal family, including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, were killed in a mass shooting during a gathering of the royal family at the palace. A government-appointed inquiry team named Crown Prince Dipendra as perpetrator of the massacre. Dipendra slipped into a coma after shooting himself.
Dipendra was declared king of Nepal while in coma after the death of King Birendra. He died in hospital three days after the massacre without regaining consciousness. Birendra's brother Gyanendra then became king.
According to eyewitness reports and an official investigation carried by a two-man committee made up of Chief Justice Keshav Prasad Upadhyaya and Taranath Ranabhat, the speaker of the House of Representatives concluded:
On 1 June 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra opened fire at a house on the grounds of the Narayanhity Palace, the residence of the Nepalese monarchy, where a party was being held. He shot and killed his father, King Birendra, his mother, Queen Aishwarya, and seven other members of the royal family – including his younger brother and sister – before shooting himself in the head. Due to his wiping out of most of the line of succession, Dipendra became king while in a comatose state from the head wound.
Dipendra's motive for the murders is unknown, but there are various theories. Dipendra wanted to marry Devyani Rana, whom he had met in the United Kingdom. Some allege that, due to her mother's family being lower-class royal of India and her father's political alliances, the royal family objected. In fact, Devyani's Gwalior family were one of the wealthiest former royal families of India, and allegedly far wealthier than the Nepalese monarchs. The prospective bride's mother, warned her daughter that marrying the Nepalese crown prince might mean a drop in her standard of living. Dipendra's prospective bride, chosen by the royal family, was from a competing sub-branch of the Nepalese Rana clan, the Juddha Shamsher line.
Another theory states that there was a higher possibility of Indian influence if Dipendra would be married to Devyani, to which the palace objected. Other theories allege that Dipendra was unhappy with the country's shift from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, and that too much power had been given away following the 1990 People's Movement. This is, in fact, unlikely. The crown prince responded to the 1990 uprising, and return to an elected government, with enthusiasm while a student at Eton College, where he was finishing his studies.
Much controversy surrounds the circumstances of the massacre, and even today, with the abolishment of the monarchy following the 2006 revolution, many questions remain unresolved. Questions like the apparent lack of security at the event; the absence of the Prince Gyanendra, Dipendra's uncle who succeeded him; Dipendra's self-inflicted head-wound located at his left temple, despite being right-handed; the duration of the subsequent investigation, which only lasted for two weeks and did not involve any major forensic analysis, despite an offer by Scotland Yard to carry one out, etc. remain unresolved.
Dipendra was proclaimed king while in coma but died on 4 June 2001. Gyanendra was appointed regent for the three days, and then ascended the throne himself after the death of Dipendra.
When Dipendra was in coma, Gyanendra maintained that the deaths were the result of an "accidental discharge of an automatic weapon" within the royal palace. Later, he 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 Dipendra was found responsible for the killing.
A two-man committee comprising Chief Justice Keshav Prasad Upadhaya and Speaker of the House Taranath Ranabhat carried out a week-long investigation concerning the massacre. The investigation concluded, after interviewing more than a hundred people including eyewitnesses and palace officials, guards and staff, that Dipendra was the perpetrator the shooting. However, observers both inside Nepal and abroad disputed Dipendra's culpability in the incident.
This massacre added on to the political turmoil caused by Maoist insurgency. After, the ascension of Gyanendra on throne, the Nepalese populace's belief in royalty dropped down. Some say, this massacre was the pivotal point that ended monarchy in Nepal.
On 12 June 2001, a Hindu katto ceremony was held to exorcise or banish the spirit of the dead king from Nepal. A Hindu priest, 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 monarch's belongings with him. Dipendra's residence was eventually razed.
King Birendra and his son Dipendra were very popular and well-respected by the Nepalese population. On the day of the massacre, Gyanendra was in Pokhara whilst other royals were attending the 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 killed, nobody in Gyanendra's family died: his son escaped with slight injuries, and his wife sustained a life-threatening bullet wound but survived. This has brewed many conspiracy theories.
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 Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) or the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It is believed that King Birendra's refusal to allow surveillance against China was the real cause of the attack. Since the massacre, some eyewitness statements have been released such as, "multiple people with the mask of the Crown Prince Dipendra were present in the room at one point." The bodies of some of the Royal Family members were found elsewhere in the Palace and not the dining hall, whereas Dipendra was cited as one of the first ones to have been shot. There is a book titled "Raktakunda" based on Interviews of two palace maids which details these theories. Promoters of these ideas alleged Gyanendra had a hand in the massacre so that he could assume the throne himself. His ascent to the throne would have been possible only if both of his nephews, Dipendra and Nirajan, were removed from line of succession. Moreover, Gyanendra and his son Prince Paras were very unpopular.
Claims such as: that the perpetrator was not Dipendra but an individual who wore a mask to disguise himself as Dipendra; that Paras broke and threw away Dipendra’s ventilator in hospital; that nine hundred were killed in the palace that night and the purpose of the curfews was to allow the disposal of their bodies; that the public water supply and milk had been poisoned in Kathmandu, etc. have circulated in Nepalese media. Conspiracy theories have also blamed Ketaki Chester, Dr. Upendra Devkota, or the Nepalese army for the massacre. However, no reliable evidence have been found for these claims.