Some people just love a conspiracy theory. How many books, not to mention blogs have been spawned by those who seek to perpetuate the so-called “mysterious circumstances” surrounding the Kennedy assassination, the Moon landings, or even the real author of Shakespeare’s plays? Now Nepal is nurturing one of its own, based around the tragic massacre of the Nepalese Royal family in 2001.
The story has all the elements for a classic political conspiracy theory – The tragic death of a beloved national figure and his family set against a backdrop of national unrest and external political influence.
The facts were pretty shocking. The King and Queen of Nepal were shot dead after the heir to the throne went on the rampage with a gun before turning it on himself. Eleven people died in the incident which started when Crown Prince Dipendra allegedly had a dispute with his mother over his choice of bride.
The other victims included three of the King’s children, his two sisters and one more member of the family by marriage.
Crown Prince Dipendra, who was educated at Eton College, is reported to have been in conflict with his family over his choice of bride for some time. Queen Aishwarya is said to have been the real power behind the throne and allegedly threatened to remove her oldest son from the line of succession, although this would not have been allowed under the constitution.
All the protagonists and the main witnesses were killed in the incident, although Crown Prince Dipendra himself died some 30 hours after the shootings. Many Nepalese doubt it was he who fired the shots.
Riots followed the killings as conspiracy theories about coups flourished. Two leading Maoists tried to blame India for conspiring with the Nepali government to undermine the country’s sovereignty. There followed an upsurge in violence by Maoist rebels which led to a state of emergency in November 2001. It was said that India’s plan to kill the entire Royal Family was only thwarted because the King’s brother and successor, Gyanendra, was unexpectedly not at the event where the massacre took place. Gyanendra had been out of town and was allegedly was on the way back to the massacre site for the dinner.
In a new book ” Maile dekheko darbar” (The Palace as I saw it) General Bibek Shah asserts that although it was Crown Prince Dipendra who pulled the trigger, he was acting under influence of foreign powers. Apparently India was against King Birendra’s plans to begin procuring, and perhaps even manufacturing German weapons rather than those supplied by India.
Even more far-fetched, are the claims by a palace soldier Lal Bahadur Lamteri, who implicates Gyanendra’s unpopular son Paras, now second in line to the throne. He says he saw Paras arrive at the palace with another man wearing a Dipendra mask. It was the masked man who committed the massacre before shooting Dipendra himself, who was in a drunken state in his private rooms. Lamteri states that Dipendra had six bullet wounds in the back of the head. The attending doctor said there was just one to the front of the head indicating suicide, although it has been further claimed that this bullet hole was in the left temple rather than the right, as would have been expected in a suicide attempt.
Conspiracy theories often arise following the death of popular national figures in tragic circumstances. This story has echoes of theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination, or the death of Princess Diana. Perhaps the national sense of loss is too great to accept the facts at face value. Such figures are seen to be too important to be taken by a simple accident or random act of malice.
A specially elected assembly dominated by anti-royalty Maoists abolished the 239-year-old monarchy in 2008 and turned Nepal into a republic.