June 13, 2001
Tilganga, Pashupati

Dear Friends,
Thank you all for your empathy and well wishes on the unthinkable and the horrifying demise of our Royal Family members including our beloved the King and the Queen. The way they were massacred must have shocked and shivered making everyone gape at the scene. An unimaginable scene that will shadow us for the rest of our lives.

15 minutes after the hour, on June 2, 2001 Saturday, after finishing my training session design on communication skills, I went to bed. I had to leave for N/192 PST wrap up sessions. At about 3.30 AM, my daughter woke me up. Within minutes, after my telephone conversation with my office colleague, I was stunned. When I tried to comprehend the news, I realized what I had heard, the unthinkable. Thank god, I do not vomit like many others I have seen do. However, I was speechless, shaken and numb. My daughter and wife were staring at me. My daughter was unable to figure out, since I was only nodding or saying yes and yes, but then I was still half-asleep. She asked me what happened. When I did, I saw the shock in their faces and then the rest of our family members. The telephone started ringing. Eventually all of us were trying to reach our friends, colleagues and relatives, who lived in or out of Kathmandu.

Every one had the same question. Why? How could this happen? What happened? Who could have done it? This only happened in cinema for us, although for some people at your end are used to this kind of pathetic violence. Obviously, national radios and TVs were turned on. Many tried to find out from the inter-net or e-mail. The national bands and channels were playing the mourning music but they were quiet, no announcements and virtually nothing. CNN, BBC and some Indian channels reported that it was our Crown Prince, who had done it. Later, they had to change the statement. Every one was craving to find out about the facts from their sources and people in-group or in families discussed and tried to rationale the reason or the motive.

Rest is history. You know what we know here and you might have watched what we have here. The news of the death of the King and his family and relatives came in a sequel. The funeral procession of the King Birendra to Pashupati Aryaghat was incredible. The King was cremated and so Nirajan, Shruti and Queen Aishwarya. General public were barred from the scene. One can understand how difficult it would have been to control the mass. Next day, Crown Prince Dipendra was announced as our new King, perhaps the only King in earth, who never came out of comma. Next day, King Dipendra was announced dead and Prince Gyanendra constitutionally became our new King out of a quiet ceremony.

For the people of Nepal, all of this was too much within a week . Sunday and Monday (June 4 and 5) Kathmandu witnessed another bout of mass against the police and the army. Curfew was imposed. Papers reported six deaths. This excludes five in the royal family, King Birendra’s two sisters and one in-law, his younger brother former Prince Dhirendra and the unaccounted for (waiters and the guards). The other relatives, who are under treatment at the military hospital are Shruti’s husband Gorakh, Queen Komal and perhaps others we do not know. There were reports that eight persons came out unscathed, including Paras, who is the son of present King Gyanendra. We were fortunate that Prince Gyanendra was in Pokhara that night of the horrible act. I can’t imagine what that would have created if he was not.

Rumors do float, when you are not communicated. The rumors were that it was Paras, who must have done it; that it was a planned massacre; that it was due to Dipendra, who was denied to marry Devyani; that Dipendra wanted to have his father take over the power from the democratic system; that the royal surgeon Upendra Devkota was missing; that former Prime Minister Bhattarai was in hospital due to heart attack; that the water supply and milk is poisoned and that the monkeys cried during Dipendra’s cremation.

The other facts were the following: Most of the youth shaved their head. In addition to the Palace Gate, at every crossroad, there are photos of the royal family and registers to sign or comment. The line to the palace gate continues to pay their homage to, place flower bouquet and lights the candle. All the shops were virtually closed for three days and every thing was stand still. The government offices remained closed six days. This is the case in all Nepal. Next Saturday will complete 13 days of mourning.

Realities. Nepal never had to face such a crisis. The government never dealt with nor investigated the royal family or army matters. The army must have taken over the radio stations, the TV stations and the TV Chhanel. The government was helpless and silent. On the contrary, other TV reporters from abroad had access to the news. Obviously people were furious. It is clear and distinct that the royal family receive the absolute affection over the democratic government. One of my friends commented that we were still in the 1960s. However, the formation of an investigation committee and its announcement on the findings should come out tomorrow (the due date after it was extended) or next Monday. In any case, we should be ready to face tough times for a few days. One would hope so. Of the three members, the UML leader Madhab Nepal backed out, but the Chief Justice and the Speaker of the House have been working.

It will be a surprise, if any thing different will come out than what we have heard so far. First, it was the Home Minister, then it was the care taker Prince Gyanendra, then it was the maternal uncle of Prince Dipendra and today Dr. Shahi, Dhirendra’s son-in-law, whose statements are controvercial. The only other person people hope from is Shruti’s husband, who could perhaps point out towards a different person. If not, the only news we will get perhaps is the details.

Well, we have a long way to go to bring the peace and calm down the people. King Gyanendra understands that or else he would not have announced an investigation committee. He is educated, intelligent and a very successful businessman. He chairs the King Mahendra Trust. He will, however, not be a passive observer and might take steps to deal with the maoist crisis. He will have to compete with King Birendra, who was god to most. For us, we have no choice, but to follow the constitution, which the Privy Council Members were bound to. Nepal can not exist without a King. You might have read by now how all the party leaders have expressed the need for unity at this time of crisis. You may also know that some of the parties’ major goal in their manifesto is to make Nepal a Republic. What if the communists joined and pressurize for it? Scary. It would take us another 25 years to be ready for it.

Let us hope that peace prevails here and we do not ever have to think of the unthinkable again.

Thank you again and long live the King!

Your friend,

(P.S.:- For PC/N, it was one full week of hard work to connect to each individual PCV- at post, PST site and 30 PCVs in Kathmandu. Things have calmed down for now and very few are left in Kathmandu. We had to cancel Supervisors’ conference, ISTs, SPDM and all other events, but then we can always schedule these in future.)