07 June 2001

It was Deependra, say survivors

7 June 2001
The Times of India

IT WAS DEEPENDRA, SAY SURVIVORS

By SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
Times of India News Service

KATHMANDU: Anxious to end speculation over what happened at the royal palace last Friday, a close relative of two of the royals killed told The Times of India that the survivors and eyewitnesses he had spoken to immediately after the massacre had all identified the late Crown Prince Deependra as the killer.

Neer Shah - whose brother Kumar Khadga Bikram Shah and sister-in-law Princess Sharda perished in a hail of bullets along with seven other members of the royal family - pieced together the sequence of events as recounted to him by several survivors. (Sharda was the sister of the late King Birendra.)

The family was in the snooker room in Deependra's apartments at the palace, he said, when the Crown Prince burst in brandishing an M-16 rifle. He was wearing military fatigues and seemed drunk. Without warning, he opened fire on King Birendra and then his mother. Neer Shah said Deependra's brother, Nirajan, tried to save his mother and took nearly 20 bullets. Deependra continued firing until he ran out of bullets. He then took a revolver, left the room and shot himself, apparently in the garden - where his body was found.

Asked what he had learned about the role of King Gyanendra's son, Paras, whom many here believe was involved in the shootings, Shah said he had saved the two daughters of the King's younger brother, Dhirendra, by pushing them under a table and then leaving the room.

Though Neer Shah's account does not differ significantly from what this newspaper has already reported, this is the first time that anyone who has directly spoken to the survivors has confirmed - on the record - that Deependra was indeed the author of the palace tragedy. So far, all attempts by the press to meet Queen Komal, Princess Shobha, Ketaki Chester and Gorakh Sumshere Rana - four members of the family still in hospital - have been unsuccessful.

In fact, Neer Shah, lost more than his brother and sister-in-law that night. His elderly mother had a heart attack the next afternoon when she heard what had happened.

Shah is livid that the Raj Parishad, or privy council, named Deependra king despite knowing he was the killer. Prime Minister Koirala and Raj Parishad chairperson Kesar Rai Majhi were in the hospital and they spoke to the same people as I did,'' Shah said. They knew Deependra had done it. But instead of stripping him of his title, they made him king. How can a murderer be made king?'' he questioned.

Majhi, however, told this correspondent that the Raj Parishad had no option but to name Deependra as king as he was the next in line for the throne. Just because someone is suspected of a crime doesn't mean he can be denied his legitimate right,'' he said.

Calling Majhi and Koirala pseudo-royalists, Shah said the government's failure to go public right away was the main reason for the popular disquiet so visible on the streets. In the absence of information, rumours were bound to take hold, he said, criticising Gyanendra's earlier statement that the killings had occurred because of an accident.

''I don't care whether people today want to believe it or not. But we all know that it is Deependra who did this lunatic thing. Just as the Nepalese who thought Birendra was the worst king only 11 years ago, revere him today, all those swearing by Deependra will one day come to accept what a horrible crime he committed,'' he added.

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