Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
A royal mess

Conspiracy is easier suggested than done. Conspiracy is cold and rational; malevolence is irrational. Conspiracy has a purpose larger than murder or assassination. Few conspirators are suicidal. They are ambitious, not depressive maniacs; there can even be a psychological case to be made that conspirators are optimists, if desperate ones, justifying murder, even parricide, by the vision of a radically different future in which they play a crucial part. Conspirators are inherently selfish; they want something for themselves in this life. They do not turn a gun on themselves. A useful lesson of history is that no conspiracy can be as bizarre as facts. The senseless mind is far more dangerous than an evil one.
Since being a columnist makes me neither omnipresent nor omnipotent, I make no claim to knowledge of the real events that took place in the palace at Kathmandu in which an apparently denied lover allegedly killed his parents and other relatives at a family dinner before putting a gun to his own head. But enough details have emerged, including from eyewitnesses, to encourage hopefully intelligent comment. Friday night was mania, not conspiracy. Nepalis, understandably, want an explanation, more so because they are still devoted to the institution the family represented, royalty. The truth is difficult to accept because part of the problem lies in the institution, in that anachronism called royalty.

The first explanation that went around and still carries momentum, is that Crown Prince Dipendra was not allowed to marry the woman he loved. This may be true. There are other young men across the subcontinent with similar problems. Each individual lives, and occasionally dies, by the culture of his mindspace. Dipendra was a product of a value system and legal principles that placed him above the law of the land. From there it was one psychological step that took him beyond the law of human relationships.

Nepal was not part of the British Empire; its royalty represented its national status and so continued, not without hiccups, into an era at serious discord with the logic of inherited and inevitable power. Nepal's kings would not surrender this power easily. Under pressure, they were forced to cede some ground to nationalist democrats, but they recovered and brutalised their own people. It took another popular revolution, in 1990, to make them see reason. Nepal's royal family lost its power, but not its habits. And royalty is a self-winding trap. The moment they were removed from politics, the royal family began to return to the affections of the people, becoming a symbol and reassurance of national identity. This is why it is difficult for Nepalis to accept that there can be a deranged maverick in the midst of a family they need. Unfortunately, I am seriously underwhelmed by the mystique of royalty.

This false mystique is protected by instruments of state, including coercion. This is why Yubaraj Ghimire, editor of Kantipur, is in jail. His sin was not bad journalism, though I do not agree with what he published. He was indulging in mordant India-baiting fashionable in that section of the Nepali middle class that has gained most from the India connection. India has a great deal to answer for in its relations with Nepal, but massacring the royal family is not in question. Accusing RAW of being a co-conspirator with the CIA and the new king is not particularly intelligent. Ghimire's treason lay in attacking the new monarch. Everything pales before lese majeste. Nepal's monarch is truly monarch of all he surveys, including the press. Democracy has in this respect changed little. This tragedy has lit up the truth of Nepal's monarchy. The thought should make one shudder: if this is what Dipendra could do to his family when denied his will, what havoc would he have wrought on his country if he had been denied a wish? It is difficult to comprehend what would be worse: a spoilt child in total control, or a spoilt child fretting at the restrictions upon monarchy inherent in a system where power must be shared with civilian politicians. The new king's son Paras is also not famous for his maturity.

This is not the best time to throw facts at monarchs. But alibis are of little use, even in the guise of heroic journalism. This is not a tragedy created by India or the USA or China. This is a tragedy built into Nepal's compromise, into the imperfect revolution of the Nepali Congress. When the monarchy wanted to throw the late, great BP Koirala and the democratic leadership into prison, it did not blink. When the people overthrew the king's government, the democrats turned sentimental, reinforcing the monarchy. Today this has reached such proportions that people refuse to believe eyewitness accounts of the massacre, and the government and the new monarch find it expedient to feed extravagant assumptions although they know the truth. This diet of fallacy can only feed a moment or two of history. The young men who are shaving their heads in sorrow were, ten years ago, seething at the palace. There is deep grief for the dead. But when the mist evaporates Nepal will have only two options: it will have to believe the crown prince massacred his family in a horrible act of insanity; or that the new king is tainted, like Hamlet's mother. Perhaps, Hamlet-like, doubt is the destiny of this generation. Either way, there is no doubt about who is guilty. There is something spurious in the state of Nepal. (By agreement with the Asian Age)

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)