Nepal is today convulsed with fear for the future. The royal family's quasi-divine status as the world's last Hindu monarchy has not saved their kingdom from a terrible grief and a bleak future. When a family quarrel ends in such a bloodbath, Nepalis see omens of savage times ahead. With little but beauty to export, Nepal, a country nestling among the world's highest peaks, has long been deep in the valleys of world statistics. Social unrest is growing. Maoists are plotting revolution. And a shaken and divided political elite is now gripped by rumour, ambition and stupefaction as it tries to restore calm to a shattered society.
Maoist groups are now the main political challenge to the monarchy and to the ruling establishment. Maoist rebels are consolidating their power in the countryside. And Nepal's many ethnic groups, which lived in harmony for years, threaten now to open up differences and disputes.
The main problem is that Nepal has no clearly sustainable economic future. Political quarrels in developing countries are usually economic. But the weekend massacre of the royal family has overshadowed and compounded any argument about Nepal's development. This may prove a catalyst to revolutionaries who have wanted to overthrow the established order: no time is as favourable as now. Outsiders will be desperate to reinforce stability. Nepal is probably the best example of a buffer state in the world: its neutrality is vital to both India and China. Deciding how to bolster Nepal at such a time will be difficult. The labyrinthine intrigues being revealed within the Narayanhiti Palace have their equivalent in other parts of society. The machinegun bullets have ricocheted beyond the palace walls. Nepalis are waiting to see where else they have hit.