Kathmandu: As Nepal remembered its slain king Birendra on Thursday, on the 10th anniversary of the infamous massacre in the palace that left 10 members of the royal family dead, a former journalist and minister resurrected public misgivings, indicating the involvement of people in high places.
Former local development minister Homnath Dahal, who had run a weekly in the 1970s, says King Birendra survived an earlier plot to assassinate him after the state intelligence agency came to know of it and swung into action.
"A plot was hatched to kill the king during his regular visits to the Guhyeshwori temple (located on the sprawling grounds of the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu)," Dahal said.
"Police arrested one of the main plotters, Yogi Naraharinath (a Hindu religious leader), a senior civil servant and a suspicious Indian citizen who were interrogated for several days. However, it was decided to keep the matter under wraps and Naraharinath left Nepal to camp in New Delhi for three years, campaigning against King Birendra from there."
The former minister says the conspiracy was hatched after Birendra`s family members and royalist politicians were angered by his progressive measures.
The king, educated in Eton and Harvard, was influenced by the democratic royal families in the west. On becoming king, he sought to put an end to the privileges enjoyed by his stepmother, Queen Mother Ratna, two uncles Princes Himalaya and Vasundhara, his younger brothers Gyanendra and Dhirendra as well as sisters and other relatives.
They all owned substantial business interests and yet were exempted from paying taxes though they drew state allowances as well. Birendra, Dahal says, felt if a royal owned a business, either the allowance or the exemption should be dropped.
The Panchas, members of the Panchayats, the councils that administered Nepal, were also angered by Birendra.
The Panchas were handpicked by Birendra`s father Mahendra who had staged a coup and seized power after jailing the elected prime minister. Mahendra also banned political parties and gave the Panchas unlimited powers.
However, due to Birendra`s pro-democracy leaning, the alarmed Panchas felt their rule could come to an end and sought to counter that.
Dahal says the communists were also antagonised after their plan to push Birendra into becoming a dictator failed.
"There was joy in Nepal in 1975 after the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India and assumed absolute control," the former minister says.
"It emboldened the Panchas, who wanted King Birendra to act in the same way. It was also supported by Nepal`s communists, especially after the Soviet Union openly praised Gandhi`s move. Both advocated a role for the king similar to that enjoyed by Mao Zedong in China and President Sukarno in Indonesia."
Dahal, who also wrote an article in the Nagarik daily on Thursday about the palace massacre, said Nepal needed serious researchers to delve into its history and write an authoritative and credible study of the carnage on June 01, 2001.
An inquiry soon after the killings tacitly blamed Birendra`s son Dipendra. Dipendra became distanced from his parents after they refused to allow him to marry the girl he wanted to and threatened to disinherit him.
However, the inquiry report was rejected by most Nepalis, who suspected the hand of Gyanendra, who succeeded Birendra.
Gyanendra, a favourite of the Panchas, has however always denied the allegation and his son Paras later said Dipendra had confided in him about his plan to unleash an "upheaval".
Paras, whose unpopularity contributed to the abolition of monarchy in Nepal, had also alleged that Dipendra gunned down his own family after Birendra`s opposition to an arms buying deal for the Army from which the crown prince would have received a kickback of millions of rupees.